By Errol Black
On November 16, The Brandon Sun responded to my comments of November 14 in which I argued that that their coverage and commentary relating to the strike at Brandon University was delaying a resolution of the conflict (“You can’t avoid the BU reality”).
The Sun’s concluding paragraph to the editorial implies that the editors didn’t understand my arguments. This paragraph reads as follows:
Up until now, the BUFA executive has ignored the advice of its own hand-picked mediator and refused to agree to binding arbitration. The executive seems to believe it can reach a deal with the university through the collective bargaining process, which has not been successful. As of today, there is only one holdout in this strike, and as we have no voice at the negotiating table, it’s rather obvious that we are not the ones prolonging the strike.
Instead of trying to understand the underlying causes for the failure to “reach a deal with the university through the collective bargaining process,” the editorial argues in effect that what’s gone before is irrelevant: “BUFA has rejected binding arbitration. Therefore, BUFA is responsible for a continuation of the strike. That’s all there is too it.”
I would suggest that if the Sun editorial writers and columnists had looked carefully at the factors leading to strike action and subsequent developments, they would have reached a different conclusion.
In brief, the chronology of key events in this sad state of affairs is as follows:
- May 17, start of collective bargaining.
- October 12, start of strike.
- October 12, in response to request by Brandon University, government names conciliator to help the parties negotiate a collective agreement.
- October 21, given the University’s refusal to get serious about reaching a collective agreement, the conciliator decides there’s no future in prolonging the process. BUFA agrees and requests the Minister of Labour appoint Michael Werier as a mediator.
- October 21, Michael Werier appointed mediator.
- November 7, Michael Werier submitted report to Minister proposing “binding arbitration to resolve the dispute on wage increases, and either arbitrate or negotiate the remaining issues.”
Given that Mr. Werier revealed in his report that he was predisposed to accept the position of the University on wages, BUFA rejected binding arbitration. The University, which had indicated previously a desire to arbitrate rather than negotiate, enthusiastically approved Werier’s recommendation.
Other people, including the editors of the Sun, should have been able to puzzle out that the problem was that the University refused to bargain in good faith and it should have insisted that the University get back to the table and negotiate a collective agreement.
Instead, without much thought, they simply jumped on the arbitration band wagon and called on BUFA to give up on its efforts to bargain a solution. I would submit that the latter response, namely, the endorsement of the university’s wish for arbitration, has prolonged the strike.
Errol Black is a retired member of BUFA and a CCPA Mb. board member.