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Background information about COUSA
The Confederation of Ontario University Staff Associations and Union (COUSA) is an umbrella union that was formed in 1974 by a group of unionized employees working at Ontario University in Canada. COUSA is made up of workers from clerical jobs, administrative, technical and professional occupations. There are different types of groups under the COUSA umbrella.
They include employees from Ontario University- from independent, non-unionized groups, provincial groups and international unions- are members of COUSA.
All member unions under COUSA shared a common aspiration: that all employees of Ontario University need a common platform to collect information and work together with the government. In addition, the umbrella organization does not rival other unionized organization; on the contrary, it is willing to collaborate with them to the benefit of workers (COUSA, 2011, p.1).
There are many benefits one can get by joining COUSA. For example, members of the Confederation attend three seminars organized by the umbrella body every year to network and share valuable information about emerging issues in labor unions.
COUSA offers avenues where non-academic employees at Ontario University can share knowledge and experience about trends or activities that touch on employment issues. In addition, COUSA organizes workshops where members discuss and share knowledge on crucial topics for example: pay equity; reforms on labor laws; lobbying approaches; negotiating skills; and benefits costing.
The Confederation also lobbies and advocates on behalf of Ontario University staff to the public and government. It also offers a platform that enable member groups to collaborate on a short term basis (COUSA, 2011, p.3).
Legal issues and obstacles facing COUSA
There are a number of legislative reforms in Canada that are likely to impact on the way COUSA runs its affairs. For example, in 2004, the parliament enacted Labor Relations Bill 144 that altered a number of labor relations laws in Canada. COUSA has several trade unions that are registered under the Ontario Labor Relations Act.
As a result, the introduction of Labor Relations Bill 144 is bound to have an effect on the activities of the trade unions under COUSA. In addition, the new regulation will have a negative impact on academic workers hired on a part-time basis by the Ontario University.
For example, the Bill requires unionized organizations to submit the income disclosure requirements. This is one of the new changes introduced by the law and contradicts the public view about the objectivity of labor law (Slinn, 2003, p.367).
The effectiveness of COUSA is also constrained by lack of a strong financial base. Labor unions are denied financial aid from the government under the new law. COUSA does not have enough financial resources to mange cases related to violation of the Labor Act. A swift decree is the only viable cure to the adverse effects of the Act on the union.
Also, lack of ample financial resources has limited the ability of COUSA member unions to access reconciliation services. This has severely limited the ability of the COUSA to bargain on behalf of its member unions (Slinn, 2003, p.369).
COUSA has a number of elected representatives that bargain on behalf of its members. For example, the COUSA Salaries and Benefits Committee is mandated to negotiate on behalf of staff at Ontario University on matters related to compensation (David & Stiff, 2007, p.1).
The Confederation also supports a number of legislative changes that enhance working conditions and seek minimum wages for its member unions (Fanelli & Meades, 2011, p.12). For instance, COUSA supports the restoration of several key powers that were formerly granted to Ontario Labour Relations Board.
It has been noted that many employers engage in unjust labor practices to prevent their staff from exercising their democratic rights with respect to certification process. It is thus vital that OLRB is granted authority to certify all unions (Slinn, 2003, p.370).
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COUSA also supports the resolution to re-empower OLRB to endorse a trade union in cases where the employer has engaged in unjust labor practices. It is worth to note that the OLRA was previously an influential body that deterred employers from violating the Labor Relations Act. Thus COUSA supports reforms proposed by the Ontario Federation of Labor regarding labor laws in the interest of simplicity and certainty.
COUSA is convinced that the card based system used for certification is the suitable way for selecting union officials. When the card based system was abolished in 1995, the Conservatives stated that compulsory votes were democratic and thus fair. However, COUSA pointed out that compulsory voting disregarded the genuine resultant power disparity between employers and workers.
The main reason for this transformation was to make it difficult for the unions to receive certification and also to reduce the speed at which unions could put in order their new bargaining units. Studies show that this move was successful since there was a significant reduction in the rate of certification of unions in 1993 after the endorsement of Bill 7.
Thus COUSA has employed a number of bargaining strategies such as information leverage, offers and concessions; and long-term tactical thinking to gain an upper hand when bargaining on behalf of its members (Trotman, 2011, p.4).
COUSA. (2011). Confederation of Ontario University Staff Associations and Union. Web.
David, S., & Stiff, B. (2007). Queen University Staff Association. Ontario: Betty Pollard.
Fanelli, C.,& Meades, J. (2011). The Case of Carleton’s Capitalist University. Web.
Slinn, S. (2003). The Effect of Compulsory Certification Votes on Certification Applications in Ontario. Canadian Labor and Employment Law Journal, 10, 367- 397.
Trotman, V. (2011). Building Union-Management Partnerships. Toronto: Federated Press.