It’s the topic most often on AUPE minds during bargaining year. But what does it all mean? Tanya Mullings, Bargaining Committee Chair, provides a simple primer on the process.
If our agreement has expired do we get paid?
AUPE’s collective agreement with SAIT expired June 30, 2017 – but don’t worry, until a new collective agreement is reached, the terms of the previous agreement will remain in effect.
So who does the bargaining with SAIT?
Local 039 elected a bargaining committee last fall. It is made up of Committee Chair Tanya Mullings, Rosemary Read and Diane Moreau, with Andy Trache, Jaime Eschyshyn and Lauren Wood as alternates in case someone has to bow out. Representatives of the committee are present at negotiating sessions. Since they aren’t professional negotiators, we have John Wevers as our AUPE Negotiator. He does the talking - but our committee makes the decisions on behalf of Local 039.
Why hasn’t the bargaining process started?
It has. By law, we have to declare our intent to bargain 60 to 120 days before the current collective agreement ends. AUPE has done that and we have already had an all-day session between our committee and our AUPE Negotiator. We expect to be sitting down with SAIT this fall.
Is there something going on we don’t know about?
This is probably no surprise, but Local 039 and SAIT are caught in an unfortunate economic and bargaining climate. Of AUPE’s total 90,000-plus membership across the province, about 75,000 members are negotiating new collective agreements this year. It’s a big year and Local 039 is part of a small sector (education) in a much bigger picture that includes large sectors, such as health care and government workers. With a shaky economy and larger players handling some really big issues with the Government of Alberta, we kind of have to let others take center stage.
So what does that mean for Local 039?
When another group in our sector settles a collective agreement, it often sets a precedent by showing what’s going to be acceptable for employers and unions. For a non-AUPE example, we’ve heard that SAFA at SAIT had their first meetings earlier in the summer, and the first proposed SAIT agreement would see 0% cost of living increase in each of the three-year agreement period. That’s just the first proposal, bargaining is ongoing and there’s always more than just wages to be addressed. But anything SAFA agrees to will likely affect us and vice versa.
Are we going to go on strike?
It’s not something we’re anticipating. It’s true that under Bill 4, passed last year, we now have the right to strike, but that isn’t something we see happening in the near future for Local 039. Even in the worst case scenario, it would probably take more than a year to prepare for a strike due to many time-consuming things – like reviewing classifications to determine who would be considered an essential AUPE worker.
Can’t we go to mediation?
We can. But there is no longer binding arbitration which employers could use to reach a final and binding financial agreement. Under mediation, we would ask our membership to vote on any proposed agreement. If it’s voted down, that could pave the way for strike action.