Carleton University faculty union prepares for lockout

Carleton University's faculty union says it is preparing for a lockout after the school's administration filed for a provincial conciliator to aid bargaining talks.

Will hold strike vote after university sought conciliator

A sign for Carleton University at a campus entrance.
Carleton University Academic Staff Association, which represents about 850 faculty, librarian and instructor employees, says it's preparing for a possible lockout. (Danny Globerman/CBC)

Carleton University's faculty union says it's preparing for a possible lockout after the school's administration requested a provincial conciliator last week to aid bargaining talks. 

Conciliation is a process where the Ontario Ministry of Labour steps in to help resolve differences between an employer and a union in order to reach a collective agreement. The service must be used before a strike or lockout happens. 

The university filed for conciliation May 2 and cancelled the bargaining session scheduled for the next day with the Carleton University Academic Staff Association (CUASA), which represents about 850 instructors, faculty members and librarians.

The union has been without a contract since April 2017.

That's where we are at this juncture. We're incredibly far apart.- CUASA president Root Gorelick

CUASA president Root Gorelick said the university's request came as an unwelcome surprise. 

On Friday, following the announcement, CUASA's council unanimously passed a strongly-supported member motion to convene a strike vote, Gorelick said.

Talks between the university administration and CUASA are going "extremely poorly," he said.

"That's where we are at this juncture. We're incredibly far apart," Gorelick said.

'A procedural ambush'

CUASA views the conciliation request as a precedent to a lockout, which Gorelick said could happen as early as June 7.

"The employer has decided to unnecessarily rush a deal instead of negotiating a fair one," a statement on CUASA's website told members.

"This is a procedural ambush on the negotiation process." 

A lockout would hinder professors' ability to prepare for the fall semester or complete research, Gorelick said.

"In some ways, it isn't altogether that surprising given that a few months ago the same individuals thought this was the way to go," he said, referencing the five-week CUPE 2424 strike that ended in early April.

Carleton University's administration filed for a provincial conciliator to aid bargaining talks with CUASA. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

'No plans for a lock out'

Carleton University, however, claims it has no plans to lock out union members.

"The university feels strongly that the professional experience and knowledge of a provincial conciliator could help solve these issues and achieve a new collective agreement that would benefit both the university and the faculty association," said Beth Gorham, Carleton's public affairs manager.

"That is the reason the university made the application," said Gorham, describing the negotiations as "productive."

Addressing a gender pay gap

CUASA first filed notice to bargain in April 2017, Gorelick said, because its contract with the university ended April 30 that year.

He added that the union has been in collective bargaining since last August, and estimated they've spent an unusually lengthy period — 26 or 27 days — at the table with the administration since then.

Key issues include salary increases, pension language, instructor workload and a gender pay gap, he said.

"We discovered our female faculty members make significantly less than male faculty members and so we're asking for them to get increased to bring them up to the [same] level," Gorelick said.

CUASA's negotiating team is eager to get back to the table and resolve some of those outstanding issues, Gorelick said.

"We'd love to just go back and do that and try to make progress the old-fashioned way where people negotiate without the strong-arm tactics and bullying tactics that seem to now be imposed by our administration," he said.

Gorham said the university hasn't ruled out a pay equity plan if there is "strong evidence" that one is needed.