Strike Policy and Strike Action FAQs
SMUFU will be updating this document as more information becomes available. Content from this document was largely obtained from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Faculty Association (with their permission). We are updating this FAQ as we go and emphasize that Unions function on the basis of labour provided by its’ members. You make the Union what it is. Please consider contributing knowledge and labour to the job action process. People are working hard and more help is always appreciated.
Should we go on strike, strike signs will immediately be made available at our Strike Headquarters at the Atlantica Hotel.
Are negotiations suspended?
As a matter of policy, the SMUFU negotiations team consistently offers to keep communication lines open, even after filing for conciliation we offered to continue to engage. This policy will continue throughout any strike action. Currently, SMUFU Bargaining Team has been called by the Employer’s Bargaining Team to come back to the table.
What does it mean to go on strike?
If the university administration will not offer our Membership a fair deal, we must make them uncomfortable enough to reconsider. This means the Membership must impede the function of the university, as much as it is safe and ethical to do so, including withdrawing our labour. This includes teaching, service to the university, regular job duties (such as paperwork and supervision of students and employees), as much peripheral research activity as possible, and any other job duty that may fall under “Other” in our workloads. It is key to withdraw as much of our labour as possible from the university to motivate the administration to come to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair deal.
SMUFU does understand that there may be parts of our work that, if stopped by a strike, could cause unreasonable harm to others. If a task associated with your work or research is ethically required (for example, research initiatives that involve time-sensitive requirements, support to a vulnerable community, lab maintenance, animal care, etc.) or is time sensitive and does not exert pressure on the University (for example, an experiment or paper deadline required to keep your personal research project viable), it may be possible to continue to maintain some ongoing work in exceptional circumstances. These can be assessed by the Union in a case-by-case basis. If you feel that your situation may fall under this category, please contact SMUFU.
Should I make my teaching materials accessible during a strike?
Allowing students to continue in their courses as if nothing is happening undermines the strike and fails to put pressure on the university administration to come to the table and negotiate a fair deal. You should not post or share course materials ahead of the time you would normally do so.
Since I am working remotely/teaching online, can I still continue with classes?
Whether on or off campus, whether in-person or electronically, members may not engage in teaching/research/service/other during a lockout or strike.
Would we have any access to campus during a strike?
Normally no. But access may be issued to members who require access to the University facilities to prevent irreparable damage to their research and/or to provide proper care to all live research plants/animals.
Requests for access to research spaces on campus may have to go through the University but should you have any issues gaining access to your research space, please let us know and we can follow up with the University to represent you to the University. Once we have received more information about this process from the University, we will share that with our members.
We are looking into a strategy to enable requests to be submitted in order to obtain permission to gain access to laboratories/sensitive research projects.
What about my office/lab?
Other than under specific and special circumstances, you would not have access to your office and/or lab during a job action. Move copies of crucial working documents, files, print, and other portable material off-campus.
What about my research funds – would I still have access to these?
It is unlikely that any expenses incurred during a strike would be reimbursed; similarly, reimbursements submitted before the strike likely would not be paid until we are back to work. You may want to submit your Professional Development expenses as soon as possible to ensure that you will receive this, as they would not be processed during any work action.
What if my research would be significantly harmed if I stopped doing it during the strike?
As a scholar, it’s likely you’ll want to continue pursuing your research, and sometimes research cannot take a hiatus. Living organisms need to be cared for, crucial relationships need to be attended to, obligations with research partners or participants need to be met.
Access may be issued to members who require access to the University facilities in order to prevent irreparable damage to their research and/or to provide proper care to all live research plants/animals.
Would we still be able to use our email and voice mail during the strike?
It is possible that the Employer may cut off access to one or the other or both. We strongly advise you to create an alternate email account if you haven’t already done so and to provide it to the Union immediately. Please send your alternative email address to [email protected]. SMUFU has already collected most members alternate email and in some cases cell phone numbers for ease of continuation of contact in the event that we are locked out of our regular SMU emails.
Can the Employer withhold my pay if a strike or lockout begins before the end of the normal pay period?
Employees must be paid on their normal payday for work up to and including the day before the strike or lockout begins.
What about benefits – would we still be covered?
Coverage would continue under the present terms and will cover the cost of members’ benefits during a strike.
What about contributions to the pension plan?
We expect the Employer to count the period of the strike as continuous, uninterrupted service for pension purposes; however, this would have to be negotiated in a Back-to-Work Protocol.
Why do we “picket” or complete strike duties?
Picket lines are primarily a means to communicate our grievances and to seek support for the strike. Picket lines are a way to build solidarity within the bargaining unit and with other supporters. SMUFU will be running both in-person picket lines at the University as well as virtual pickets that are carried out in online environments.
Will in-person picketing be Covid-safe?
We will strive to ensure all aspects of the safety of our members, including measures to prevent covid-19. Masks will be required and social distancing in place as much as possible. Kf94/km95+ SMUFU masks will be provided to all members on the picket line. We will adopt a plan to seek input from members in order to continually improve our measures.
Do we get paid for completing strike activities?
To be eligible for strike benefits, all Members will need to contribute to job action. The expected amount of strike work is a average of 3 hours per day, Monday through Friday, typically consisting of 5 shifts of physical picketing. Some Members may be assigned tasks other than physical picketing, such as online picketing (see below). To receive weekly strike pay, Members need to complete all the required and assigned strike/picketing work. Strike pay will start at $180 per calendar day and escalate by an additional $10/day each of the next three weeks. If the strike looks like it might go beyond 4 weeks the rate of strike pay will be reviewed. Refer to the Strike Pay Policy at the end of the FAQ for more details.
- IN-PERSON PICKETING: Members who have signed up for in-person picketing are expected to engage each weekday in a 3 hour in-person picket at a location near to the SMU campus (identified daily).
- ONLINE PICKETING: For Members who are not located in Halifax or who need accommodations for any reason, can request to engage each weekday in virtual activities related to the issues at hand (virtual picketing described below). Request for such accommodation should be submitted to the Union office. Participation each day will involve a 3 hour, virtual “picket shift”.
What might virtual picketing involve?
- Contacting members to update them on mobilization efforts and bargaining by both phone and email.
- Sending e-mail messages to our University President, members of the SMU Board of Governors members of NS legislature, and other groups.
- Creation of content and posting that content on social media sites (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram etc.)
- Commenting on, critiquing, or sharing posts on either social or mass media sites.
- Finding, tracking, and forwarding news stories with a favourable perspective to trigger Google analytics to share those stories with others.
- Drafting new stories, press releases, op-eds and other content about SMUFU and our bargaining issues.
- Bargaining related research including researching other collective agreements, costing, or other research initiatives to support SMUFU.
- Data entry and clerical work
- Other creative web-based activities we have not conceived of yet.
What if I am on leave or sabbatical?
SMUFU will attempt to negotiate that sabbaticants are not part of the strike. However, we caution that in most situations the Employer does not agree with that and refuses to pay them. Once the strike MoU is determined we will inform members. Assuming sabbaticants are part of the strike, they will be given reduced duties while still receiving full strike pay. They are of course welcome, and encouraged, to participate more.
What is a picket line?
The picket line is the visible sign and symbol of union solidarity. It is also the sign that an employment relationship has been suspended, either by lockout or strike, and that it is not business as usual in the workplace. Picketers may not and must not employ physical violence, but they may distribute information about the dispute and appeal for support from the public and from those who do business with the employer, such as suppliers, delivery people, letter carriers, etc.
What should I bring to the SMUFU physical picket line?
- Your SMUFU buttons and toques (coming soon)
- Warm, water-proof clothing, including gloves
- Warm, comfortable boots – do not underestimate this!
- Water bottle that won’t freeze
- Normal things like wallet and cellphone
- Signs and noise makers above and beyond those that will be provided
- Above all, bring your resolve for a fair deal!
Guidelines for Interacting with our Community
- SMUFU members will at all times be respectful while on the picket line. We understand and respect that employees of SMU who are not part of our Union still must report to work. We understand that students will still attend their courses instructed by part-time professors. We want to positively engage with our community, and we will not tolerate any physical or verbal abuse (blocking passage to campus; engaging in arguments).
- SMUFU asks that the SMU community and community-at-large respect our picket lines (take leaflets, listen to our information), but they are under no obligation to do so. Students, members of the community, and staff (outside their working hours) all are encouraged to join the picket lines and/or engage in other acts of solidarity.
What if I can’t pay my rent/mortgage?
Should we have to proceed to a strike, and you anticipate financial difficulties, we recommend that you contact your financial institution to decide for a full or partial suspension of mortgage payments. A letter of support would be available from the Association to take with you. If you require such a letter, please contact [email protected]. In addition, we have a hardship fund that members can apply to (see Strike Pay Policy at end of document).
Some of my students live in residence and are worried about picket lines.
Many people, including students who live in residence, have legitimate reasons to be on campus and will not be impeded by picketers.
Can there be discipline or reprisals for my participation in a strike?
You cannot be disciplined for participating in a legal strike.
What if I am sick, or I have COVID and have been told to stay away from campus for a period, at the time of the strike?
If you are sick, please stay home and take care of yourself. If you are feeling well enough, you can participate in virtual picketing duties, but you do not have to. If you are sick and do not feel well enough to picket, please let the SMUFU office know via email at [email protected] with the subject line SMUFU SICK NOTICE and please include your name and date of the days you will be missing because of illness. We will email you directly to determine alternate duties that you can complete when you are no longer sick.
SMUFU Policy on Strike Pay and Hardship Fund, 2022-23
SMUFU and CAUT are in a position to ensure that all members receive comprehensive wages while undertaking strike action. Members will continue to have access to full medical benefits for the duration of the strike. We have the financial means to enable our membership to undertake the necessary work actions.
1) Strike Pay
- Strike pay is not taxed and payroll deductions do not occur for the duration of the strike action.
- Strike pay will be dispersed on an escalating basis for the first month of a potential job action, as well as an end of strike bonus.
- The first week all participating members would earn $180 a day ($96 CAUT + $84 top-up from SMUFU). This is roughly equivalent to the daily post-tax earnings of an Associate Professor at Step 1 of our salary ladder. This is higher than the average strike pay from Canadian faculty unions in recent years.
- The second week all participating members would earn $190 a day.
- The third week’s daily strike pay would be $200, which is in line with the daily post-tax earning of a level 5 Associate Professor on our ladder.
- The fourth week’s would be $210. After this point we would reassess the pay policy if the strike was ongoing, but would aim to not reduce strike pay.
- A strike-end bonus for all participating members is set at 50% of the final week’s strike pay. This incentivizes continued participation in the strike by members for the duration of the strike.
2) Hardship Fund
- The Hardship Fund will be administered and disbursed by the Finance Committee. Loans from the fund to individual members upon application would be interest-free, to be repaid in full in six months. Each loan would be capped at the difference between the applicant’s regular pay and their strike pay, although exceptions may be made in extraordinary circumstances. Each member may apply once every 2 weeks. The aim is that no member should experience financial crisis from the strike while SMUFU has the means to prevent it.