Faculty association rejects verbal offer; begins negotiations

Devan C. Tasa, News Editor Ω

The negotiations for a new contract for TRU’s support workers union are over but for the university’s faculty, it has only started.

It started with a verbal offer from the university’s administration. Approximately 200 members of the TRU Faculty Association (TRUFA) met Oct. 7 to discuss the offer.

“The membership’s response was that they overwhelmingly rejected the idea of accepting the offer,” said Jason Brown, TRUFA’s president, after 87 per cent of the membership voted against the deal.

TRUFA’s collective agreement ended March 31 of this year. The provisions of that contract will remain in force until the next one has been signed.

Brown said he couldn’t reveal the details of the verbal agreement at this time, but did say it was in line with recent agreements with public sector unions.

At most universities support worker unions have secured a two per cent increase in wages per year over the next two years. This includes TRU’s Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4879.

John Weir, the B.C. Federation of Labour’s director of organization, said it was unusual to begin negotiations with a verbal offer.

“Usually people file more formal proposals initially,” he said. “It’s quite unusual for people not to come back without some very specific things. Usually there’s an agreement about what’s exactly on the table before the union goes back so everybody’s clear on what the offer is. You don’t want that miscommunication.”

Weir said verbal offers were common during the final stages of negotiations as it allows the sides to explore possibilities without necessarily committing to them.

Brown said it was too early to discuss with the media the particular issues TRUFA will be focusing on in its negotiations with the university.

“It’s reasonable to assume that people are wanting a fair and reasonable wage increase amongst a variety of other things that will be discussed among our membership,” he said.

There are also non-monetary issues to be discussed, Brown added.

Students don’t have to worry about job action from the university’s professors for a while.

“It’s way too early for thoughts about that because we haven’t even gone to the bargaining table,” Brown said.

First the union and the university have to present proposals and counter-proposals to each other. If either side feels those negotiations are going nowhere, then job action can be taken.

Brown said he doesn’t believe CUPE 4879’s new collective agreement with the university will affects TRUFA’s negotiations.

“I don’t think it affects TRUFA’s position because we have our own issues to consider and a different type of membership and a different type of collective agreement,” he said.

Edited on Nov. 9, 2012 at 3:48 p.m. by copy/web editor.