UWOFA members overwhelmingly endorse strike action as talks set to resume

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The union representing Western University faculty says its members have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action amid ongoing contract talks with the post-secondary institution.

Members voted last week, with 91 per cent casting ballots in support of strike action if necessary, the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA) said in a statement Monday.

“This strong show of support will certainly strengthen our negotiating team’s ability to bargain better provisions for reward and recognition of faculty effort, equitable workloads, health and wellness, and job security,” the statement said.

UWOFA, which represents roughly 1,500 faculty members as well as 50 librarians and archivists at the university, is scheduled to return to the bargaining table with Western from Tuesday to Thursday, the statement added.

Talks began over the summer after collective agreements expired on June 30. No date has been set for a potential strike.

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The union called for a strike vote nearly two weeks ago, saying in a statement at the time that Western had rejected 20 of its 55 proposals, “while considering an additional (three) to be constrained by Bill 124,” referring to the province’s controversial wage-restraint law for public sector workers.

Twenty other proposals had not gotten responses, the union said.

Global News has contacted UWOFA and Western University for comment.

A key issue is the impact that rising inflation has had, and will have, on faculty pay, with union officials estimating that if the current inflation rate continues, members could see a 25 per cent pay cut over thee years.

“The Employer does not seem to be negotiating in a way which takes into consideration the substantial impacts of the last two-and-a-half years on faculty workload and wellbeing, despite the administration’s expressions of gratitude for our service in their public relations communications,” the statement, issued Sept. 20, reads.

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The union has also taken aim at Bill 124, which it says saves the university $1-1.7 million per year.

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“We would like to see those dollars reinvested in the core mission of the university, but it’s now clear that the Employer is not going to do the right thing without some additional pressure.”

Enacted in 2019 when the government was trying to eliminate a deficit, Bill 124 caps public sector salary increases at one per cent a year for three years.

A coalition of more than 40 Ontario unions have challenged the law in court as unconstitutional, arguing it infringes on their collective bargaining rights.

The province’s Financial Accountability Office estimates that overturning the bill could cost the province $8.4 billion between 2022-23 and 2026-27.

The strike mandate from UWOFA members came hours after the Canadian Union of Public Employees announced that Ontario education workers had voted 96.5 per cent in favour of a strike in ongoing talks with the province.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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Ontario education workers union votes in favour of strike mandate

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