York's take on arbitration (1997 YUFA negotiations)

This is via Doorey's Workplace Law Blog via York Strike 08 blog.

Here's the 1997 York Administration's take (source) on binding arbitration (from negotiation with YUFA):

YUFA has proposed that the current impasse can be resolved either by a mediation-arbitration process or by binding arbitration. The administration has never rejected mediation as a means of assisting the parties in reaching agreement. The administration cannot, however, agree with third-party arbitration as a means for settlement.

Arbitration is not a solution to the difficult issues that divide YUFA and the administration. It effectively acknowledges the incapacity of the parties to reach what is needed - a mutually agreed upon settlement - and substitutes a decision that neither party owns.

As a practical matter, arbitration implicitly favors some "middle" position between the parties. The administration tabled its best offer on the assumption that the issues would be resolved in negotiations, not arbitration. This leaves no room for an arbitration that splits the difference between YUFA's proposal and our own. To agree to go to arbitration implies that the University could accept a result that is as costly, or even half as costly, as YUFA's position in negotiations. It can not.

If YUFA's position were awarded, the implications for the University would be enormous. Any imposition of costs which were not in keeping with the realities of the University budget would necessitate additional cuts beyond the already burdensome levels needed to meet the losses in University income. Under the existing budget plan, Faculties must cut their base budgets by 3% in each of the next two years. YUFA's current proposals on compensation and retirement would mean that the base budget cuts would be 5% in each of these years. An additional one-time-only cut of 2% would be required as well, for interim deficit management. It is clear to all members of the University that additional cuts of this magnitude will severely impair the quality of education.

Arbitration risks handing over the future of the institution, and the definition of a new contract for faculty, to a third party who cannot possibly appreciate the subtleties and complexities of a university such as York. University administrators and faculty must determine an effective contract and its budgetary implications through collective bargaining. Engaging in arbitration on these issues is tantamount to allowing an outsider who has no continuing interest in, or commitment to, the University to have the authority to decide academic priorities for the institution. The arbitrator, unlike faculty and administration, is not accountable for making his or her decision work. Arbitrators do not have to find the money to meet the costs of their judgements, nor must they live with the impact of their decisions.

Some might note that arbitration is a standard way to end disputes in other sectors (e.g. in the essential public services sector) and in other universities. For example, at the University of Toronto there are negotiations on compensation matters between the administration and the Faculty Association. If the negotiations fail to resolve matters the final positions of the two parties are put to arbitration. However, there is a good reason for this process: faculty at the University of Toronto do not belong to a labour union and, therefore, have no legal right to strike as a means for forcing the resolution of a dispute. At the U of T, the parties must have some alternative method in place for resolving an impasse on compensation negotiations. For YUFA, as with other trade unions, the right of employees to withdraw their services is the ultimate method of resolving disputes.

I had heard of this document last week on the picket line, but had yet to see it. It will be nice to have talking points when I get the binding arbitration question.

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