All that was bad enough, but because the 2016 Collective Agreement was only for one year, they all had to go through collective bargaining again in 2017. As you might imagine, it doesn’t go well.
By this point, the PSSA has been passed, but of course not proclaimed. So what does this mean for people negotiating in the meantime?
Well, there’s a problem. Even though the PSSA is not yet in force, it contains some retroactivity provisions. If anyone agrees to or gets awarded anything that would be higher, better, or not in accordance with the PSSA during this passed-but-not-proclaimed limbo, it will all be automatically erased once the PSSA becomes officially in effect. And not only that, any monies received by employees in the interim will be immediately transformed into a debt owed by the employee to their employer.
This means that the PSSA is essentially operating on anyone bargaining during the limbo period even though it is not legally operative. And that is certainly how the University now interprets the situation. They say they cannot consider anything that might be over and above was is set out in the PSSA even though it hasn’t been made law yet. The University is not even certain that UMFA will get credit for the 2016 0% freeze to count as the first year of the PSSA 0%, 0%, 0.75%, 1% sustainability pattern.
What’s particularly galling is that the University had planned to make increases in salaries a priority. They had the money, but it was now being used for other purposes. UMFA reps encourage the University to speak out – you’re an independent institution, and this is government interference. Dr. Barnard publishes an open letter that reiterates that the University wanted to deal with salaries, and they did what they could. The University was not prepared to talk publicly about the details, but there is no indication that the government is going to let up.
UMFA tries to get creative – let’s put the retroactivity debts into an account that won’t be released until the legal status and constitutionality of the PSSA is determined. Nope.
Ok, how about a wage reopener – something that says that if the PSSA is held to be unconstitutional the collective agreement will be reopened to discuss the wages issue. One of the University Vice-Presidents even pleads with the government to allow the University to agree to this, pointing out how demoralizing and damaging the strike was to the University community, and that the University was having trouble recruiting new faculty members as well as having lost a number of promising young academics to competitors.
I’m not sure who said this or where, but apparently the response by the government to these entreaties was no, because it was “too generous to labour.”
“This is what we are up against,” says Dr. Mark Hudson. The University is supposed to be independent, but it is going along with whatever the government says. The PSSA isn’t in force yet, but we are being forced to comply with it anyway, and it is hampering every aspect of the bargaining process.
UMFA wonders – who are we even bargaining with? The University is the one at the table but the government is dictating how the University proceeds.