This article, written by Suzanne van den Hoogen, originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of The Beacon.
Academic Librarians represent a unique group within the academy. Like our faculty colleagues, we face many of the same workplace challenges – from basic conditions of employment to equity, research, teaching, professional development, and academic freedom. Additionally, academic librarians across the country are being confronted with the continued de-professionalization of their careers through the hiring of non-librarians for positions traditionally held by librarians and archivists.
Clearly these are challenging times for higher education – a tsunami of change, if you will. Government funding in support of post-secondary education across the country is stagnating, tuition costs are rising, and student enrollment is declining. Complements of academic librarians are also declining, resulting in increased workloads for those who remain. More often than ever before, we are being asked to do more with less. Collective bargaining is an effective way to confront these issues and to make an impact at the negotiating table.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers invited librarians and archivists from across the country to convene for a two-day specialized conference on collective bargaining in Ottawa, ON from October 21-22, 2016. Through a series of presentations and personal narratives, we were provided with an overview of collective bargaining and bargaining skills. The conference concluded with a day-long bargaining simulation.
Key points that I noted from this conference include the following:
- Be prepared
- Know the law
- Know your Collective Agreement
- Keep your membership engaged
- Solidarity: Together we are stronger
- Team Structure: Chief Negotiator, Note Taker(s), Numbers Person(s)
- Communication is crucial during negotiation
- Establish protocols for reporting
- Strategize on how decisions will be made
- Use caucusing as a tool
The most important message, however, that I took from this conference was about respect – respect for all parties at all times. There is no room at the negotiation table for egos. I left the conference with a newfound appreciation for all those who have negotiated on our behalf in the past, and for all those who will negotiate for us in the future. I wish to extend my sincerest thanks to the StFXAUT for sponsoring me to attend this conference.