Volume 13, Number 13 March 10, 2006

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CUPE, University sign 3-yr agreement

Just over three-quarters of CUPE 1975 members who voted cast their ballots in favour of accepting a new collective agreement that provides wage increases of two per cent in each of the first two years of the contract, and about 2.4 per cent in the third, as well as resolves outstanding issues around job evaluation.

The plan now, for both CUPE 1975 President Glen Ross and Barb Daigle, associate vice-president human resources, is to get back to the bargaining table soon to ensure another agreement is in place before this one expires. The three-year agreement, which cover some 1800 CUPE employees at the U of S and about 600 at the University of Regina, was signed March 1 and expires Dec. 31.

Ross said he believes the agreement marks an end to the enmity that has characterized the relationship between the University and its employees, and he would like to see the two parties back at the negotiating table by September at the latest.

“I think the bad times are behind us now,” he said, “and the future looks a lot more promising. Our day-to-day relationship with the University is fantastic…(but) the animosity sort of took on a life as its own.”

Daigle is also looking to return to the table soon.

“It has always been my goal to have collective agreements in place before the old ones expire,” she said. “Everyone is tired right now but ideally, I’d like to see us start again in the fall.”

Ross said he was very pleased with the 69 per cent turnout for the vote, held Feb. 27 in Saskatoon and Feb. 28 in Regina, particularly considering that about 500 of the CUPE 1975 members at the U of S are students “who are focused on school right now.”

In terms of compensation, Ross said about 80 per cent of union members will receive retroactive payments of two per cent for 2004 and two per cent for 2005. The average increase for 2006 is about 2.4 per cent, he said. In this year of the agreement, those employees within two per cent of the top of their pay range will not receive the full two per cent, and those who are “red-circled” at the top of the pay scale will get a one-time-only $500 payment.

Another significant feature of the new agreement is that seniority will now be considered when employees bid on any job on campus rather than just on jobs within their own unit, he said. This creates “more opportunity for people to move around and advance.” Food Service workers in particular will benefit because so many are seasonal, he said. Their seniority can now be used when they bid on other jobs.

The University and the union have also agreed to jointly review all casual positions. Again citing Food Services, Ross said many employees “are casual but they seem to work there year after year after year.” Realigning those people as recur and relief employees will entitle them to more benefits under the new agreement, he said.

Also new is a family compensation model that will see all positions divided into six phases within each family of jobs. Over the next four months, employees have the opportunity to request reclassification, and a new level has been added to the process to deal with disputes. Ross explained that employees unhappy with the result of their reclassification request are entitled to appeal. If still not satisfied, an independent third party will be asked to rule.

This feature is in the best interests of both employees and the University because “you should always feel like you get a fair shake.” He added the people asked to deliberate on reclassification dispute will likely have a labour background or experience in public sector work.

A rush of reclassification requests is expected “because the data we used for the compensation model was collected in 2000 and jobs have grown and changed since then, but it’s either that or start this (job evaluation) project all over again. I’d take this over a wage increase because people can get stuck in reclassification.”

Daigle said the new agreement is a recognition of CUPE staff at the University that “will help us work on defining career paths” for employees. In terms of compensation, she described it as “fair and reasonable. We’re focusing on competitive salaries based on the marketplace that will allow us to recruit and retain staff.”

She added that to negotiate a new agreement before this one expires will require both parties to come to the table with clear priorities. Management brought about 30 proposals to the table in this round compared to about 150 brought by the union which even the CUPE president admitted that was too many.

“We have to negotiate better and quicker on behalf of our members,” Ross said, suggesting that next time, the union enter the process with “the 10 proposals we think are reasonable.”

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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