Frequently Asked Questions – Negotiations

On this page you will find the answers to some “Frequently Asked Questions”. If you don’t see an answer to a question you have, please submit your question to [email protected] with the subject line “UPEIFA BARGAINING FAQ”. We will work to provide an answer directly to you ASAP, and will post your question and answer here to benefit others.

Labour Terminology

A lockout is when the employer suspends work or prohibits access to a workplace. It is like a strike, but a lockout is initiated by the Board of Governors. UPEIFA members would not be able to access the university campuses, including their offices, laboratories and other campus resources for the purpose of their usual job activities. UPEIFA is not aware of any application for lockout action currently.

A strike is a collective action in which the members of a union (UPEIFA) withhold their services from their Employer (the UPEI Board of Governors). A union is legally entitled to strike once specific negotiation and conciliation processes have been exhausted. In PEI, a union’s right to strike is governed by the PEI Labour Act.

Unions protect the rights of employees and allow them to establish good working conditions for every member of the union. Unions have been very powerful for expanding the rights of workers, limiting working hours, implementing health and safety regulations, winning rights to things like pensions and parental leave, and fighting against discrimination. Teacher unions have long noted that “teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.” Academic unions like UPEIFA ensure that the working conditions at UPEI allow the faculty to provide the kind of quality education UPEI prides itself on. An important part of this is making sure that there are enough professors, instructors, and librarians, working under fair and reasonable conditions, so that students have access to the world-class education that the university promises.

Collective bargaining is the negotiation of an employment contract or collective agreement between a union of employees and an employer. Collective bargaining is a legal process. In PEI, the process is regulated by the PEI Labour Act. Within the UPEI context, this means negotiation between UPEIFA and the Board of Governors (BoG) regarding the terms of employment for UPEIFA members.

Job action is either a strike initiated by the UPEIFA, or a lockout initiated by the administration. It happens when there is a bargaining impasse between the employer (Board of Governors) and the employees (UPEIFA).

The BoG and UPEIFA have been negotiating since May 2022. Conciliation occurred from August 2022 – December 2022 and has concluded. Minister Bloyce Thompson (Economic Growth, Tourism, and Culture) appointed a mediator rather than permit the parties to return to direct negotiations. If mediation is not able to bridge the gap between the two sides, then either party may decide to take job action.

The parties involved in negotiations are the UPEI Faculty Association (UPEIFA) – the certified bargaining agent for all UPEI academic staff – and the UPEI Board of Governors (BOG). Negotiations are currently underway for Bargaining Unit #1, which includes faculty, librarians, sessional instructors and clinical nursing instructors, and for Bargaining Unit #2, which is composed of clinical veterinary professionals. The UPEIFA’s Chief Negotiator is UPEIFA Member Dr. Margot Rejskind.

The UPEI Board of Governors is the body at UPEI charged with administering all non-academic aspects of the University. Although the Board is technically responsible for negotiating an agreement with the UPEIFA, in practice it generally delegates the task to the university administration. In this round of negotiations, the Board has engaged Brian Johnston, a lawyer from the Halifax office of Stewart McKelvey, as their Chief Negotiator.

The parties involved in negotiations are the UPEI Faculty Association (UPEIFA) – the certified bargaining agent for all UPEI academic staff – and the UPEI Board of Governors (BOG). Negotiations are currently underway for Bargaining Unit #1, which includes faculty, librarians, sessional instructors and clinical nursing instructors, and for Bargaining Unit #2, which is composed of clinical veterinary professionals. The UPEIFA’s Chief Negotiator is UPEIFA Member Dr. Margot Rejskind.

The UPEI Board of Governors is the body at UPEI charged with administering all non-academic aspects of the University. Although the Board is technically responsible for negotiating an agreement with the UPEIFA, in practice it generally delegates the task to the university administration. In this round of negotiations, the Board has engaged Brian Johnston, a lawyer from the Halifax office of Stewart McKelvey, as their Chief Negotiator.

Negotiations 2022

Negotiations require both parties to work towards a fair and reasonable agreement. While we have submitted proposals to address a range of issues that impact the quality of your education, the UPEI Board of Governors has made it clear that they are comfortable with larger class sizes, continued reliance on instructors who have little job security and no benefits, and inadequate research and administrative supports for your professors. This has made it difficult for the parties to find some common ground.

This summer, the Faculty Association spent close to 100 hours at the bargaining table in an effort to reach a reasonable agreement that addresses our members’ significant concerns. Unfortunately, those meetings made it clear that our employer was largely comfortable with the status quo and was not interested in participating in a meaningful process of collective bargaining to improve our members’ working conditions and our students’ learning conditions.

After four (4) months of government supported conciliation in which the UPEIFA made significant movement towards reaching a fair and reasonable agreement, the parties were unable to resolve their outstanding concerns.

At the conclusion of conciliation, the provincial government elected to appoint a mediator to see if an agreement can be reached between the parties. If that process is unsuccessful, both parties will be in a legal strike/lock-out position seven (7) after the mediator files her report with the Minister of Economic Growth, Tourism, and Culture.

Yes, our data is pulled from publicly available information on the UPEI website at https://www.upei.ca/about-upei/facts-and-figures.

Our data is available in this Google Sheet.

The UPEI Board of Governors is responsible for managing UPEI’s financial resources which includes significant funding from the provincial government. To date, the Board has elected to use these funds to:

  • Silence members of the campus community who have made harassment allegations against UPEI Senior Management
  • Hire multiple law firms to investigate harassment allegations against the former UPEI President
  • Hire an expensive lawyer from Halifax, NS to prevent the UPEI Faculty Association and the other campus unions from making gains on their bargaining priorities
  • Repeatedly relocate UPEI Senior Management across campus and renovate their new spaces
  • Take on significant capital debt to build legacy buildings
  • Invest in significant expansions of senior administration, with ever-increasing numbers of “Special Advisors”, Associate VP’s, CAOs, “Directors”, and other administrators

Together, these funds could have been used to address a range of issues that impact the quality of your education. Instead, the Board has opted to spend our educational resources on a number of things that have nothing to do with the quality of your education. In this context, it is deeply concerning for the Board to suggest that our proposals for improving your education will inevitably increase your tuition.

During this round of collective bargaining, UPEI Faculty Association members have made the following issues a priority:

  • Hire additional full-time faculty to reduce course sizes, create more course options, and open up more opportunities for supervision and directed studies
  • Establish manageable workloads for academic staff so we can focus on our students
  • Provide benefits and support for contract academic faculty who teach many of your classes in challenging working conditions
  • Secure adequate research support to enable UPEI academic staff to provide essential research and learning experiences to students
  • Ensure that UPEI academic staff have sufficient administrative support
  • Health and safety protections that make our campus safer and healthier for everyone
  • Mental health supports for UPEI academic staff
  • Establish clear and enforceable measures for enhancing equity, diversity, inclusion, and indigeneity (EDII) on our campus
  • Competitive compensation so we can recruit and retain excellent academic staff and deliver our programs

On January 6, Minister Bloyce Thompson (Economic Growth, Tourism, and Culture) signalled that he intends to appoint a mediator to assist the parties in reaching an agreement. If that process is unsuccessful, the parties will have a seven (7) day “cooling off” period after which the UPEI Faculty Association can take a strike vote and the UPEI Board of Governors can lock-out UPEI academic staff.

To be clear, the UPEI Faculty Association’s interest in being in a legal strike position is intended to put pressure on the UPEI Board of Governors to reach a fair and reasonable agreement.

In the event that we cannot reach an agreement, UPEI classes may be disrupted until such time as an agreement can be reached.  

Margot Rejskind.– Chief Negotiator (Music)

Melissa Belvadi – Librarian (Robertson Library)

Greg Doran (English)

Stephanie Hamilton (AVC, Companion Animals)

Rebecca Reed-Jones (Applied Human Sciences)

Margot Rejskind (Arts) (Appointed October 2022)

Jason Stevens (Economics)

Communications

Keep your eye on emails for UPEIFA meetings and attend them to get updates on the status of negotiations.

Check the UPEIFA website (https://upeifa.ca/) for updates and follow our social media channels to receive regular updates about negotiations and notices of new material posted on the negotiation website.

Urge the UPEI Board of Governors to work with the best interests of UPEI at heart to negotiate a fair and equitable settlement for academic staff which will allow UPEI to remain strong. Ask tough questions! Expressions of support or questions for the UPEIFA can be directed to its President, Dr. Mike Arfken, via email at [email protected]

UPEIFA members should continue to do what you have been doing: ask questions; raise concerns; stay informed!

Show your solidarity with the FA by folowing our social media channels and sharing our posts.

Visit the Association’s website for the latest information. Talk to your colleagues about your concerns or contact a member of the Executive directly with any questions, concerns, or offers to help.

And … if you have not done so already, please pass on your alternate (non-UPEI) contact info to [email protected]

Conciliation

Yes! In various rounds of bargaining both the UPEIFA and the UPEI Board of Governors have filed for conciliation. This is a normal part of bargaining and does not mean that we are headed for a strike or lockout.

The conciliation officer will issue a report to the PEI Minister of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture indicating that the union and the university have not reached agreement on a collective agreement during the conciliation process. While the PEI Minister of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture has the option at this point to appoint a conciliation board or mediator, this practice is rare.

If the Minster declines to appoint a board or mediator, there is a 14 (fourteen) day “cooling off” period after which the union can legally call a strike vote and the University can legally engage in a lockout.

Conciliation is a government intervention designed to assist the parties in reaching an agreement and occurs following the submission of a request by the union or the University to the PEI Minister of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture (The Honourable Bloyce Thompson). The process is outlined in the PEI Labour Act.

A request for conciliation is a common occurrence during collective bargaining. Conciliation must be completed before the union is in a position to engage in a legal strike, or the University is in a legal position to lock-out employees in the bargaining units.

Job Action – Lockout

Arrange to sign out materials from the Library before the date of a possible lockout. Some of the resources available through the Library website (such as the library catalogue) will continue to be available off-campus (as they are to anyone with Internet access). However, if the Administration blocks our university computer accounts, you will not be able to access the licensed products such as databases, electronic books, and electronic journals. If you don’t already have one, you may wish to obtain a CAUL card from the Robertson Library prior to the date of a possible lockout. This will enable you to sign out library materials in person from other Canadian academic libraries.

The Association would arrange an interest-free loan from the CAUT Defence Fund to provide for the maintenance of our health benefits, life insurance, and long-term disability coverage (both employer and employee shares) for the duration of a lockout.

Both the Association and the Employer recognize that there are some essential services that must be maintained by Members during a lockout, strike, or work interruption. Each Collective Agreement specifies that it is the responsibility of the Joint Committee to negotiate a Memorandum of Agreement as to what essential services will be provided during work interruptions and by whom.

Members will not have a legal right to enter campus, and the Administration will be within their rights to charge individuals who do so with trespassing. Plan ahead – remove any materials from your office that you think you might want during a lockout.