Attack on the Dispute Resolution Committee
What is the Dispute Resolution Committee?
Collegial governance is one of the chief concerns of YUFA members. There are few aspects of our work that are not affected by collegial governance; our bargaining proposals seek to counter managerial over-reach in several areas. In this Bulletin we address the employer’s proposal to eliminate the Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC).
The DRC, outlined in Article 9 of our Collective Agreement, offers an opportunity for YUFA members to take grievances to a neutral body comprised of both faculty and administrative members before going to external arbitration.
The DRC consists of a Chair and four members or side persons representing both YUFA and the Employer. The Co-Chair and YUFA side persons are appointed by the YUFA Executive Committee after a call out for interested applicants sent to the entire membership. The appointed Co-Chair becomes YUFA-exempt, since they must assume a neutral role with an eye to aiding YUFA and the Employer in the resolution of grievances. The two YUFA side persons retain their bargaining unit status. The Employer also selects its own side-persons.
When YUFA files a grievance on behalf of members, the DRC offers an opportunity for an internally mediated resolution to that grievance. Through hearing and determining whether or not a grievance has merit, in stage two of the grievance process, DRC serves in a capacity similar to external arbitration. Its determination is non-binding and requires agreement of the employer, stage 3 of the grievance process, failing which grievances can advance to external arbitration. Any grievance can go straight from stage one (filing of a grievance) to stage 4, external arbitration See Articles 9.14 and 9.15 of the CA.
YUFA has no proposals related to the DRC while the Employer has proposed eliminating it entirely (i.e. striking Articles 19.14 and 19.15 and any other references to the DRC from our Collective Agreement). They have not proposed anything to replace the existing DRC, simply that it be done away with.
Why would the Employer seek to eliminate this collegial body?
The rational provided to YUFA consists of the following three arguments.
In the Employer’s view, the DRC does not provide an effective means for resolution of grievances.
For YUFA members, however, it does. Comments from YUFA members describing their positive experiences with DRC can be viewed below.
- It's a step that can often result in delays in the process because now more people's schedules come into play.
This is no different than if a dispute has to be referred to external arbitration. The DRC is internal to York and cost-neutral, however, whereas arbitration is an external process, and provincial Arbitrators have even less availability than internal colleagues at York.
When a matter is referred to arbitration (stage 4 of the grievance process), YUFA and the Employer engage a mutually agreed upon arbitrator. Both parties are represented by legal counsel. There is a limited number of arbitrators familiar with the university sector, and it is quite common to wait months, or even a year or more for an available date in the agreed upon arbitrator’s calendar. It is equally common that, when multiple hearing dates are required, months pass between dates. For example, YUFA has a 2019 grievance currently at arbitration for which the first hearing date was November 11, 2020; subsequent hearing dates were January 25, 2021; March 3, 2021; and February 28, 2022.
YUFA and the Employer share the cost of the external arbitrator; their fees are variable, but both parties are typically charged thousands of dollars, if not more, in billing. Additionally, lawyer fees are also introduced into the mix (another several hundred dollars per hour). It is possible for YUFA to face tens of thousands of dollars of costs from a single arbitration; a hearing before the Dispute Resolution Committee involves no cost to YUFA.
- One party can request a hearing before the DRC and the other then has no choice - so the Employer feels compelled to participate in something when they've already made clear their position on the matter in dispute and have nothing more to add.
Given that the parties have successfully resolved numerous grievances via the DRC, including instances where either YUFA or the Employer could not immediately see a path to resolution, YUFA simply cannot understand this viewpoint. The DRC can provide fresh eyes and perspective on an issue.
Unfortunately, what YUFA has seen over the past few years is growing evidence that the Employer is becoming less and less interested in problem solving in a "fair and expeditious" manner, to quote Article 9.01. YUFA filed a policy grievance on October 1, 2021 in relation to changes in Faculty Relations, including the Employer’s 2021 unilateral decision to end the long-standing practice (since 2008) of regularly scheduled meetings to discuss emerging or ongoing complaints, grievances, and issues with member accommodations. These meetings offer the parties a without prejudice opportunity to resolve issues before things progressed to the formal grievance stage.
Members comments about the Dispute Resolution Committee:
“The threatened abolition of the Dispute Resolution Committee is my number one reason for voting YES:”
- “The Employer is systematically stripping out ways of solving problems relatively peacefully and internally, wanting to drive everything to external mediation and/or arbitration, so that we will give up somewhere along the way (out of energy, out of time, out of resources). Attempting to remove the DRC (Dispute Resolution Committee) is but one way – other forms of internal conversation between the Employer and the Association are also becoming increasingly scarce.
- “Faculty Relations is increasingly weaponizing all the levers for complaints (including Human Rights, which is unthinkable) to protect the employers at all costs. The threatened abolition of the Dispute Resolution Committee is my number one reason for voting YES. And we need a stronger mechanism that addresses the complexities of workplace harassment, not a weaker or non-existent one. To lose the DRC is to lose our right to have non-acrimonious, fair, and arms lengths way to settle complaints.”
- “I have experienced the positive advantages of the DRC. I have also experienced mediation (with external mediators), investigations conducted through the Centre for Human Rights vs. investigations run through outside investigators (and the former were more equitable and positive than the latter) and I have also recently experienced the Employer's preference for external mediation... and would say that the DRC was a much more useful and effective process.”
“About the Dispute Resolution Committee, which the Employer wants to get rid of: it really helped us, the librarians and archivists, a few years ago. (It's set out in Article 9 of the collective agreement, "Grievance and Arbitration.") Colleagues who have joined recently may not know about a clause in the CA that says when one of us retires or resigns, a replacement must be hired to maintain the complement. This is a great clause ... but the dean wasn't hiring the replacements. It built up until there were six vacancies unfilled in YUL, and no sign of anything being done. Aside from everything this did to hold YUL back, it put a big burden on the rest of us to keep up.
“We filed a complaint, and it soon moved to a formal grievance. We offered to use the DRC, and the Employer was willing. Both sides presented their cases, and there were questions and answers, and then back-and-forth negotiating began. We soon arrived at a settlement that we were all happy with—our side more than the Employer. Six full-time positions would be hired, and some CLAs. It confirmed maintaining the complement and that we have the right to recommend the area of responsibility for the positions. It also added something new: the sabbatical coverage plan that must be presented in March. When this was all settled things finally began to happen. Our YUFA complement … is 41 people - so 6 positions was about 15%... a major victory.”
- “The DRC was a very good way for this problem to be fixed. It was internal, it didn't cost money, it didn't involve lawyers, it was colleagues working together to find a solution. Without the DRC, that grievance would have gone to arbitration and would have taken months or years to get fixed, at great cost. This would have suited the Employer. It has the power, and it has time and money. We don't. I think the Employer wants to get rid of the DRC because it works. It wants problems to be escalated until everyone's calendar is filled years out with arbitrations. It can handle that by hiring more people in Faculty Relations. We can't.”