Dear APUO members,
Throughout these negotiations, the APUO believes that the employer has acted in many ways that contravene both the spirit and the letter the Ontario Labour Relations Act. Such actions have included stating false information; refusing to share data they are legally obligated to release; communicating in ways that constitute attempts to negotiate directly with the membership; and now, seeking to intimidate members in order to influence the strike mandate vote planned for July 31.
Since the beginning of this process, it has been clear to the APUO that the employer has been using its vast institutional resources to wage a battle against members and the APUO. Up to this point, the APUO has assumed that members would prefer that we focus on negotiations rather than use the legal system to respond to the employer’s unacceptable actions. We had also hoped that, even if the employer continued its dishonourable actions, it would have at least ceased the ones we believe to be unlawful.
As you all know by now, this has not been the case. With its communications on Thursday and Friday of last week, the APUO can no longer ignore the issue. Peter Simpson (one of CAUT’s most seasoned advisers with more than 20 years experience) said that the employer’s communication was “unprecedented” in his experience, and that “it is hard to read it as something other than an attempt to interfere in the union’s credibility and its communications with its members ahead of a strike vote”.
Therefore, this morning the APUO has responded in the only way possible under the Ontario labour law. We have filed an application to the Ministry of Labour requesting that it (a) investigate the employer’s violations of the Ontario Labour Relations Act; (b) force the employer to disclose information required by the APUO for bargaining and insist that the employer respect the law regarding its communications; and (c) award the APUO damages to compensate for the employer’s illegal activity. You can find more detailed information about this in the Bargaining Bulletin #9.
More than ever, the employer’s actions signal that a strike mandate is critical to conclude this round of collective bargaining. To begin, the employer executed a strategy that forced negotiations to a crisis point during the summer, betting no doubt that the APUO would be intimidated into accepting an unreasonable offer. Since we have not responded in that fashion, the employer is now doing everything in its power to stop members from expressing their collective support to the APUO Executive Committee and negotiating team and voting YES to a strike mandate. The employer is doing so precisely because a successful strike mandate vote means that they will have to offer APUO members a significantly better deal than what they have tabled so far. We are convinced that members will see through the employer’s tactics and recognize them for what they really are.
In this context, the APUO is therefore asking you to support a strike mandate, because it is an absolutely necessary tool to get our members a fair deal that properly enhances the quality of education and ensures fair working conditions for all members.
Consequently, voting NO to a strike mandate is not about voting to accept the employer’s latest offer. Voting against a strike mandate sends a message to the employer that it can behave in any illegal or illegitimate manner with impunity. It is a vote for the employer to bully its employees (not just in negotiations, but in everyday working relations) to any extent. It tells the employer that it can use the same unlawful intimidation tactics to win greater and greater concessions from APUO members on a growing number of issues.
Voting YES to a strike mandate is not voting to go on strike immediately. It is allowing the Executive Committee to call a strike if and only if mediation fails and it is absolutely necessary to get a negotiated agreement that is fair and equitable. It is choosing to tell the employer that it cannot ignore the membership’s views and cannot unilaterally impose its own preferences on them. It is choosing to demonstrate that APUO members will not reward the employer’s unacceptable and illegal actions. Most importantly, it is voting to take a stand for respect and collegiality, and show the employer that their new, aggressive, corporate-style approach will not work now, or in the future.
We end this communication by sharing an unsolicited letter sent to President Rock (and copied to us) by Michael Behiels, an APUO member who reflects on the employer’s recent actions in the context of what he has seen over the course of his (almost) 40-year career as a professor.
Thank you very much for your continued strong support. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on July 31.
The APUO Executive Committee