SASKATOON/ REGINA: Conciliation talks involving CUPE 1975 members at the University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan broke-off last night after the employer rejected the union’s proposed offer of settlement.* The union served the employer with the required 48-hour strike notice this afternoon.
“We’re very disappointed conciliation talks failed to resolve this contract dispute,” says Brad McKaig, chair of the union’s negotiating committee. “Our union negotiating committee made significant movement on virtually every issue on the table, including monetary items, in an effort to conclude a collective agreement, but at the end of the day talks broke down over the major issues of benefits, performance reviews and wages.”
Provincial conciliator Doug Forseth adjourned proceedings, stating that “the two parties are simply too far apart.”
“We cannot accept the employer’s position regarding benefits,” explains Don Puff, CUPE 1975 president at the University of Regina. The employer continues to make funding contingent on accepting yet another “… revised and rebalanced Employee Benefit Program.” There are already concerns that the proposed funding may be insufficient to maintain current coverage, he adds.
McKaig says the universities current benefit surplus is likely due to the employer’s “review” during the last bargaining round, which resulted in significant benefit reductions for CUPE 1975 members.
Another obstacle to a settlement is the employer’s insistence that employees must pass performance reviews to “qualify” for wage increments. “Our members are entitled to these increases under our collective agreement – they are not contingent on performance reviews,” Puff states.
Although the employer says its wage proposal amounts to 17% over three years, McKaig says the employer’s claim is misleading. “There are no guarantees that anyone would receive their increments due to the employer’s performance review. The actual wage increases proposed by the employer represent an 8.25% increase over three years,” he says.
Barb Daigle (Associate VP of Human Resources at the U of S) is quoted in the employer’s news release as saying: “We are disappointed at the union’s refusal to entertain compromises or work with us to find solutions,” but the union points out that she is not at the bargaining table.
“We don’t believe she considered it a priority to attend our table. Instead, she once again deferred to a contracted consultant to stand in for her and represent the interests of the universities,” the union says.
CUPE 1975 members voted 89% in support of job action last month. They have been without a new agreement since December 31, 2006.
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(*The strike vote does not include CUPE 1975 members employed at the First Nations University, Aramark, the USSU, Prairie Swine, PCS Elstow, MacKenzie Art Gallery and the U of S Faculty Club. They are covered under separate contract agreements.)
For more information contact: Brad McKaig in Saskatoon at 229-6730
or Don Puff in Regina at 537-3199