Updated January 21, 2014

FAQs on the certification vote for UVic faculty and librarians

Whether to continue with a faculty association or instead to be represented by a faculty trade union is a decision that will be made by individual faculty members and librarians at the University of Victoria in an online vote Jan. 22-24. (The poll closes on Jan. 24 at 4 p.m.)

This website has been established to answer some of the key questions around this issue in our community and to ensure well-rounded and accurate information is available to UVic faculty members and librarians as they make their individual decisions.

UVic has a deep and longstanding commitment to collegial governance, a positive, supportive working environment and constructive employment relations. We're proud of the critical role our faculty and librarians play in teaching and inspiring our students and in conducting internationally-leading-research that's tackling key issues and opportunities for Canadians.

We will respect the choices made by faculty and librarians regarding their representation and believe strongly that whatever the outcome, the result is an opportunity to move forward together in these challenging times.

The vote will be conducted using the university WebVote system.

More info: Visit this website's home page for the latest university statements. Other perspectives are also available on the Faculty Association and UVic Why Certify? websites.

Choose a topic: Voting process | Union certification process | Faculty strikes | Legal rights of the association | Negotiation history at UVic | Dispute resolution processes | Salary issues

Voting process

What question will I be asked to vote on?

The question is "Do you want the University of Victoria Faculty Association to become a certified union that will represent you in collective bargaining with your employer?"

If you vote "yes" to this question, you are voting in favour of the Faculty Association becoming a certified trade union under the BC Labour Relations Code.

If you vote "no" to this question, you are voting in favour of the status quo in which the Faculty Association continues to negotiate with the administration, but not as a certified trade union.

Why did the question change?

The standard question asked by the BC Labour Relations Board in a vote was unclear in the situation of the University of Victoria because faculty and librarians are already represented by the Faculty Association in bargaining. The administration sought a change in the question and an agreement was reached with the Faculty Association to rephrase it. The question now reads, "Do you want the University of Victoria Faculty Association to become a certified union that will represent you in collective bargaining with your employer?" The question has been approved by the LRB.

How will the vote for certification be conducted? *New*

The BC Labour Relations Board will conduct the vote using, with the agreement of the university administration and the Faculty Association, the university WebVote system to conduct the ballot. All faculty members and librarians will receive a notice of poll by email from the BC Labour Relations Board. As with any vote conducted through the WebVote system, faculty members and librarians will log on using their NetLink ID and password. They will cast a ballot through WebVote.

When can I vote? *New*

WebVote will open at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 22 and will close at 4 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 24.

How long do I have to cast my vote? *New*

Voting will close at 4 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 24.

What if I don't vote? *New*

If you do not vote, your opinion on whether or not the Faculty Association should become a certified trade union will not count. The application for certification will be successful if supported BY A SIMPLE MAJORITY (50 PER CENT PLUS ONE) OF VOTES CAST. Thus, for example, if only 450 people vote and 226 vote in favour of becoming a union, the Faculty Association will become a trade union. Since there are about 852 eligible voters, this would mean that the Faculty Association would become a trade union on the say so of about 27 per cent of the association membership.

Who is eligible to vote?

All faculty members and librarians who hold appointments under either Article 2.11 or 2.13 of the Framework Agreement are eligible to vote, unless the person holds an appointment excluded under Article 3.2.1 such as the President, Vice-Presidents, Associate Vice-Presidents, Deans, Associate Deans, the University Librarian, and Associate University Librarians.

If I am on study leave, will I be able to vote? *Updated*

Yes, as a faculty member or librarian, you will be able to access the university WebVote system from your computer anywhere, provided you have an Internet connection.

Can I vote if I am not a member of the Faculty Associations at present? *New*

Yes, as long as you hold a position currently governed by the terms and conditions of the Framework Agreement.

How do I find out the details of the voting process? *New*

An official notice of poll will be emailed directly to you with voting instructions. The notice is sent by the BC Labour Relations Board.

Is the vote a secret ballot? *New*

The law requires a secret ballot. The university's WebVote system separates your identifying log-in information from your ballot. No one can tell who voted which way.

If I signed a card during the recent certification drive, does that mean I have to vote "yes"?

The ballot is secret. No one will know how you voted. Signing a card during the certification drive does not commit you to vote one way or the other. The Faculty Association executive has stated the signing of cards "simply signifies that members wish to see a vote conducted."

What do I do if I do not receive the Notice of Poll from the BC Labour Relations Board? *New*

All enquiries concerning the Notice of Poll should be directed to the Returning Officer, Terry Hughes, at 200-880 Douglas Street, Victoria, BC or by telephone at 250-952-0327 or email at .

What do I do if I cannot access the WebVote system? *New*

All enquiries concerning the vote should be directed to the Returning Officer, Terry Hughes, at 200-880 Douglas Street, Victoria, BC or by telephone at 250-952-0327 or email at .

Union certification process

How will faculty and librarians decide whether they stay an association or become a trade union?

A simple majority of votes cast (50 per cent plus 1 vote) determines the outcome. If you do not vote, your opinion does not count.

Who conducts the vote?

The BC Labour Relations Board conducts and supervises the vote. Both the university administration and the Faculty Association provide scrutineers to monitor the counting of the ballots.

What is the BC Labour Relations Board?

The Labour Relations Board is a neutral, independent tribunal that decides matters involving unions, employers, and employees under the BC Labour Relations Code, including whether to certify a union.

Do I have a choice in becoming a union member? *New*

If the Faculty Association is certified as a trade union, it will become the exclusive bargaining unit for the group and you will likely (as is the common practice in Canada) have to be a union member to hold your academic position and the union will have the sole right to bargain on your behalf.

If the majority of my colleagues want to join a union but I do not, can I opt out?

This will depend on whether the first collective agreement includes a term requiring union membership as a condition of employment, which is generally the case in Canada. If membership in the union is required by that collective agreement, then only those who can show they have a bona fide religious objection to union membership can opt out of the union.

If I do not vote, is that the same as voting "no" to a trade union?

No. If you do not vote, your voice is not heard. You must vote to be counted.

Are there any restrictions on what one side or the other is allowed to do in campaigning?

Yes. Everyone is free to express their opinions on the matter, but no one is allowed to use intimidation or coercion to try to influence how someone else will vote.

Who do I call if I have concerns about how the campaign is being conducted?

If you have questions about your rights, or about the Labour Relations Code, you may call the BC Labour Relations Board's Information Officer at 1-604-660-1300 or email your questions to .

Faculty strikes

How often do faculty unions go on strike? *Updated*

There have been six strikes by faculty unions at Canadian universities in the past six years. Faculty at the University of New Brunswick have been on strike since Jan. 13 over salaries and workload, and classes at the four campuses are cancelled for the duration. Mt. Allison University faculty and librarians have just authorized strike action if necessary. There was a 31-day strike at Vancouver Island University in spring 2011.

How long do faculty strikes typically last? *Updated*

Faculty strikes can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Since 2008 there have been six faculty strikes at Canadian universities, the longest of these at completion was 45 days and the shortest 16. This includes a 31-day strike at Vancouver Island University in spring 2011. Some required provincial government intervention to reach settlement and some involved changes to the length of the academic term to make up for lost time.

A current faculty strike at the University of New Brunswick started Jan. 13 and has resulted in the cancellation of classes at four campuses.

What happens with a faculty union if other campus unions set up picket lines?

As a member of an association, faculty members or librarians make individual choices about whether to cross a legal picket line on campus. By way of contrast, when faculty members are unionized, their union will generally issue instructions about how it wishes them to deal with legal picket lines established by other campus unions. It is, however, ultimately an employee's individual decision about whether or not to cross a picket line to attend work. For example, in the case of the CUPE 3903 strike of contract professors and teaching assistants at York University in 2008-09, the Faculty Association actively supported the strike and urged their members to respect the picket lines. The university was effectively shut down for 84 days.

Legal rights of the association—with or without a union

Can the university now unilaterally change conditions of employment without the consent of faculty and librarians?

No. The university is a party to a contract with the Faculty Association which confers legally enforceable rights on both parties. The contract between the Association and the university currently requires a schedule for negotiations and prohibits the university administration from changing terms and conditions of employment without the Association’s consent. 

Can the university just refuse to bargain with faculty and librarians on particular issues?

The university cannot, under its legally enforceable agreement with the Faculty Association, refuse to bargain with faculty members and librarians. But it is always the case in bargaining, whether as a union or an association, that some proposals from one side will not be agreed to by the other and thus they will not form part of the final contract. Of course, if there is a union, strikes and lockouts can be used to generate pressure to agree to particular terms.

If the Faculty Association becomes a trade union, how will things change? *New*

We cannot answer that question fully as there are a number of uncertainties. As well, no one can predict what will emerge from bargaining of a first collective agreement. But the current Framework Agreement allows substantial flexibility for individual arrangements with faculty members and librarians worked out between the administration and the individual, sometimes (but not always) with the assistance of the Association. Usually under collective agreements, this flexibility disappears. The union must be the negotiator as they have the exclusive right to bargain for employees in the bargaining unit.

Negotiation history at UVic

Have UVic and the Faculty Association reached agreements in the past, through negotiations, without binding arbitration?

Yes, the university and the Faculty Association have reached agreement numerous times in the past decade on the terms and conditions of employment, including the processes and procedures for tenure and promotion. Under the current Framework Agreement non-monetary issues can be taken to mediation but not to arbitration.

The parties have also reached agreement on salary and benefits through negotiations many times (1996-99, 2002-04, 2004-06, 2006-10, 2010-12). Since 1994-95, salary and benefits issues have gone to binding arbitration three times and were settled by mediation once.

Dispute resolution processes

If there is a faculty union, can binding arbitration co-exist with the right to strike to resolve an impasse on salary issues?

If there is a faculty union, a collective agreement will be negotiated between the university and the faculty union. When it expires, the parties are required to negotiate a new agreement in good faith. Typically, the right to strike when an impasse is reached at the bargaining table and the opportunity to resolve the issues by binding arbitration cannot co-exist, so it's generally one or the other. The right to strike is a basic bargaining tool for unions of all types, including those representing faculty.

If the faculty and librarians at UVic unionize, what will happen to the current processes governing dispute resolution in the Framework Agreement?

If a union is formed, a new agreement will need to be negotiated.

The current Framework Agreement restricts the types of issues that can be sent to an external arbitrator for resolution and uses the University Review Committee process, rather than grievance and third party arbitration, for matters related to reappointment, tenure and promotion. 

On the latter point, the recommendations made by the departmental and faculty committees and the dean are favorable to the faculty member most of the time. Where the recommendation is unfavorable, the individual has the right to appeal to the University Review Committee. 

Although there are more than 50 individual reappointment/tenure/promotion applications each year, only 13 in total have been appealed to the URC in the past 10 years, less than 3 per cent of the total cases. In almost all cases the URC case panel's recommendation is accepted by the university president.

Salary issues

Does a union mean that BC wage constraints would no longer apply to faculty and librarians?

The wage constraints imposed each year by the provincial government through the Public Sector Employers' Council (PSEC) bargaining mandate would still apply to the university, as they do for all public sector employers, whether unionized or not. As such, the university must limit its offer to the boundaries of that mandate. However, where a collective agreement contains a binding arbitration clause for salary issues, and the matter goes to arbitration, arbitrators have determined that their decisions are not bound by the PSEC mandate.

Provincial bargaining mandates for all BC universities have been identical over the past decade, regardless of whether they are unionized or not.

Are UVic faculty and librarians paid less than their colleagues elsewhere?

Salaries for faculty members and librarians at UVic are definitely lower on average than most comparator universities. This is not a reflection of the university administration's attitude towards faculty and librarians — their excellence is a fundamental part both of UVic's rise to national and international prominence and of the superb student experience we offer. The salary gap is the result of a historical pattern, driven by nearly 20 years of public sector wage control in BC, where the allowable percentage increases when applied to the different salary bases at the different institutions simply widen an existing gap.

The university has sought to obtain greater flexibility from the provincial government to improve the relative salary situation of faculty, and will continue to advocate for more flexibility than we have now. If we're able to achieve this, we then need to find a way to fund it. In a resource-constrained environment this means either (i) finding a way to increase revenue; or (ii) undertaking a reallocation exercise to find the required resources (e.g. increased teaching loads; a trade-off of reducing the number of faculty overall in return for higher wage rates for individual faculty members; or reallocating funds that were intended for different university purposes).

Have salary settlements in the past exceeded the Public Sector Employers’ Council (PSEC) mandate? *New*

All BC universities, unionized or not, are bound by the PSEC mandate. All our past salary settlements that we have negotiated have conformed to the mandate. Sometimes the general wage increases here or at different universities have appeared to vary from the mandate, but that is because the negotiated agreements have identified and included specific cuts elsewhere from which the savings were turned into increases for members, or have included enhanced benefits, the cost of which has to be deducted from the overall mandate. Every university is required to report its settlements in detail to PSEC showing the full cost of all aspects of the settlement (wages, benefits and savings from cuts) and the total must conform to the mandate. As well, PSEC often refuses to allow negotiation of certain language in agreements that could potentially increase costs.

For information about the status of bargaining with faculty and librarians, visit the bargaining information website. For information about the university's financial circumstances and budget constraints, visit the budget planning website.

Questions? Please email .