In BUFA Executive, Picket Lines

CUPE 4207, Unit 1 is the union representing sessional instructors, teaching assistants, lab demonstrators, marker/graders, and course coordinators. As you may know, CUPE Unit 1 will be in a strike/lockout position on March 19, 2020. Being in a strike/lockout position does not mean that there will be a strike or lockout on that date but one could be called. There are mediation sessions between CUPE and the University scheduled for March 17 and 18, 2020. Labour disputes are frequently settled in the last hours before a strike deadline and we very much hope that both sides can reach a fair and negotiated settlement prior to March 19, 2020.

However, if negotiations are not successful, we have provided some information below regarding what to do in the event of a CUPE strike at Brock. BUFA will provide updates and respond to members’ questions for the duration of a strike or lockout, if one should occur.

1. Why is CUPE 4207, Unit 1, considering a strike?

Members of CUPE 4207 have been working without a contract since September 2019. You can consult the CUPE 4207 website for their bargaining updates and a description of bargaining issues.

2. Would the University be closed in the event of a strike?

During the last CUPE strike in 2012, the University remained open. We expect that it would do so in this case as well.

3. Would there be picket lines at the campus?

CUPE will likely set up picket lines at all entrances to the St. Catharines campus, perhaps including entrances to buildings east of Glenridge Avenue. The downtown campus also may be affected.

4. Am I required to cross a picket line if I am not on strike?

No. Your right to refuse to cross a legal picket line is protected by Article 42 of our Collective Agreement. You are not required to cross a picket line to report to work in the event of a strike nor can you be disciplined for exercising that right.

Not crossing the picket line does not mean that you are expected to stop working entirely. Most BUFA members spend plenty of time working away from campus; they should continue to do so for the duration of a strike. If a member’s research depends on being on campus, that member may choose to cross the picket line for that purpose, but as explicated above, they are not required to do so. Further, when there is no picket line, BUFA members are expected to meet on-campus obligations, such as teaching classes.

5. Can students be penalized for not coming to class during a strike?

Information about students’ rights and responsibilities during a labour disruption are outlined in Faculty Handbook (FHB) Part III, Section C, Article 6.

The FHB clearly states that students who choose not to cross a legal picket line during a labour disruption shall not be academically penalized. However, students are not absolved of the responsibility for completing their course requirements, subject to possible remedial actions put into place after the disruption has ended.

6. What changes would I need to make in my course if there is a strike?

Instructor responsibilities are also outlined in FHB III, Section C, Article 6. If the disruption lasts five or fewer working, days, it would be left to individual instructors to determine what remedial action is required to maintain the academic integrity of the course, within existing academic regulations. These actions might include, among others, deadline extensions, modification of assignments, and rescheduling tests. If the disruption is greater than five working days, modifications to the teaching term and/or exam schedule are likely. The Senate Governance Committee and Senate shall hold special meetings immediately following the end of the disruption to discuss possible remedial action, including allowances for any students who exercised their right not to cross a picket line.

7. If there is a prolonged strike, can I refuse to reschedule classes or work later into the year?

Following the process described above, Senate could decide that make-up classes should be scheduled and the term extended. If individual faculty members refuse to hold these make-up classes, they may be subject to discipline.

8. What happens to my pay if I decide not to cross the picket line?

The University does not have the right to withhold pay from BUFA members who exercise their right not to cross the picket line.

9. How do I support my students in the event of a strike?

Uncertainty and a lack of information are frequently sources of considerable anxiety for students during a strike. You can support your students by providing them with as much information as possible, and as soon as possible, about arrangements for your course, alternate plans for assignments and deadlines, and how to get further information. You can make them aware of the provisions in the FHB establishing their right not to cross the picket line without penalty but also to be responsible for completing course requirements, which might be modified as a result of the disruption.

10. How can I support CUPE 4207 in the event of a strike?

You can support CUPE 4207 by notifying your students if you intend to cancel classes in the event of a labour dispute and by extending deadlines in order to ensure that students are not pressured into crossing picket lines to hand in assignments. Graduate students, who are typically both CUPE members and students, are in a particularly difficult situation and your understanding of the pressures on them would be welcome. You can also walk picket lines with members of CUPE 4207 or provide picketers with warm beverages, snacks, and kind words of support.

11. Will there be any changes to the operations of the BUFA office in the event of a strike?

BUFA office functions will be maintained throughout a CUPE strike, although our staff will not be on campus. Please use email ([email protected]) to contact BUFA staff and officers.

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