The University of Victoria association that represents professors says its relationship with the university has deteriorated to such a point that its members want legal protection, in the form of a union.
Jason Price, vice-president of the UVic Faculty Association, says recent “contentious” contract negotiations have highlighted just how one-sided governance discussions have become.
Last month the UVic FA executive council voted unanimously to pursue unionization. It will be brought to the association’s membership for a vote in the fall, Price said.
At issue is the argument that being an association, as opposed to a union, doesn’t give the UVic FA full negotiating rights.
“Right now essentially the only thing we can grieve is salary issues – that isn’t what’s driving this,” Price said. “What disappoints us is the working conditions issue, things related to appointment, tenure, long-term disability.”
The university was unable to comment immediately. UVic spokesperson Bruce Kilpatrick said to his knowledge the faculty association hasn’t formally notified the university of its plans to unionize, and administration only became aware of the plan when the News sought out comment today.
Price equated unionizing to “hitting the reset button” on a working relationship with administrators.
“We’re doing this because we care about this university, we care about the quality of education we deliver to our students,” Price said.
“Folks who have removed themselves from teaching and research context (for administrative roles) are not in touch with the issues in terms of education. We want to come back to a time where we were collegial, were consulted, there were more symmetrical relations and felt empowered.”
If 45 per cent of UVic FA members support unionizing, the Labour Relations Board would administer an official vote, which would then require 50 per cent support to unionize, Price explained.
The Faculty Association has previously considered unionizing, but Price said that discussion never went beyond the executive council, and members always remained optimistic the relationship would improve.
“There’s always been this hope we would not have to go to these types of legal protections; that we’d be able to develop a collegial responsibility. … It hasn’t happened,” Price said.
“We’re not the only employee group on campus that have had difficulties. UVic is a great university, unfortunately it’s a poor employer.”
In January the Faculty Association was unable to reach a contract agreement with the university by a set deadline. As a result, the association’s old framework agreement was automatically renewed.
The association represents some 850 regular faculty, senior instructors, limited-term faculty appointments and librarians.