Job Action FAQ for Members

This information is intended to inform and update MRFA members (by addressing common questions and information needs) and is not intended for public distribution or use.  Ongoing updates will be provided as processes move forward.  If you have questions or concerns, please ask! Please don’t allow rumors, mis-information and fear fill a void of understanding. E-mail our MRFA President, Melanie Peacock: president@mrfa.net

 

What is Job Action?
  • Job action includes an organized strategy of work-related responses designed to educate the public and pressure the Board of Governors and its representatives to negotiate a fair contract with the MRFA.
  • Job action normally constitutes an escalating series of activities that demonstrate solidarity, communicate the faculty position, and disrupt normal teaching, research, and service activities.
  • Job action has three phases:
    • Phase 1: Educate and Inform: [Note: This is the phase we are currently in.] This feature of job action is designed to manage public opinion, tell our story to the press and other parties, and mobilize non-MRFA members of the MRU community to support faculty. This can include wearing buttons to show solidarity, staffing tables to communicate our position and distribute handouts and other relevant material, and information pickets which bring attention to the faculty interpretation of outstanding negotiations issues. All of these activities can and should be undertaken well before a formal strike vote is held.
    • Phase 2: Work-to-Rule: When we work-to-rule, faculty engage in minimal activities to fulfill our basic contractual obligations. This phase has the advantage of having a less direct impact on students than total work stoppage, while demonstrating faculty commitment to the issues being addressed at the bargaining table.
    • Phase 3: Strike: This phase requires a formal strike vote by Members. In this phase, faculty would refuse to engage in our regular work of teaching, scholarship, and service. Although we don’t want to go on strike, we are ready and willing to do so.

 

Are we going on strike?

The decision to strike, or not, must be considered in light of the specific issues about where impasse has been reached at the bargaining table. The only way for a strike action to occur is for a strike vote to take place and for a majority of voting Members to cast their ballots in favor of a strike. This provides the Executive Board with the legal mandate to call a strike, subject to the provision of 72 hours’ strike notice to the employer. Even after a successful strike vote is held, there is no guarantee that we would actually go on strike. In the case that a strike vote needs to be held, a successful result can help move negotiations forward to avoid a strike. Ultimately, a strike is the last resort in a series of coordinated job actions. We don’t want to go on strike, but we must be ready and willing to do so if management leaves us no other option. Remember, we are defending the quality of education we deliver and defending the future of our institution.

 

How will the MRFA communicate with members during a strike?

Members will be contacted via their personal e-mail addresses.  Please ensure that you provide a personal point of contact to the MRFA (via Chantelle Anderson) as access to MRU e-mail will likely not be available.  We need to be able to reach you to provide updates, picketing options, etc.

 

What’s next/ahead over the upcoming months?

The MRFA negotiating committee remains committed to engaging in good faith bargaining.  Ongoing efforts are being made to reach agreement with the Board of Governors. As such, the following timeline is a high-level overview of what occurs in the collective bargaining process.  *NOTE: At any point along these steps a new (collective) agreement may be reached, and this requires a ratification vote from MRFA members.

General Steps:

  1.     Notice to commence collective bargaining
  2.     Commence collective bargaining.
  3.     (Voluntary Interest Arbitration at any time if parties agree) *This is the point in the process where the MRFA is currently (i.e. Informal Mediation has concluded)*

Strike Pre-Conditions:

  1.    No collective agreement in force unless bridged *The MRFA CA is bridged*
  2.    Essential Services Agreement or Exemption Obtained *This process is underway*
  3.    Formal Mediation (this is distinct from the “informal”, “private” mediation in which the parties engaged in from September – November in order to facilitate bargaining) *the MRFA will be moving to statutory mediation soon*
  4.     Possible vote on Mediator’s recommendations or final party offer
  5.     14-day cooling off period
  6.     ALRB supervised strike vote.  Upon successful strike vote, 120 day period to move to step 7.
  7.     72 hour Strike Notice

 

What’s the difference between a strike mandate and strike action?
  • A strike mandate is approval given by Members to our elected Executive Board to take future strike action, if and when it deems such action necessary. A strike mandate could provide the Negotiations Committee enough bargaining leverage on its own, without actually going on strike, to have the employer return to the table and enhance their offer. The hope is that negotiations would continue even after a strike mandate.
  • If the employer’s position doesn’t change at the bargaining table, preparations will begin for a strike action. This would mean the withdrawal of all labour, in the form of refusing to fulfill professional/employment duties for the University, including all teaching, scholarship and service. Should strike action come to pass, information about the procedures by which it would be managed will be communicated to members. Again, we don’t want to go on strike, but we’re ready and willing to do so if management leaves us no other option.

 

What has the MRFA done to prepare for potential job action?
  • The MRFA has been preparing for the eventuality of job action since before May 2017, when our right to legal strike (and of the employer to lock out) was restored and our labour relations provisions were moved to Alberta’s Labour Relations Code.  Preparations have included a comprehensive study of the new legal framework, steps toward financial preparedness that have included raising dues to build our own Contingency Fund and joining the CAUT Defence Fund, the development of a Strike Pay Policy, and many other steps.
  • An Ad Hoc Job Action Preparedness Committee (JAPC) was struck in April 2018 to develop a “detailed, implementation-ready plan for job action” (JPAC Committee Charter 2018). This committee created the MRFA Job Action Plan which will be finalized within the next month.  Detailed strike requirements (including picketing, strike pay, headquarters, logistics) are addressed in this document.
  • The MRFA has completed detailed planning and preparation and we are well situated, both operationally and financially, should a strike be required.

 

Will I get strike pay?
  • Yes, providing that you participate in the strike (various roles are available), do not cross the picket line without a picket pass and do not publicly denounce the strike or the MRFA’s actions..  The MRFA has been preparing for this eventuality by building its Contingency Fund and by joining the CAUT Defense Fund.
  • Strike pay is not taxable and no deductions will be made from these monies.
  • Specific pay rates will be determined closer to the actual commencement of a strike but current estimates place this at between $100 – $170 per day for members engaged in strike duty, commencing on the first day of a strike.
  • All faculty, regardless of appointment type, will be eligible to receive the same rate of strike pay in accordance with the Association’s Strike Pay Policy and as approved by the Executive Board.

 

Do I have to picket if we go on strike?
  • In order to receive strike pay you must contribute to/participate in the strike.  The primary strike duty is picketing; however, alternative strike duty is available for those requiring accommodations. Details for how to apply for exemptions and/or other strike roles will be shared closer to commencement of a strike.

 

Are there provisions for permitting members to cross picket lines to provide essential services?
  • Yes, members providing essential services, or those with approval by the MRFA President, shall be provided with picket passes.

 

What would be considered crossing the picket line?

Crossing the picket line may include any action taken not in support of the Association, any work engaged in which is deemed to be on behalf of the university, and/or physically accessing University property without a picket pass. Examples of crossing the line include, but are not limited to:

  • Providing oral or written references for current students,
  • Teaching classes, including online classes,
  • Any and all course preparation, marking and/or curriculum design,
  • Any and all correspondence with students related to courses or programing at MRU, and
  • Interaction with University administrators beyond what may be required for scholarship.

 

The following shall not normally be considered crossing the picket line:

  • Grant applications and other matters required to continue scholarship.

 

  • Picket passes may be provided as needed.
  • Any clarification required on what constitutes crossing the picket line should be directed to the MRFA President.

 

What’s a lockout?
  • A lockout would be when management prohibits access to campus and its resources by members of the Association. This would include: our offices, labs, the library, all campus-based digital resources, food services, and even washrooms. Job Action preparedness allows us to be ready to respond if we are locked-out.  Lockouts are rare in the Canadian post-secondary context, but have happened.

 

What should I be doing?
  • Ask questions! Ask questions! Ask questions! Knowledge is power.
    • Your MRFA Department Communicator is available to provide information and to pass your questions and concerns on to the MRFA Executive Board.
  • Stay informed:
    • Attend regular MRFA meetings
    • Engage with your MRFA Department Communicator
    • Read the MRFA Weekly Newsletter
  • Support your Negotiations Committee! (e.g. wear a button)
  • Participate in educational and informational activities in support of the MRFA, such as: wearing your MRFA buttons to show solidarity, staffing tables to communicate our position and distribute handouts and other relevant material, and join information pickets when they occur.
  • When and if directed by the MRFA, participate in work-to-rule job actions.
  • Remember: Our Negotiations Committee needs MRFA Members to demonstrate our support of their work on our behalf. We don’t want to go on strike, but we are ready and willing to do so.

 

What if I have additional concerns/think that the MRFA hasn’t thought of a possible issue/consequence during a strike?

E-mail the MRFA, at office@mrfa.net, and detail your concerns.  Your voice and your ideas are important.  You may be aware of an issue that the negotiating team/MRFA hasn’t anticipated.  This said, please be assured that detailed plans and responses have been put in place.

 

What should we tell our students if they ask us what’s going on?
  • Faculty are seeking a Collective Agreement that would strengthen our ability to provide our students with an excellent post-secondary education: our working conditions are their learning conditions!
  • We are grateful to the support from students.  We are defending the quality of their education; so, they need to support us in our efforts to do so.  Students can contact their SAMRU reps if they want further information: the MRFA will be keeping open lines of communication with the SAMRU leadership.
  • Faculty have several concerns that have yet to be addressed in contract negotiations between the MRFA and the Board of Governors.  To honor the requirements within the negotiating process, specific details cannot be shared at this point.
  • The contract negotiation process is linear and iterative; there are specific guidelines and rules that govern the process. (You can refer to/share the timelines detailed earlier in this document.)