Frequently Asked Questions
Please find below a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding collective bargaining / Faculty and Staff and active negotiations at UPEI. If the information you are looking for is not reflected in these FAQs please submit your question at our Ask Us page.
What is a collective agreement?
A collective agreement is a written contract between an employer and a union providing the terms and conditions of employment that apply to all members of the particular group of employees represented by the union - this group is known as the bargaining unit.
What is collective bargaining?
Collective bargaining is the process by which the parties to a collective agreement renegotiate the terms of an existing collective agreement or negotiate a new collective agreement when the union has been recently certified.
The Labour Act of Prince Edward Island obligates both sides of a collective agreement to meet in a timely manner and to make every reasonable effort to negotiate in good faith with a view to concluding a collective agreement or the renewal or revision thereof.
How does collective bargaining commence?
To start the collective bargaining process, at least one party must give notice. This occurs either under the terms of an existing collective agreement under section 23 of the Labour Act of Prince Edward Island. The parties then set up dates to exchange and negotiate proposals.
As negotiations progress, will the university community be updated?
Yes. UPEI will provide updates to the university community through this web site as negotiations progress. These updates will be factual and respectful of the negotiations process and our obligations under the Labour Act of Prince Edward Island.
How will UPEI’s communications on this website affect negotiations?
Negotiations are a routine part of the life cycle of a collective agreement and a normal part of university life. The information posted on this website will assist the University community in understanding the process as it unfolds without interfering with the bargaining itself.
What happens if UPEI and the Union(s) are unable to reach agreement on the terms of a new collective agreement through the collective bargaining process?
If the parties are unable to reach agreement on all issues raised during negotiations, and are therefore unable to agree on the terms of a new collective agreement, either party (or both) may initiate the conciliation process by requesting the appointment of a conciliator by the Minister of Environment, Labour and Justice and Attorney General.
What is the role of a conciliator?
The role of a conciliator is to assist the parties in reaching an agreement. The conciliator acts as a neutral third party by helping both parties work towards a mutually satisfactory solution and a new collective agreement. It is important to note that a conciliator does not have the authority to bind the parties or impose a new agreement on them. A conciliator is only able to make recommendations based on his/her observations and guide the parties through the process. At the end of the conciliation process, the conciliator must provide the Minister with a report.
What happens if the conciliation process is unsuccessful?
The parties involved may take a strike or lock-out vote if a conciliation officer appointed by the Minister has been unable to bring about an agreement between the parties, and fourteen days have elapsed from the date on which the report of the conciliation officer was filed with the Minister and a conciliation board or mediator has not been appointed under section 27 or section 34; OR a conciliation board or mediator has been appointed and has been unable to bring about an agreement between the parties and seven days have elapsed from the date on which the report of the conciliation board or mediator was filed with the Minister. (from http://www.gov.pe.ca/law/statutes/pdf/l-01.pdf).
If you have any further general questions about the collective bargaining process, we encourage you to consult the Minister of Justice and Public Safety page.
Faculty and Staff
Why does the pension plan need to change?
UPEI is accountable to our major funders, including students, the province and its taxpayers and donors. As a major component of the total compensation package, the sustainability of UPEI's Pension Plan is critical to the well-being and security of all UPEI employees.
Like pension plans across Canada and North America, UPEI’s Pension Plan is significantly underfunded and there is a high likelihood of the problem getting worse. The Plan’s financial health continues – and will continue in the foreseeable future – to be susceptible to: Poor and/or unpredictable investment markets; Decline in active membership; Growth in the pensioner population; and Longer payouts as life expectancies continue to lengthen.
Over the past 15 years, pension costs have become very difficult to predict and therefore difficult to budget. Due to the sheer size of the Pension Plan, spikes in pension costs can negatively impact the cost stability of the University’s operating budget. Pension costs need to stabilize.
The Plan represents a substantial portion of overall wage costs, and is now a substantial portion of the University’s entire operating budget. This impacts the University’s ability to offer programs, serve students, maintain its operations effectively, retain and recruit faculty and staff, and continue to offer attractive salaries and benefits.
The University is proposing changes to the Plan because if changes are not made now, there is greater risk of more drastic changes needed in the future.
Why is UPEI’s pension in the state it is? How did it get this way?
UPEI is not alone. The pension landscape in the Maritimes and across Canada and the U.S. has undergone massive changes over the past 15 years. With factors like an aging workforce, longer life expectancies, and lower investment returns, few public sector pension plans have been spared review and reform – and most have made significant changes.
Is the current pension issue a relatively new development at UPEI?
No. The issues with the Plan and need for change are well known to the Administration and the Unions. All of the University’s bargaining agents have, for years, had a seat at the University’s Board Pension Advisory Committee, at which the Pension Plan’s actuaries have attended and presented frequently. As well, over the years there have been presentations at town hall meetings for the benefit of all Pension Plan members.
Is this pension issue specific to UPEI?
No. Many comparable university pension plans have made changes to their plans to resolvecost volatility problems by moving to defined contribution pensions. Some universities have moved to a shared risk plan, with full 50-50 cost sharing and automatic benefit reductions if needed, including retroactive reductions. In fact, UPEI stands alone among its peers in the Maritimes in having a traditional defined benefit pension plan.
UPEI is committed to maintaining the current Plan as a Defined Benefit Pension Plan. We understand this is important to the plan’s membership and have worked with the Plan’s actuaries, Eckler, on a proposed solution to mitigate the vulnerability of the current Plan’s structure for the future benefit of all active Plan members. This proposed solution takes into account UPEI’s current fiscal realities and operating budget. It’s important to note that proposed changes will not have any negative effect or impact on anyone who retires before Jan 1, 2017.
Is Eckler being paid by the University to act on its behalf with regard to pension reform during these negotiations?
No. Eckler is the Plan’s actuary and is paid by the Plan.
The University serves as Administrator of the Plan, and as such, has an obligation to oversee the Plan’s operations. Eckler has considered scenarios for the better health of the Plan as requested by the Board of Governors. As actuaries to the Plan, Eckler has provided information sessions and advice regarding a sustainable Plan to all members – union and non-union.
Eckler has served the same role at various times in the past when the Plan changed through a collective bargaining process.
Can’t this pension issue be dealt with over time? What is the urgency?
The urgency of acting now is that similar to pensions across Canada our plan is underfunded and susceptible to market unpredictability and we want to ensure its long-term security. In addition, UPEI is accountable to our major funders, including students, the province and its taxpayers and donors. The PEI Government recently made significant pension plan changes and stated that it expects publically funded institutions to deal effectively with pension plan liabilities and risk. In the Speech from the Throne on June 3, 2015, the Government said:
“To ensure that our post-secondary institutions can continue their vital role into the future, their fiscal sustainability must be assured, and pensions play a major role in this. My Government has made progress toward securing its pensions for the future, and we will continue to strongly encourage our publicly funded institutions to place priority and follow a similar course.”
In addition, recent statements by Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz (April 26, 2016) confirm that lower neutral interest rates for the long-term will require those in the pension business to adapt to lower returns.
As a major component of the total compensation package, change is critical to ensure the sustainability of UPEI's Pension Plan for all unionized and non-unionized employees.
What is the University’s reaction to an Unfair Labour Practice regarding pension negotiations against the University?
The April 29, 2016 complaint filed by the UPEIFA, IBEW 1928 and in conjunction with a similar complaint from CUPE 1870 and 501 claims that UPEI has not allowed the four campus unions an opportunity to fully and appropriately respond to the pension proposal. Further, it claims that UPEI refuses to bargain pension-related matters at a joint union bargaining table.
All bargaining units proposed to negotiate pension separately at a side table including the University. The University agreed to participate in the side table process, even though its (and the bargaining units’) legal obligation is to do so at individual bargaining tables. The University advised that, if the side table process was unsuccessful, it intended to negotiate pension with each bargaining unit at individual bargaining tables.
While a side table approach can allow greater efficiency and commonality in information sharing, it does not relieve either the University or the individual bargaining agents from making every effort to conclude a new collective agreement with respect to terms and conditions of employment, including pension.
The Unfair Labour Practice Complaint and the University’s response can be found here.
Details of the University’s opening monetary proposal to the UPEIFA suggest that unless the Faculty Association agrees to the pension proposal and the rest of UPEI’s offer, the monetary offer could amount to less than 0%. Is this true?
Yes. The University’s monetary offer of a zero per cent increase in each of four years (0/0/0/0) was stated to be an opening position, and contingent on acceptance of the rest of the offer including the pension proposal.
The recent 1per cent increase in Provincial HST effectively negates an increase of 1 per cent in government funding for post-secondary institutions. The University will continue to spend 1.2per cent with ongoing step movements for faculty members. Aside from government grants to the operating budget, tuition is the next largest contributor. Post-secondary student recruitment is a highly competitive market and price matters. An appropriate tuition increase to apply to the 1.2 per cent required for faculty step movements must be balanced with UPEI’s competitive position. When these factors are considered, the opening monetary proposal would amount to less than 0%.
Acceptance of the pension proposal is critical to the stability of UPEI’s operating budget and to the long term sustainability of the Pension Plan for the benefit of all of its members – both union and non-union. The Plan now represents not only a substantial portion of overall wage costs, but also a substantial portion of the University’s entire operating budget.
The UPEI pension has unionized and non-unionized members. Has the proposal been shared with the UPEIFA / IBEW / CUPE been shared with non-unionized members?
Yes. Every Plan member has had the opportunity to consider proposed changes. UPEI shared a comprehensive proposal with the UPEIFA at the initial collective bargaining session, February 4, 2016. The Plan’s actuaries, Eckler, hosted an information session for all non-represented Plan members where the proposal was shared followed by an opportunity to ask the actuaries questions.