CBU – CBU Faculty Association (CBUFA) Negotiations

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Cape Breton University, like most universities in Canada, has collective agreements with their faculty and staff. Negotiations must take place in order to reach any collective agreement and this is a normal part of the process of operating a university.

You may be aware that the university is currently engaged in negotiations with the CBU Faculty Association (CBUFA), which includes professors, specialists, librarians, lab instructors and nursing practice educators.  Negotiations began on July 4, 2016. For a detailed timeline on the Collective Bargaining Process, click.

On December 9, 2016, the tentative collective agreement between Cape Breton University and the Cape Breton University Faculty Association (CBUFA) was rejected by the Board of Governors.  At that time, the Board requested the negotiating teams return to the table to resume talks as soon as possible.

The Provincial conciliator who has been working with the parties filed his official report with the Minister of Labour on December 12, 2016.  As is standard procedure, once the report has been filed, a fourteen-day “cooling off period” commenced. Since the conclusion of the cooling off period on December 26, CBUFA has been in a legal strike position and CBU in a legal lockout position.   Forty-eight hours’ notice is required before any job action can occur.  This is a normal part of peaceful labour negotiations in Canada.

The negotiating teams met to continue discussions around next steps for a Collective Agreement on Thursday, December 15, and Tuesday, December 20 followed by a meeting with the Provincial Conciliator on Wednesday, December 21. They also met again on January 5, 2017.  Though the teams met with the assistance of a Provincial Conciliator, regretfully the parties were unable to conclude a tentative agreement and no further talks are scheduled at this time.

During the December meetings, CBU’s negotiating team presented an amended proposal to CBUFA on the layoff language (article 39). This  article was identified as CBUFA’s number one priority. Essentially, the proposal offered significant concessions including:

  • Termination of the layoff process started in January 2016; meaning the current possibility of CBUFA layoffs would be off the table
  • A commitment of no layoff of CBUFA members during the life of the new collective agreement  (June 2019)
  • More rigorous criteria for a future triggering of Article 39 by CBU

Additionally, with the next collective agreement negotiations expected to begin in June 2019 there would be more opportunities for the parties to discuss specifics of lay-off language.  Regrettably, an agreement was still not reached.

We continue to hope that a labour interruption or strike will be averted and are working to conclude a tentative agreement that is acceptable to the Board and the Union. 

Please know that you, the students of CBU, are our utmost priority and we are taking every prudent step possible to prevent any interruption in your educational experience.

We understand that you are concerned and have many questions about the immediate future.  We hope that the Frequently Asked Questions listed below are helpful. If you cannot find an answer to your question please submit it using our Question Form. You may also sign up to receive updates to these frequently asked questions.

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  • In the event of a potential labour interruption (strike), as a student will I still have access to course materials through moodle?

    Yes. CBU will not restrict access to student course materials. You will still be able to access moodle with your assigned login. However, if your professor is a CBUFA member they will not be able to update the site.

  • With the possibility that CBUFA may opt for strike action on January 23rd, have any adjustments been made to course add/drop and/or payment dates?

    In light of the announcement from CBUFA, and in an effort to accommodate our students, please be advised of the following date changes:

    • Students will now have until January 27, 2017, to drop a course without academic or financial penalty
    • The payment deadline for winter term fees has been adjusted from January 13, 2017 to January 27, 2017.
    • The date that you are eligible for a 75% refund has been adjusted from January 27, 2017 to February 10, 2017.
    • There will be no change in the ability to ADD a course. January 13 is the last day to add courses.
  • What happened when the CBU and CBUFA negotiating teams met in December 2016?

    During the December 21st meeting CBU’s negotiations team presented an amended proposal to CBUFA on layoff language (article 39). That article was identified as CBUFA’s number one priority.

  • What was in the amended proposal offered by CBU during the December 2016 meetings?

    During the December meetings, CBU’s negotiating team presented an amended proposal to CBUFA on the layoff language (article 39). This  article was identified as CBUFA’s number one priority. Essentially, the proposal offered significant concessions including:

    • Termination of the layoff process started in January 2016; meaning the current possibility of CBUFA layoffs would be off the table
    • A commitment of no layoff of CBUFA members during the life of the new collective agreement  (June 2019)
    • More rigorous criteria for a future triggering of  Article 39 by CBU

    Additionally, with the next collective agreement negotiations expected to begin in June 2019 there would be more opportunities for the parties to discuss specifics of lay-off language.  Regrettably, an agreement was still not reached.

  • Was an agreement reached after the amended proposal was offered?

    No. Though the teams met with the assistance of a Provincial Conciliator, regrettably the parties were unable to conclude a tentative agreement and no further talks are scheduled at this time.

  • What happens now that talks have broken down?

    No further talks are scheduled at this time, but CBU remains hopeful that a resolution can be reached.  

  • If talks have broken down, does that mean there is or will be a labour interruption (strike)?

    No. CBUFA has been in a legal strike (stop work) position since December 26, 2016.  CBUFA must provide 48 hours notice to CBU prior to any job action. At this time, no notice of  a labour interruption has been received.

  • Where can I see a detailed timeline on the Collective Bargaining Process?

    Negotiations began on July 4, 2016. For more information please visit our detailed timeline of the Collective Bargaining Process. 

  • How will CBU provide updates on the negotiation process to university students and staff?

    This website will continue to be updated with any new developments. Important updates affecting students and staff will also be communicated to you directly in all-student and all-employee emails from Interim President, Dale Keefe. Please pay close attention to all future communications from the University on this matter.

  • What is a collective agreement?

    A collective agreement is a written contract between the university and a union that outlines many of the terms and conditions of employment for employees in a bargaining unit. (S.2(1))

  • What is collective bargaining?

    Collective bargaining – known also as ‘negotiations’ — is the framework under which the negotiation of the collective agreement takes place. It is a process in which a union and an employer negotiate, in good faith, to achieve a collective agreement.   Where there are mature contracts in place, the parties usually focus on improving such issues as wages, vacation and other terms under the contract. (S.2 (1))

  • What happens if, during negotiations, an employer and a union cannot agree on the terms to be included in a collective agreement?

    If the parties cannot settle a collective agreement – this is sometimes called bargaining to an ‘impasse’ — either party may ask the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education to appoint a conciliator to assist the parties reach an agreement.

  • What is conciliation?

    Conciliation is the process of intervention in collective bargaining by a neutral third party  who is knowledgeable in effective negotiation procedures. This third party is called a “Conciliator.” This person helps bring the parties together in order to reach a collective agreement, but has no authority to make decisions. (S.37)

  • What if the conciliator isn’t able to help resolve the impasse?

    The Conciliator will file a confidential report with the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education. (S. 38)

    Once the report is filed, A 14-calendar-day countdown period begins at 12:01 am on the day following the filing. During the countdown period, the employer is not permitted to increase or decrease rates of wages or alter any other term or condition of employment. Nor is a union able to commence a strike action during the count down period.

    The Conciliator may request the parties to attend a meeting during the countdown period in a further attempt to reach a settlement if the conciliator believes reaching an agreement is possible. If the parties are unable to reach a settlement, a work stoppage may be initiated by either the union or the employer.The following conditions must be met before either party may engage in a legal work stoppage:
    •    The 14-calendar-day countdown must have expired; and
    •    Written 48 hours’ notice of intention to strike by the union or lockout by the employer must be received by the Minister.

    In addition to the above, any union wishing to commence a strike must have conducted a secret-ballot vote where the majority of affected members have voted to support strike action. (S.47)

  • Does a strike vote have to take place before a strike? How does it happen?

    Yes. (S.47 (3))

    A strike vote by secret ballot is required before a union can lawfully commence a strike of employees in the bargaining unit.   A union holding a strike vote is a common occurrence in collective bargaining and does not mean that a strike will occur. Strike votes may occur either before or after a conciliation exercise. It is a union’s decision as to when a strike vote may be called.

    All employees in a bargaining unit have the right to participate in such a vote and must have ample opportunity to cast a ballot at a reasonably convenient time and place and a majority of such employees have voted in favour of a strike.

    This is a vote that is conducted entirely by the union; it is not supervised by the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education. It is entirely up to the union as to whether it releases the specific vote results. The outcome of the vote will tell the union whether the employees in the bargaining unit authorize the union to call a strike. As a result, all bargaining unit members are encouraged to participate in the vote.

  • What is a strike?

    A strike is a cessation of work, a refusal to work or to continue work, by employees in combination or in concert with a common understanding, or a slow-down or other concerted activity on the part of employees designed to restrict or limit production for the purpose of compelling an employer to agree to terms or conditions of employment. (S.2 (1)(v))

  • What is a lock-out?

    A lock-out is the suspension of work by the employer for the purpose of compelling bargaining unit employees to agree to terms or conditions of employment. (S.2 (1) (o))

  • What is a tentative agreement?

    A tentative agreement means the university’s and the union’s negotiating teams have agreed to the terms of a collective agreement, but the terms have not yet been agreed to (“ratified”) by either the bargaining unit members or the university’s governing body – the Board of Governors.

  • What is a ratification vote?

    Ratification by the union is the process by which members of the bargaining unit vote to accept or reject the terms of the collective agreement that the university and union have negotiated. The ratification vote happens at the end of collective bargaining, after the university and the union have reached a tentative agreement.

    All members of the bargaining unit have the right to vote. Each person gets one vote. The vote must be conducted by secret ballot. The collective agreement is considered “ratified” by the bargaining unit if a majority of those voting accept the terms of the tentative collective agreement. (S.103 (5))

    A collective agreement is ratified by the university, when the tentative agreement is approved by the Board of Governors. (S.103 (6))
    Once both parties have ratified the tentative collective agreement, it is signed and becomes the new collective agreement.

  • Does a “yes” on a strike vote mean that a strike will happen?

    No, not necessarily.  The outstanding issues at the bargaining table are important ones, both to CBU and the Union.  An agreement can be reached at any time after a strike vote. The conciliation process, in particular, provides an opportunity for both parties, with the help of a skilled conciliator appointed by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, to reach a tentative agreement. CBU will be approaching the meetings with the aid of a conciliator appointed by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education with a view to a successful outcome.

  • What is a picket line?

    In the event a strike occurs, the union will likely set up small demonstrations or a ‘picket lines’. At a picket line, the union members will generally carry signs that show their concerns or issues and they may be walking in front of the road entrances.

  • In the event of a possible strike at CBU, can I cross a picket line?

    Yes. As a CBU student, you are not only permitted to cross a CBUFA picket line to enter the campus, you have a legal right to do so, just as non-striking employees and members of the public do.  We are confident that any picketing will occur in a lawful, respectful and considerate manner.  We understand that this may be uncomfortable for some students and we encourage you to act as you normally would towards the faculty. It is legal for those on strike to picket to provide information, but they must allow the normal movement of people and vehicles into CBU.

  • Since the conciliation process was unsuccessful, is a work stoppage inevitable?

    No. We are doing everything to conclude a tentative agreement that is acceptable to the Board and the Union.

  • When could a strike take place?

    The Provincial conciliator who has been working with the parties filed his official report with the Minister of Labour on December 12, 2016.  As is standard procedure, once the report has been filed, a fourteen-day “cooling off period” commenced. At the conclusion of the cooling off period on December 26, CBUFA will be in a legal strike position and CBU in a legal lockout position.   The CBU Faculty Association must provide 48 hours’ written notice of their intention to strike to the Nova Scotia Minister of Labour.

  • I am not from Canada. Is this kind of situation common? Should I be concerned?

    For those of you from countries where this situation is rare, we want to assure you this is not unusual in Canada and you should have no concerns. Employees in Canada have a legal right to strike (withdraw their services) and you have the legal right to continue to come to campus.

  • Are all CBU classes taught by CBUFA faculty?

    No. Some of our instructors are covered under a separate collective agreement with NSGEU and would not be part of a CBUFA labour withdrawal.  Should there be a work stoppage, more information will be provided to help students determine which classes are affected.

  • I am supposed to graduate in May.  How will a possible strike affect me?

    CBU takes its responsibility to students very seriously and will do everything possible to ensure that students are able to complete the classes in which they are enrolled. In the event of a strike this may involve special make-up classes or term extensions, but only as a last resort.  No university in Canada has ever lost a term to a faculty strike. CBU Administration, in collaboration with the Senate (which includes student membership), will work diligently to identify options that will allow students to complete their term and for those graduating, to graduate on time should there be any interruption.  The Enrolment Services and Registrar’s Offices in the Marvin Harvey Building will be open and offering the usual services to students including the processing of graduation applications.

  • Are academic dates for Winter Term going to be affected by a possible strike?

    As of right now, the calendar is expected to proceed as scheduled with the following exceptions:

    In light of the announcement from CBUFA, and in an effort to accommodate our students, please be advised of the following date changes:

    • Students will now have until January 27, 2017, to drop a course without academic or financial penalty
    • The payment deadline for winter term fees has been adjusted from January 13, 2017 to January 27, 2017.
    • The date that you are eligible for a 75% refund has been adjusted from January 27, 2017 to February 10, 2017.
    • There will be no change in the ability to ADD a course. January 13 is the last day to add courses.
  • Is it possible for students to lose their academic credits or year due to a possible strike?

    CBU and CBUFA take their collective responsibility to students very seriously and will do everything possible to ensure that students are able to complete the classes in which they are enrolled. This may involve special make-up classes or term extensions, but only as a last resort.  No university in Canada has ever lost a term to a faculty strike. CBU administration, in collaboration with the Senate (which includes student membership), will work diligently to identify options that will allow students to successfully complete their term.

  • Should I pay my tuition, residence, meal plan and other related fees?

    There has been no strike or labour interruption called by CBUFA, so deadlines and fees should be prioritized as normal.  All payments are processed in Enrolment Services.  In the event of a labour interruption, dates and deadlines will be revisited and adjusted accordingly to best accommodate students.

  • How will a possible strike affect students living on-campus?

    Students who live on-campus will be allowed to remain in the buildings should there be any labour interruption. It is CBU’s responsibility to ensure, to the best of our ability, that the University continues to operate normally.   This includes ensuring the wellbeing of our students living on-campus.

  • During a possible strike, is my coverage in CBU’s International Health Plan still in effect?

    Yes, if you are enrolled in CBU’s Health Plan, coverage is valid during a strike.