Job insecurity and compensation among issues
On Feb. 16, members of the administrative, professional, and technical (APT) staff at the University of Regina voted to strike, citing “layoff provisions, retirement bonus eligibility, and compensation” as the outstanding issues.
According to an official statement, 85.2 per cent of the union members voted to strike after mediation last month failed to reach a collective agreement between the U of R and APT staff.
“This vote sends a clear message to management at the University of Regina,” said Dr. Dennis Fitzpatrick, president of the University of Regina Faculty Association and professor of biochemistry. URFA acts as the bargaining agent for over 1,400 employees on campus, including the U of R, Campion, Luther, and the First Nations University of Canada.
“Our members expect to be treated fairly, and in a way that acknowledges their valuable contributions to the University and University community.”
In their written statement, APT employees stated that the U of R’s policies surrounding layoffs are “unreasonable.”
“The employer wants to make these dedicated members of the university community vulnerable to arbitrary layoff decisions,” said Fitzpatrick, “with limited recourse to reassignment.”
Layoffs are an ongoing concern at U of R. Most recently, First Nations University announced their intention to offer voluntary buyout packages to employees over the coming months. FNU administration is hoping that if enough staff members accept the buyouts, layoffs can be avoided.
“Our members feel quite firmly that they deserve better treatment,” Fitzpatrick said.
The financial future of University of Regina is currently far from secure, with provincial funding lagging behind rising enrollment numbers. University finances are further stressed by deferred maintenance costs and difficulties securing $13.3 million promised by the province for last years’ residence construction projects.
The U of R administration has warned that if provincial funding does not increase by 4.41 per cent, that operations budgets will have to be reduced by $13.6 million.
“The academic members intentionally left money on the table to ensure that the APT members would receive fair increases, comparable to other employee groups on campus, including management,” said Fitzpatrick. Academic staff are also URFA members, although they negotiate their agreements separately.
“Now, despite years of surpluses,” said Fitzpatrick, “management is claiming that they cannot afford to honour that commitment.”
University of Regina administration has a policy against commenting on ongoing negotiations, but released a brief statement communicating that they are “currently working with the University of Regina Faculty Association to schedule further discussions,” and that the University is “optimistic about concluding an agreement in the near future.”