Unstable economic climate leading to contentious bargaining in PSE sector

November 16, 2011

A weakened economy and tightening provincial budgets in some regions of Canada have led to contentious negotiations this fall, with labour unrest emerging at PSE institutions. Ongoing and resolved strikes this fall include those at Ontario colleges, SIAST, the University of Western Ontario, Brandon University, McGill University, and the Université de Sherbrooke. In a time of curbed government spending, pension plan shortfalls, and an anticipated slowdown in enrolment growth, "university administrations are looking around and they’re just not seeing rosy budget numbers ahead" says a Carleton University economics professor. While the number of contracts up for negotiation is consistent with that of other years, "in difficult times like this bargaining is more difficult for both sides," says CAUT executive director James Turk. The main sticking point in many of the labour disputes is wages and salaries, and employer demands for higher pension contributions from staff. With the weak economy having reduced unions' negotiating power in many sectors like PSE, faculty salaries and other benefits of academic life will continue to come under pressure in coming years, predicts the Carleton professor. University Affairs