TRUFA members vote in favour of ratification

Jessica Klymchuk, News Editor Ω

The TRU Faculty Association (TRUFA) members have voted in favour of ratifying the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that will see them under contract again through March 2014. From an eligible voter pool of 819 members, 303 votes were cast with 274 (90 per cent) in favour of ratification.

TRUFA’s chief bargainer John Turner said there were many small gains in the new agreement, but the most significant gains were for the contract academic staff and for instructional support coordinators. Turner said there were “gains in faculty collegiality and faculty say in the course size and program size determination” and explained that faculty and departments are now able to recommend course and program enrollment sizes and limits.

An advisory committee made up of full professors will be formed to advise the provost on “scholarly activities,” according to Powers, and small gains were made in terms of faculty allowance.

TRUFA put the deal to the membership for a vote last week after a meeting on Nov. 6 that introduced the new agreement to the faculty. Faculty members were able to vote until noon on Nov. 12.

The agreement comes after ten months of negotiations with the university. The faculty’s last CBA expired March 31, 2012 and they have been working under the terms of that agreement since then. The new agreement will be retroactive, so the faculty will see the benefits of the deal as though it began in March 2012.

As for why the negotiations took so long, TRUFA president Jason Brown said there is always tension during periods of transition, such as TRU’s current transition to a research university. Brown said faculty members who were hired as college instructors might not have the type of qualifications and experience that administration is looking for in some of the programs.

“In this climate of change and our transition to a research university, the administration has their objectives, [and those] objectives may not always align with the faculty that currently work here and are a part of the association,” Brown said.

“It’s just a reality that we are going through a major transition and sometimes that causes tension, and that’s why the two parties … took a long time to discuss what the best way forward with this agreement would be,” he said.

Brown said the lengthy process was important for certain sectors of TRUFA’s membership, but some were not pleased it took so long.

“I think that … one of the key points of tension is that we’re under a government mandate, and anything that we want that can even remotely be considered a cost item they are going to say no to,”  Turner said. “Anything that you see in a contract can translate into some kind of cost.”

Since this contract is set to expire in less than six months, it won’t be long until TRUFA is back at the bargaining table. Brown said since he started in 2002, negotiations for a new agreement have never started before the expiration of the current one.

“I anticipate that, because it’s only five months now until this contract expires, everyone will need a breather and to settle into the new language before we even consider starting the next round,” he said.

Turner said this round of negotiations was not abnormally long and that it’s the nature of collective bargaining in B.C. at this time. He said the government is watching every issue carefully and it can draw things out.

“Everything has to be justified, and it should be, but it’s to a point now where the process is being lengthened,” he said.

Brown said there has been tension since government funding has been decreasing for at least 15 years. He said government funding used to cover 80 per cent of the university’s expenditures but now it’s down to 50 per cent. Lack of funding causes strain, and Brown said it is a difficult environment to negotiate in.

“We feel that the faculty are highly qualified, highly dedicated, highly motivated people who want the best for the students, and it’s very difficult for everyone when the priorities of our government aren’t put onto the future education of our children,” he said. “So it causes a lot of tension, unfortunately.”

The agreement will be presented to the TRU board of governors before it comes into effect.