Offices, Estoppel, and Fair Representation
I have heard of more than one case in which sessionals on campus lack office space. The position taken by the employer constitutes a precedent. This essentially means that we can request office space on your behalf. So, if you have not been provided with a place where you can do your work, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Background to the Arts Grievance
In mid-August 2016, the employer suddenly announced that sessionals who had been housed in Arts 257 and 258 were to be rehoused.
The employer’s first plan was to set up a glorified locker room in 258.
The employer’s second plan was to use 22 carrels in the library with “no more than three” sessionals assigned to each carrel.
Both of these were rejected by the union with strong support from affected members.
There was a grievance hearing attended by a number of grievors on January 16th, 2017.
I presented the grievance. I took into account everything that had been raised by members – there had been lots of e-mail discussion. In an e-mail dated January 12th, 2017, I invited interested sessionals to make last minute suggestions. None were received.
At the grievance hearing itself, after I had made my presentation, attending grievors were asked whether they wished to add anything. One did.
On February 8th, 2017, the decision was handed down. What was on offer was the carrels in the library and shared offices in Thorvaldson and McLean Hall. The offer amounted to a minimum of 48 and a maximum of 57 desks for about 70 sessionals.
This appeared to be good enough that we had a legal obligation to try it out.
The members involved were notified the next day of what had been offered. They were also informed that they would have to try it out and that we could grieve any deficiencies discovered.
The members involved were later invited to forward any complaints to the union concerning matters that they were unable to settle by discussing them with the responsible administrators. At this time, no complaints have been received.
The basis for the grievance was 33.02 of the Collective Agreement, which reads as follows: “The Employer agrees to provide the necessary resources to sessional lecturers so they may fulfill their teaching duties effectively and with support equivalent to that provided to faculty.”
Some affected members looked at the phrase “with support equivalent to that provided to faculty” and concluded that the deal was not good enough.
But it is necessary to consider the context. The phrase first appeared in the Collective Agreement in 2010. There were no grievances filed by either the union or sessionals whose cubicles were in Arts 257 and 258 with respect to office accommodation between 2010 and 2016. It follows that, by their actions, both the union and the sessionals in 257 and 258 effectively accepted the cubicle arrangement as “support equivalent” with respect to offices.
This means that we are estopped from demanding more in a grievance. You cannot go along with an arrangement for six years and retain the legal right to challenge it.
Furthermore, while an individual is free to waste time and money on a pointless lawsuit, a union is not. The interests of all members must be taken into account.
We can try to negotiate something better in the next round of bargaining but we have no way of legally contesting an arrangement that appears to be at least as good as the one it replaced. In the meantime, we certainly can use the grievance as a precedent to ask for offices for those who have none at all.
Bits of Good News
After arbitration in January and February, an employee who was dismissed in 2015 on the basis of a student complaint has been re-instated and will be compensated for lost pay.
Two potential grievances have been settled informally, preserving the integrity of the Collective Agreement. Other less serious matters have reached the same conclusion.
We have a new parking officer. Summer parking usage is up. Hopefully, this will continue. We have had too many shortfalls in the past.
We are participating again with the other campus unions in the Pancake Breakfast on September 7th in the Bowl, to which you are all invited.
The employer has agreed to amalgamate the Professional Development and Tuition Waiver Funds. This permits us to deal with applications flexibly. The employer deserves a great deal of credit here because we have a collective agreement in place and they did not have to agree to a different arrangement.
Leslie Walter resigned as Vice-President because she has been appointed to a lecturer position. Joanie Crandall has been elected to succeed her. Joanie has a steep learning curve ahead of her and needs all our support.