Bargaining – Mediation/Conciliation Update

Dawn Giesbrecht, ASPA Co – Lead Negotiator

I am writing to update you on the status of ASPA and U of S collective agreement renewal bargaining which included mediation/conciliation meetings over the last three days; May 5, 6 and 7.

As you may already know, the employer declared an impasse in bargaining on March 5th. This activated the requirement for mediation/conciliation under the Saskatchewan Employment Act and the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety appointed Mr. Kevin Eckert, Senior Labour Relations Officer, to work with both parties in an effort to find a bargaining settlement and end to the bargaining impasse.

Your ASPA bargaining team has put in a great deal of effort to secure a new collective agreement and conclude bargaining on behalf of our membership. Now, as far as your ASPA bargaining team is concerned, the mediation/conciliation process has reached an end without a settlement. It is very likely that the mediator/conciliator will report out at the end of his term on May 16th.

In light of this development ASPA’s bargaining team will be consulting legal counsel with regard to filing an unfair labour practice complaint against the employer for bargaining in bad faith. Here are details to provide you with context.

ASPA’s last collective agreement expired on April 30, 2019 and your bargaining team has worked hard to find a basis for settling a new collective agreement. Even though the U of S declared bargaining to be at an impasse on March 5th,  ASPA continued to try to work with the employer to find a settlement. Unfortunately, these efforts were unsuccessful.

All along, ASPA has been following the key principles identified by members to make modest, but meaningful changes to the current collective agreement and to provide salary increases in line with on our closest comparators – CUPE 1975 and USFA.

Previously I mentioned that the conciliator would ‘report out’. This simply means that the mandatory 60 days of the mediator/conciliator’s appointment has concluded. He will file a report with the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety to that effect. Once that report is filed, ASPA and U of S enter into a 14-day cooling off period during which no job action can occur (strike or lockout).

ASPA has not yet held a strike vote and it is your bargaining team’s preference not to do so, especially in these extraordinary times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic since we thoroughly believe that a dispute can be avoided if the U of S administration embraces the same sense of values and compromise that we’ve brought to the bargaining table.

At every step, the employer has indicated that they want to see reforms to the merit system and we have offered to meet the employer half of the way. But we’ve also said that ASPA members need something meaningful in return since once money is gone from the merit pool it will be gone forever.

ASPA’s membership has indicated time and again that the merit system is broken and so your bargaining team has proposed to return to a relatively modest hybrid system of merit pay combined with annual pay increments.

The employer seemed willing to embrace this approach to some extent, however, since they declared a bargaining impasse in early March, the U of S administration has disavowed compromise on this issue and has insisted on reducing the merit pool without offering anything meaningful in return.

I sincerely wish I had better news to report and next week, I would like the opportunity to talk with you about the bargaining and the proposals on the table. Accordingly, we are planning a bargaining information session for ASPA members on May 14th at 3:00 via Zoom. Check your inbox next week for an invitation.

I hope you are able to join us next week. Stay Well

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