Union talks break down

By Simon Jackson

Negotiations for a new collective agreement between the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees Local 52 and the University of Calgary have broken down and are now moving to mediation.

Ray Domeij, spokesperson for AUPE and Chief Negotiator for the union bargaining team, confirmed that the university applied for mediation Fri., Dec. 9.

“I had a meeting Friday morning and was told that the university is no longer interested in negotiating with our bargaining team,” said Domeij. “The process had been stalled for a while. The last meeting between bargainers on both sides took place on Oct. 11. The university never formally made us a final offer, and could not seem to come to agreement or address our key issues with their contract.”

The key concerns for AUPE, which represents approximately 2,900 support staff on campus, are wages and job security. Members believe the university is offering well below what was expected.

“We looked at recent contracts negotiated with other public sector institutions, such as SAIT, NAIT, and Medicine Hat College,” said AUPE Local 52 Chair Shirley Maki. “The averages offered for wage increases were four per cent, four per cent, and three and a half per cent over the next three years. The university has declined to offer us anything close to that.”

In addition to financial considerations, AUPE members were also keen to address issues of job security.

“Staff are concerned about the workload they are dealing with,” said AUPE bargaining team chair Keith Gill. “The university also recently privatized its food services and gave the contract to Chartwells. Our remaining staff wants to see some sort of consideration for their job security in any new contract.”

Mike Kozeilec, head of the U of C bargaining team could make no comment on the specifics of the contract or the wage components involved.

“We agreed not to negotiate through the media,” said Kozielec. “I’m remaining objective. We can reach an agreement acceptable to both parties.”

Hours after his statement, talks had apparently reached an impasse as the U of C informed AUPE they were seeking mediation.

Domeij said if mediation fails the final recourse would be a binding independent arbitration.

Tensions remain for AUPE staff for whom this has already been a lengthy process. Graduate program administrator Paulina Medori highlighted her frustration at the struggle.

“It’s insulting,” she said. “The university should value its staff. Some of us have been here over 20 years. In 1995 the university was going through some tough times in the economy and we all agreed to a five per cent cut. They promised they’d make it up to us in the future and now they won’t even agree to give us the industry average.”

The Local 52 will be holding a picket outside of the U of C Board of Governors meeting Thu., Dec. 8.

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