Members of the Brescia Faculty Association held a successful strike mandate vote on Sept. 7 where 94 per cent of members voted in favour of a strike mandate.
A strike mandate does not necessarily mean BFA will go on strike, but it signifies that the association supports the negotiating team, according to Melissa Jean, BFA president.
Jean said the faculty's contract expired on June 30 and negotiations with the employer have been ongoing since late April.
"We made certainly some early progress on non-monetary issues, but as soon as articles were opened that we would consider monetary, that the employer incurs a cost, really the negotiations sort of really slowed down and came to a stall," Jean said.
Colleen Aguilar, director communications and external relations at Brescia, couldn't discuss the reasons why the bargaining process is lagging on, but did say the administration is optimistic.
“So to this point, both parties have made significant progress in bargaining,” Aguilar said. "Brescia really values the contribution of our faculty and we remain optimistic that an agreement can be made.”
Jean said some of the issues being discussed include benefits for dependents, workload and salaries.
Jean said the low wages at Brescia, compared to other institutions is a central bargaining issue. According to the Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents 2014/15 results, Brescia ranked 21st out of 22 post-secondary institutions in salary rankings, with Western and the affiliates all ranking higher on the list.
“We know our pay is lower than that of our comparators: Huron, King’s, Western, we’re the lowest paid," Jean said. “Not only are we the lowest paid, we’re the highest percentage of females. And we see that as a gender wage gap issue."
72 per cent of Brescia's faculty is female, the highest proportion in the country. Jean explained the salary parity sends a negative message to Brescia's students and conflicts with the college's advocacy goals.
Jean acknowledges that an increase in salary or benefits would cost more money, but believes Brescia can afford the request. Jean, who is a charted professional accountant, said a financial analysis of Brescia was done, and that Brescia has had a surplus over the past five years.
BFA is flexible and does not expect all the money at once, but overtime wants to ensure parity, according to Jean.
Third-party mediation is being brought in to help reach an agreement. A provincially appointed conciliator from the Ministry of Labour is coming Sept. 26 and 28 to aid the negotiations.
During the conciliation process, either party can ask for a no-board report and 17 days after that report it would be legal for BFA to strike and legal for Brescia to lockout BFA.
If a collective agreement is reached it will likely last three years.