Deadlock and disagreement: AMS union members still without a collective agreement

More than a year after their previous one expired, the AMS and MoveUP — the union that represents 14 non-student permanent administration employees — are still without a collective agreement.

Instead, they have been at a deadlock in the negotiation process since May 10, despite both sides expressing a desire to get back to the bargaining table.

In a written statement to The Ubyssey, the AMS presented wages as the main issue.

“MoveUP has requested a wage increase that is higher than average first-year increases for collective agreements negotiated in BC in 2016,” read the statement. “AMS believes that it would be unfair to the students who fund our operations to give wage increases to the non-student permanent staff that are excessive, or not in parity with similar agreements reached across BC.”

MoveUP VP Combined Units Alicia Gallo attributed the main obstacle to sick pay entitlement, instead.

According to her, the AMS wants to take away this benefit — which allows “employees the option of borrowing against future earning if they run out of sick leave” — although the society previously agreed to it.

“The fact that the employer has agreed to it in the past and now wants to take it away — that is not how standard bargaining work,” Gallo said. “If they want to take away something, there has to be concession to replace it.”

When asked for a response on this discrepancy, the AMS maintained their position, but stated that they are also “committed to good faith bargaining.”

“In the view of the AMS, wages will continue to be the greatest obstacle to finding an agreement,” read the follow-up statement. “We will not be commenting further on the specifics of the negotiations.”

Previously, the employees had walked out of their job for two hours on August 31 after receiving confirmation from BC Labour Board on August 15 for their 72-hour strike notice.

Regarding this job action, Gallo stated that MoveUP’s intention was “not to be contentious,” but to get the AMS back to the bargaining table.

“At this particular time, it was not our intention to strike at this time,” she said. “Our intention is to get back to the table and come to an agreement. That is the tone and that has been the tone the entire time.”

Currently, MoveUp doesn’t have a concrete timeline with the AMS and is still “waiting to get back to the table,” according to Gallo. There is also no mention of a timeline in the AMS’s statement.

However, the society has taken steps to prepare for potential job actions in the future.

“The AMS is committed to delivering services to students and visitors to our facilities,” read the statement. “As such, we have put an operational contingency plan in place to minimize disruption and to ensure key services are delivered during future walk outs.”

Without a new collective agreement, both parties is still using the version that has expired in 2016.

This article has been updated to include the follow-up response from the AMS regarding the discrepancy between what is considered the biggest obstacle to the bargaining process.