Windsor faculty vote for strike mandate

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Professors and academic librarians at the University of Windsor have voted strongly in favour of a strike mandate. The August 14th vote, which passed with 81.4 per cent in favour, authorizes the Windsor University Faculty Association (WUFA) to call a strike if one becomes necessary.

The strike vote was taken after months of provocative and heavy-handed tactics by the Windsor administration. WUFA is calling for the employer to return to the table, after they unilaterally walked away from negotiations and imposed a settlement on faculty on July 28th.

On August 14th, the WUFA President Anne Forrest wrote an Op-Ed in the Windsor Star explaining the association’s decision to hold a strike vote. The full text of this column is reprinted below:

On August 14, 2014, professors, librarians, and other academic staff at the University of Windsor will hold a strike vote. This does not mean that there will definitely be a strike — it merely authorizes a strike if one becomes necessary. Still, we know this news will worry students and parents. You deserve to know why this is happening.

Two weeks ago, the administration of the University of Windsor walked away from the bargaining table and imposed a contract on its teaching faculty and librarians. This heavy-handed move is unprecedented at an Ontario university. Only once before, in decades of responsible collective bargaining, have terms and conditions of work been imposed — at a very small college contained within Laurentian University in Sudbury. Not surprisingly, we were dismayed by the administration’s decision to abandon collective bargaining in favour of unilateral decision-making.

The moment the administration imposed a contract, this dispute ceased to be about money or benefits. It became about our rights as working people to negotiate a fair settlement. By dictating the terms and conditions under which we work, the administration has taken away our right to be full participants in the collective bargaining process. To regain our voice in negotiations, we must take a strike vote. In Ontario, this vote is necessary before union members can lawfully take any steps to protest an employer’s actions.

We did not want things to come to this point. From the beginning of these negotiations, faculty have been committed to reaching a fair deal that meets the needs of our members while ensuring the long-term financial sustainability of the University of Windsor. To that end, we resisted holding a strike vote, even as the administration pushed towards a lock-out date. We held back a second time in early July when the administration threatened to take away our health benefits and ignore our grievance procedure. Through every ultimatum and provocation, we have tried to stay focused on negotiating a fair deal. Through their actions, it is clear the administration does not share our commitment. And now, faced with a contract determined for us rather than negotiated with us, we have no choice but to protect ourselves through a strike vote.

Academics know that times are tough across Ontario. We know there is no great reserve of public money to be invested in our universities, and that students cannot afford to pay more tuition fees. We also know that – contrary to what the administration claims – the University of Windsor is in solid financial shape. University administrators across Ontario, faced with the same economic circumstances that we see here in Windsor, are finding ways to negotiate fair deals that work for everyone. This simple fact makes the behavior of the Windsor administration all the more disappointing.

At the same meeting where we decided to hold a strike vote, professors and librarians also passed a motion calling for the administration to return to the table so that we can finish negotiating a new contract. We remain committed to reaching a deal. There is still plenty of time before the start of term to come to an agreement.

We urge the administration to get off the path of conflict and get down to the important work of bargaining. A negotiated agreement will resolve the differences between us and deliver real benefits to students and the University.

If you are concerned about this turn of events and the possibility of a disrupted school year, I hope you will urge the president of the University of Windsor, Alan Wildeman, to direct the administration’s negotiating team to return to the bargaining table. His email and telephone number are both available on the University of Windsor website. Perhaps with enough encouragement, the administration will see that the resumption of serious negotiations is the necessary first step towards ending this dispute. When the administration’s team does get back to work, professors and librarians will be right there waiting for them.

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