Cash dispute breaks RFA talks

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 By Jill Koskitalo

High school and elementary teachers aren’t the only ones dealing with contract problems.

Ryerson’s faculty was in the middle of contract negotiations with administration when talks broke off Sept. 2.  The two sides haven’t spoken since and will likely have to continue negotiation through an arbitrator.

“The fact that it’s taking so long says that things are not going terribly well,” said John Morgan, history professor and chief negotiator for the Ryerson Faculty Association (RFA).

The RFA is so unhappy with the treatment it has received during the negotiations process, the union deiced to boycott Ryerson’s 50th anniversary community barbeque held Sept. 10

Chief negotiator for administration Michael Dewson, Ryerson’s v.p. faculty and staff affairs said both parties haven’t agreed to return to the table.

One thing Ryerson students don’t have to worry about is a faculty strike or administration lockout.  The old contract, which is in place until both sides agree on a new one, does not allow for any action that would suspend classes.

Two years ago, professor at York University went on strike near the end of the winter term, causing final exams to be postponed because of disputes over pay and teaching loads.

“There is not danger of having what happened at York happen here,” said Dewson.

But if a proposal put forth by administration is passed by an arbitrator and included in the new contract, a strike and lockout mandate would be a legal option.

Morgan said the RFA has already rejected this proposal, not wanting to support a mandate that would jeopardize students’ class time, but administration has yet to withdraw the proposal.

The RFA, which has been without a contract since Jun 30, is bringing several issues to the bargaining table.

Morgan said the RFA would like to see Ryerson brought in line with universities such as Trent, Brock and Lakehead in areas such as pay, workload and intellectual property rights.

“We’re not saying we should immediately make what a full professor at U of T makes,” said Morgan, “but we should have parity with professors in other universities.”

At the moment, the highest-ranking professor at Ryerson can make up to $84,482 a year.  At Brock University, the highest salary is around $104,000 a year.

The RFA wants the maximum salary to increase to just over $100,000, which would be about a 20 per cent increase.  Morgan said the raise is possible “without having an independent effect on tuition fees.”

Ryerson’s budget statements for the 1998/1999 fiscal year state a 1 per cent salary increase would mean a $700,000 cost to the university.  The school has been operating at a deficit for several years.  Last year’s was projected at more than $1 million, and a deficit of $1.2 million is forecasted for this school year.

Dawson said he agrees with Morgan that a faculty salary increase is possible without increasing tuition fees.

“Ryerson is going through an evolution from a polytechnical institute to a university,” said Dewson.  “Part of that evolution is changing salary structure to be more consistent with the university sector.”

“Though the two sides agree Ryerson’s faculty deserve a pay increase, neither Dawson or Morgan would comment on how far apart they are.

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