Dr. Kenneth Christie

Royal Roads faculty ink ‘milestone’ contract

Research aspect recognized in latest agreement

Instructors in the faculties of Management and Social and Applied Sciences at Royal Roads University, along with the school’s librarians, have signed a historic five-year agreement with the school, which sees them under a negotiated contract through April of 2019.

The agreement provides a 5.5-per-cent wage increase over the term of the contract – which is about all they could expect to receive under the province’s Economic Stability Mandate. According to Dr. Kenneth Christie, president of the school’s faculty association and professor in the School of Humanitarian Studies, 80 per cent of their members voted, and voted unanimously to ratify the deal, which says something about how they feel about the offer.

“This agreement is something of a milestone,” Christie said. “Normally agreements go from year to year, or maybe two years at the maximum, but this one’s for five years.”

The contract terms are backdated to April 1, 2014.

“We achieved an awful lot. It’s probably the best collective agreement we’ve ever had. We wanted to get research leave – in other places it’s known as sabbatical. We were the only university in Canada that didn’t have research leave,” Christie said.

Royal Roads is internationally renowned for the research done by its faculty and students. They were a founding member of the Research Universities Council of B.C. – the province now has six such schools with the addition of Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops two years ago. So how did Royal Roads not have research leave funding built into their contracts already?

“You’ve got to understand,” Christie said, “when the university was set up, it was set up as a teaching university, it wasn’t set up as a research university. The research aspect has developed over the years. So that was a sticking point (in the contract discussions) in that there has been a cultural change and the contract needed to reflect that.”

Faculty will, under this new agreement, receive three months research leave at 100 per cent of their pay and six months at 80 per cent.

That’s worth far more to them than a pay increase, Christie said.

“We thought that if we were getting the research (aspect of the deal), we wouldn’t go crazy over asking for wage increases.”

You don’t get something for nothing in a contract negotiation, however, but Christie said that what they had to give up in getting the deal done was actually quite reasonable.

“They wanted us to use up our banked vacation leave. People had been accruing their vacation time, and that accrues into a fixed sum of money. It was up over $7 million. It’s not rocket science that they had a big liability there.”

Other gains, according to Christie, were a new retirement policy, a new librarian wage scale and clarified language in terms of appointment and promotion details, so that there is a clear structure in terms of who gets which promotions and faculty appointments.

“We’re happy with it,” he said, “and (the university is) extremely happy with it. I don’t think we could have gotten a better deal at the moment.”

Steve Grundy, vice-president academic of the university, agrees.

“I’m absolutely delighted we managed to get this done,” he said, adding he expected no less when discussions began last summer. He said the school and its instructors have developed an excellent relationship over the past decade or so.

“The negotiations went really well, which is something that can’t be said for much of the sector these days.”

mdavies@goldstreamgazette.com

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