Reported by Alyse Kotyk
In 2012, the Langara Students’ Union signed a new collective agreement — a legal contract establishing working conditions — for its staff members. After LSU general manager, Desmond Rodenbour was fired, The Voice looked at this collective agreement to see if anything was out of the ordinary
Lack of clarity in LSU’s collective agreement
Collective agreements are negotiated between management and employees within a union. Management is usually responsible for hiring, firing and outlining job descriptions for union members. However, within the LSU’s collective agreement, the line between management has become blurry, according to Rodenbour who said this lack of clarity can lead to issues.
“I just think that a healthy collective agreement would have fairly clear lines of what is the role of management, what is the role of staff,” he said Thursday. “In the absence of those clear lines, those things get blurred. I don’t think it’s necessarily anybody’s fault but it doesn’t make for a particularly healthy relationship.”
In the case of the LSU, these include employees being able to play a role in hiring new staff members, ending staff probationary periods and creating or changing job descriptions. For example, the LSU’s collective agreement says that job descriptions can’t be changed “without the mutual agreement of the staff.”
Collective agreement differs from other schools by benefitting staff
In other areas, the LSU collective agreement has some benefits for staff that are not in student union collective agreements at other post-secondary institutions. For example, LSU staff members are entitled to a number of paid holidays including International Women’s Day, two floating holidays and time off between Dec. 22 to Jan. 1, inclusive. In total, this adds up to 23 days of paid time off in addition to the three weeks of paid vacation that employees receive in their first year of employment. While they all vary, Kwantlen University, Douglas College and UBC’s student unions all offer fewer paid holiday days for their staff.
Agreement pays for staff members if they take illegal action on behalf of LSU
Another specific point in the LSU’s collective agreement includes payment of wages if a staff members goes to jail for something they have done on behalf of the LSU. The agreement states that “the staff member will be entitled to leave with no loss in salary, seniority or benefits” while they are in court or in jail. This entitlement does not seem to appear in Kwantlen, Douglas College or UBC unions’ collective agreements.
Rodenbour said that he is not against unionized staff, but that a collective agreement only works when it’s clear and supports the goals of the student union for the student body.
“I don’t see anything wrong with a unionized staff of a student union,” he said. “I think that a collective agreement can be the best document when the management has a deep vision.”