University inks deal with two unions

NANAIMO – Vancouver Island University has reached two-year deals with both its academic and vocational faculty unions.

Vancouver Island University has reached two-year deals with both its academic and vocational faculty unions.

The VIU Faculty Association and the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union Local 702 both ratified new collective agreements for the period of April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2014.

The agreements include four one-per cent wage increases throughout this period, achieved through the province’s co-operative gains mandate, which requires employers to pay for any wage increases in the existing budget.

This bargaining round, negotiations between the university and faculty association went much smoother than in 2011, when the institution’s more than 700 faculty members went on strike for a month – when a settlement was reached in the spring of 2011, mediator Mark Brown noted that the parties’ relationship is strained and there is a lack of trust on both sides.

Gara Pruesse, outgoing bargaining committee chairwoman for the faculty association, said both parties had respectful discussions and the relationship is improving.

She said the provincial government’s funding freeze has meant that outstanding issues around workload were not resolved, but deferred to the next bargaining round.

For example, temporary faculty can be asked to develop new courses, but the hours spent doing this does not figure in the salary calculations – they are paid the same as temporary faculty hired to teach an already developed course, said Pruesse.

The employer and association are forming a committee to consider these types of issues, she added, and the agreement also includes new respectful workplace language and an expedited dispute resolution process, which will save money in the long run.

“The legacy of this work will help establish an important pattern for future developments at the university,” said president Ralph Nilson in a press release.

The BCGEU agreement applies to more than 300 vocational faculty at the university’s four campuses.

“We thank our membership for supporting this agreement,” said Stu Seifert, chairman of BCGEU Local 702, in a press release. “The bargaining teams for our union and the employer worked hard to reach a settlement that works for both our employees and the university.”

In January, VIU also inked a new agreement with its support workers, who shut down the university for two days in November, plus a further three-day shut down of the facilities department around the same time.