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Regina: After months of insisting the job evaluation dispute is not arbitrable, the University of Saskatchewan has done a u-turn at the labour relations board and recommended the matter go to arbitration.

University lawyer Neil Gabrielson made the request this week as the labour relations board was preparing to hear two unfair labour practice charges against the U of S for bargaining in bad faith on the new job evaluation plan.

The LRB agreed to refer the dispute to arbitration, but says it will retain jurisdiction to hear the unfair labour practice charges if no agreement is reached.

Were really pleased the university has finally seen the light, says Glenda Graham, president of the union local that represents university workers in Saskatoon. But its too bad it takes a near-death experience like appearing before the LRB to get the employer to take equality issues seriously.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (Local 1975) filed the unfair labour practice in November, after the U of S abandoned a joint job evaluation process with the University of Regina and CUPE 1975.

All three parties signed an agreement in September 1998 to develop a joint job evaluation process to achieve wage parity and pay equity for the 2,100 CUPE workers at the two universities.

But just as the plan was nearing completion last fall, the U of S quit the process, stating it had decided to develop its own pay system. The union accused the university of being more interested in a cheap fix than a gender-neutral pay plan.

Although the union filed two unfair labour practice charges and a grievance over this matter, the university has insisted the matter is not arbitrable.

But three days before the LRB was set to hear the unfair labour practice charges, the university did an about-face and recommended referring the dispute to arbitration.

Although its easy to question the universitys motivation, the employers decision to pursue arbitration is good news, says Don Puff, the CUPE local president at the University of Regina.

CUPE 1975 also is seeking a meeting with Minister of Learning Andrew Thomson. Although the union has contacted the ministers office several times, no date has been arranged.

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For further information contact:
Glenda at 221-8177 and Don at 537-3199