UWOFA Protest Oct. 24 (1 of 18).jpg

A protest by the university's faculty union, Oct. 24 2019.

Western’s librarians and archivists voted to accept the second deal reached by their union and university, after negotiations stretched six months and the workers rejected the first deal their union reached.

The faculty union — which represents Western University’s 42 research workers — voted 89 per cent in favour of the collective agreement on Monday, closing the deal and likely stopping a strike.

The deal still waits ratification from Western’s Board of Governors, the university’s top financial body.

Western and the union reached the deal on Oct. 28, hours in advance of a strike deadline at midnight. The union was legally able to strike as of Oct. 8, when the first deal was reached between negotiating parties.

The vote likely closes the curtains on the the latest feud between the administration and a labour group, as collective bargaining on campus has stared down a strike several times in the last year.

Despite recommendations from the union and the university, librarians and archivists voted 74 per cent to reject the original deal — a break from the well-worn choreography of past negotiations — citing a shrinking workforce as a primary concern that they said was unaddressed.

Rejecting the deal sent representatives back to the bargaining table with new proposals on Oct. 25. They became the basis of the new agreement negotiators shook hands on three days later.

Along with erosion of the workforce, negotiators were stuck on reconciling union demand for higher compensation, and proposed provincial legislation that would cap public sector wage increases at one per cent annually. The union argued it would be a wage cut.

Bill 124, the proposed legislation, is still being debated at Queen’s Park.

John Ciriello is president of the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association, the main player in past labour disputes and the union representing the library workers. He had previously told the Gazette that the cap on wages mandated by the bill is beyond their control in negotiations.

But, a media release from the union congratulates the agreement on providing fair compensation even as the “bargaining round was overshadowed by the pending Bill 124.”

“The new contract provides adequate compensation increases and makes important gains regarding benefits,” the statement reads.

The union will also work with the university to set up a forum for research workers to bolster their voice in the library system’s governance at Western, according to the union’s statement. From the beginning of negotiations in June, UWOFA has said they were fighting for collegial governance.

“This deal is an important achievement for librarians and archivists at Western,” Ciriello said in a media release. “The administration heard our concerns and took steps to address the key issues of professional autonomy and governance, workload, and fair compensation.”

Western has not released a statement yet, as the deal is still pending their ratification. The deal will now be presented to Western’s Board of Governors for the final stamp of approval. Details of the agreement will be published once it is ratified.

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