NSGEU strike averted
On March 21 the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) Local 77 ratified a new contract with Dalhousie University administration, averting a strike and bringing months of contract negotiations to a close.
NSGEU Local 77 represents over 800 library, Information Technology and administrative staff at Dal. 92 per cent of the members who voted approved of the contract. The union ended conciliation with Dal on Feb. 21.
Local 77 has been without a new contract since June 2010. Joan Jessome, president of NSGEU, says it’s been a very strange round of bargaining for the Local.
“They’ve been bargaining, technically, for a year and a half,” she says.
Jessome says the final monetary offer was comparable to the one made by the Dalhousie Faculty Association (DFA). The members will receive a one per cent pay increase for 2011, a 3.5 per cent increase on July 1, 2012 and a 1.75 per cent increase in 2013. In addition, the union members were given a $300 signing bonus and a $300 one-time contribution to their Health Spending Accounts.
The administration and the various bargaining groups are currently winding down from months of negotiations. The administration has shut down its negotiations blog, and the DFA moved back into their South Street office on March 23.
As with the DFA, the provincial government’s last-minute change to pension regulations earlier this month paved the way to a deal for the NSGEU.
“Having the pension issue resolved through solvency relief was a very good move by the employer and the government,” says Jessome.
“The pension discussions will continue,” says university spokesperson Charles Crosby. This agreement, he says, was “a really key thing to help move things along.”
Laura Boylen, a second-year student at Dal, puts it differently.
“The university was bailed out,” she says. “They were saved. The administration didn’t deal with it well at all.”
The DFA and NSGEU have both committed to addressing pension governance issues before the next round of contract negotiations. Joan Jessome says these meetings “may amount to nothing.”
Damaging the relationships between the administration and the university’s faculty and staff is always a concern, says Crosby. But he says Dal is ready to “move forward together.”
Some students are unhappy with the way the strike was handled by the administration and the various bargaining groups.
“The information they were giving to students was not that helpful. It was very frustrating,” says Duncan Baker, a second-year student at Dal.
“The labour dispute was handled pretty well,” says Alvaro Ortiz, a fourth-year geology student. He says that the interests of the students were considered by the administration.
For many students, the most important thing is that they will be able to finish the term on time. Kelly Barber, in his third year of a double major in political science and international development studies, agrees.
“It seems like it was handled pretty well—I mean, they averted it,” he says.
Both the DFA and NSGEU collective agreements will expire on July 1, 2014.