Union lays com­plaint over strike

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - Third Page - By Lana Haight

Just when Univer­sity of Saskatchew­an ad­min­is­tra­tors thought cam­pus life was re­turn­ing to nor­mal in the af­ter­math of a month-long strike, the union in­volved is com­plain­ing of un­fair labour prac­tices.

“I’m sur­prised that this has been filed. Our ef­forts have been very fo­cused on en­hanc­ing our labour re­la­tions with CUPE since the strike,” said Barb Daigle, U of S as­so­ci­ate vice-pres­i­dent of hu­man re­sources.

On Fri­day, the Cana­dian Union of Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees is­sued a news re­lease to say it had filed three un­fair labour prac­tice com­plaints with the Saskatchew­an Labour Re­la­tions Board. That was news to Daigle, who learned of the union’s move from re­porters.

“Ev­ery day this week, al­most, we’ve had very pos­i­tive, con­struc­tive prob­lem-solv­ing meet­ings with them about the nor­mal sorts of labour is­sues across cam­pus,” she said.

CUPE Lo­cal 1975 bar­gain­ing chair Brad McKaig doesn’t see labour re­la­tions quite the same way. “It’s tol­er­a­ble,” he said. “They would like very much to have the pub­lic be­lieve that ev­ery­thing is warm and fuzzy and all com­ing up daisies. But it’s not that way at all.”

All three com­plaints to the labour re­la­tions board stem from the dis­pute in Novem­ber when 1,800 sup­port work­ers, mem­bers of CUPE Lo­cal 1975, hit the picket line. They and an­other 600 union­ized em­ploy­ees at the Univer­sity of Regina walked off the job over two main is­sues — wage in­cre­ments tied to per­for­mance re­views and em­ployer con­tri­bu­tions paid to the ben­e­fits plan. The union lead­ers held off fil­ing the com­plaints un­til now be­cause they didn’t want to jeop­ar­dize the pay­ment of $1,000 re­ten­tion bonuses to their mem­bers, says McKaig. In ad­di­tion, em­ploy­ees re­ceived back pay of about $2,500.

“We be­lieve that most of the mem­bers, if not all, have re­ceived it now,” he said.

“We weren’t sure that if we did this prior to now that (the univer­sity) wouldn’t with­hold that from our mem­bers.”

The union is ac­cus­ing the univer­sity’s chief ne­go­tia­tor of threat­en­ing to refuse to take a ten­ta­tive agree­ment to the U of S board of gov­er­nors in De­cem­ber if a union rep­re­sen­ta­tive par­tic­i­pated in a news con­fer­ence where fac­ulty, staff and stu­dents called for an ex­ter­nal re­view of labour re­la­tions.

Daigle wouldn’t com­ment on the ac­cu­sa­tion, say­ing she has re­ceived no in­for­ma­tion from the union.

CUPE also crit­i­cizes the univer­sity for how it han­dled com­mu­ni­ca­tions dur­ing the strike. On one hand, it says the univer­sity tried to mon­i­tor and limit the union’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions with its mem­bers. On the other hand, CUPE ac­cuses the univer­sity of com­mu­ni­cat­ing di­rectly to union mem­bers in an at­tempt to un­der­mine the union.

For ex­am­ple, McKaig says the univer­sity went di­rectly to em­ploy­ees when it posted a con­tract of­fer on the univer­sity web­site.

“Know­ing that it was an un­fair labour prac­tice, know­ing that it would have the af­fect that it did, they opted to do that as a bar­gain­ing tac­tic,” he said.

At the time, the union held off fil­ing a com­plaint be­cause the union would not have been in a le­gal strike po­si­tion if the mat­ter was be­fore the labour re­la­tions board, says McKaig.

Then and now, Daigle said she be­lieves post­ing the con­tract of­fer was ap­pro­pri­ate.

“The univer­sity has the right and re­spon­si­bil­ity to clar­ify its bar­gain­ing po­si­tion,” she said.

Daigle is wait­ing to re­ceive copies of the doc­u­ments filed with the labour board. She ex­pects rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the univer­sity and union to work at solv­ing the is­sues with­out hav­ing to go to a hear­ing.

But McKaig sees a for­mal hear­ing as in­evitable. No date has been set for such a meet­ing.

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