Job Action FAQ for Members

This information is intended to inform and update MRFA members (by addressing common questions and information needs).  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

  • 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. The MRFA prefers to arrive at negotiated settlement without resorting to Job Action but the Association is prepared in the event that Job Action becomes a reality.
  • 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. The MRFA prefers to arrive at negotiated settlement without resorting to Job Action but the Association is prepared in the event that Job Action becomes a reality.
  • 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.

Steps in the Collective Bargaining Process:

Note: Collective bargaining can continue throughout all of these steps.

1. Notice to Commence Collective Bargaining.

Note: Delivered November 2017.

2. Commence Collective Bargaining.

Note: Commenced January 2018.

a. The Collective Agreement expired July 1, 2018.

Note: The agreement remains enforce until i) a new agreement is ratified, ii) strike or lockout occurs, or iii) a 2-year period has elapsed.

b. Over 35 meetings were held in an attempt to reach a new collective agreement with the BoG. The MRFA remains committed to actively reaching an agreement with the BoG.

3. Voluntary Informal Mediation

Note: The parties engaged in two full rounds (5 full days) of voluntary mediation in Fall 2018. Upon conclusion, either:

a. An agreement is reached (skip to step 8), or

b. Collective bargaining continues.

4. Statutory Mediation – A formal process used to try to reach an agreement.

Either the MRFA or the BoG’s team may ask for Statutory Mediation. Upon conclusion, either:

a. An agreement is reached (skip to step 8), or

b. Collective bargaining continues.

5. Possible Vote on Mediator’s Recommendation

If the Mediator decides to issue recommendations after the Statutory Mediation process, either side may:

a. Choose to present the recommendations to the group they represent for an acceptance vote,

b. Ask that the recommendations be brought before the other group for consideration of acceptance, or

c. Continue collective bargaining.

6. 14-Day Cooling Off Period

After the conclusion of the Statutory Mediation process, the parties must enter into a 14-day cooling off period.

7. Strike or Lockout

Once impasse has been reached:

a. The MRFA Membership can vote to engage in a strike.

b. The Board of Governors can vote to engage in a lockout.

8. Ratification Vote

Once an agreement has been reached at the table, the Negotiations Team will present the package to the Membership for a ratification vote.

  • 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.
  • Refer students to the FAQs for Students section of the MRFA website.
  • 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.)
  • 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, the MRFA prefers to arrive at negotiated settlement without resorting to Job Action but the Association is prepared in the event that Job Action becomes a reality.

All of the following must be in place prior to either a strike or lockout taking place.

Strike & Lockout Pre-Conditions:

Note: The following items are legally required, as per the Alberta Labour Relations Code. An Agreement can be made at any time throughout the following step, thus ceasing the progression of the process.

1. No Collective Agreement in Force *This has occurred*

(i.e. the current collective agreement must have expired). The MRFA Agreement expired on July 1, 2018 and was bridged.

2. Essential Services Agreement or Exemption Obtained *This has occurred*

An Essential Services Agreement outlines work which is deemed essential, and therefore cannot be interrupted in the case of job action being initiated by either party. Both parties jointly filed an Essential Services Agreement in late January, 2019. The Alberta Labour Relations Board approved the ESA on February 1, 2019.

3. Statutory Mediation

This is distinct from the Informal & Voluntary Mediation in which the parties engaged from September – November in order to facilitate bargaining.

4. Action from the Mediator:

After Statutory Mediation, the Mediator must either:

a. Decline to issue a report, or

b. Issue a report containing recommendations, delivered to both parties.

It is possible that a vote may be held on the Mediator’s recommendations or a vote on the final offer presented by the Board of Governors. This is not a legally required step but could occur based upon the outcome of Statutory Mediation.

5. 14-Day Cooling Off Period

Following the conclusion of the Statutory Mediation process (steps 3 & 4) a 14-day cooling off period occurs.

6. Alberta Labour Relations Board Supervised Strike Vote.

Upon successful strike vote, the affirmative vote remains valid for a 120 day period, allowing the progression to step 7.

7. Engage in Strike/Lockout.

*The bargaining teams may continue to bargain and reach settlement at any point throughout this process*

Before a Strike could begin strike protocol would need to be negotiated, and part of the protocol would outline provisions for faculty on leave. In negotiating the strike protocol, the MRFA would request that faculty on leave not experience any changes to their status for the duration of the strike; however, this would need to be negotiated.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Members engaged in strike duty shall receive $150 per complete shift.
  • 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.
  • Yes, members providing essential services, or those with approval by the MRFA President, shall be provided with picket passes.

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:

  • Engaging in Scholarship
  • Grant applications and other matters required to continue scholarship

Additional Information:

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

 

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.

Process:

  1. The Negotiations Committee recommends to the Executive Board that a strike vote take place.
  2. The Executive Board, upon receiving the recommendation, considers and organizes a strike vote.
  3. The Membership participates in a strike vote, considering if they want to engage in strike action.

If the Membership votes to support strike action, this provides the Executive Board with the legal mandate to call a strike if and when they deem this to be a necessary and strategic next step in the collective bargaining process, 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. A strike vote remains valid for 120 days following the date the vote was taken. When 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. Our preference is to reach an agreement without resorting to a strike. However, if the BoG leaves us no other option, a strike is the only way of defending the quality of education we deliver and defend the future of our institution.

 

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.

Member accounts have also been created on mrfa.net, and member restricted information will be posted there as well. Ensure you are logged into your mrfa.net account to ensure you are able to view all web content. If you have problems logging into your account, please email office@mrfa.net

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.

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