The strike vote of the St. Thomas University Support and Administrative Staff Union (STUSAU) has recalled to many the memory of the strike at UNB just one year ago. But closer to home, UNB’s Professional and Technical Staff Union (PTSU) is also in the process of negotiating their first contract.
The PTSU represents about 400 staff members at UNB. Like the STUSAU, its members come from administrative, professional and technical sectors. But the similarities between the unions don’t stop there. Since its certification in March 2013, the PTSU has been negotiating its first collective agreement with UNB.
“We’re sort of not as far along as we would like to be. We’ve been certified for two years and we expected to be further down the road,” said John Hayden, president of the PTSU. “[The negotiations] are very slow. We expected it to be moving along a bit faster than it has.”
The STUSAU has been negotiating their first contract with STU for four years. On Dec. 19, STU gave the union a final offer. Last Wednesday evening, the STUSAU voted on that final offer. Because a majority voted “no,” it was counted as a strike vote.
The STUSAU want a negotiated final contract that includes 12 articles that were left out of the final offer.
“Obviously I believe both sides don’t want to go to strike action and so we’ll wait to hear from the employer on whether or not they’re coming back to the table before we make any decision,” said Jennifer Burry, president of the STUSAU.
“We believe both parties do want to negotiate a collective agreement and that we are happy to do that and go back to the table with the employer.”
To Hayden, the situation at STU is familiar, if not more progressed.
“We certainly sympathise with them. I don’t think there’s any doubting that they should have a contract. Four years is a long time to be putting into something like that and I think at times the administration hasn’t been very flexible in terms of coming to the table,” Hayden said.
Hayden said that the first contract is important to founding the relationship between the union and the employer.
“Everybody wants to negotiate a first contract. You want to sit down [at the bargaining table]. That’s the whole process: to move forward and negotiate. And then both sides at the end of that feel that you build a relationships,” he said.
Hayden said he does not see the STU strike vote having any effect on the PTSU’s negotiations with UNB.
“We’re hoping that when they do reach an agreement,” he said. “I have no doubts that they will reach an agreement. They may have to go out on strike for a bit but everybody hopes not. I mean strikes don’t serve anyone very well but you have to have the power to do that.”