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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Collective bargaining in British Columbia's community colleges Colebrook, Peter


This study examines collective bargaining in 14 unionized community colleges in British Columbia. It provides a broad overview of bargaining in the colleges and insights into the tensions commonly associated with collective bargaining. The study combines qualitative data and quantitative data through the use of interviews, contractual analysis and two questionnaires. One survey examined the opinions of board members, senior administrators and faculty leaders on various aspects of collective bargaining. The latter included the competitive characteristics of distributive bargaining, governance, the scope of the collective agreements and a number of proposed modifications aimed at improving bargaining in the colleges. The study is significant as it fills a void in the research related to the above issues in British Columbia's colleges. The literature review encompassed a wide range of research. This included material related to the evolution of collective bargaining in higher education; factors that influence opinions of bargaining; constructive conflict, destructive conflict and dysfunctional competition; conflict resolution techniques associated with bargaining; and integrative bargaining. The study revealed a competitive collective bargaining climate in the colleges, characterized by such factors as a lack of trust and respect, inexperienced faculty negotiators, contractual constraints and a lack of bargaining priorities. The competitive climate was aggravated by a number of external factors (government policies); internal factors (the management style of a president); the composition of the faculty associations (combined vocational and academic faculty associations); and personal factors (age and political preferences). In terms of governance issues, the scope of the collective agreements and their political orientation, the board members and the senior administrators are essentially from the same population. The faculty leaders come from a different population. The respondents favour modifications that would enhance communications, training, and equal access to information, as well as the resolution of labour matters at the local level rather than at the provincial level. Distributive bargaining will likely remain the cornerstone of negotiations in British Columbia's colleges. Although it does not have to be as competitive as it is, the distributive model appears to be best suited to the resolution of Level I issues, e.g. salaries, benefits. Given the collegial traditions of higher education, the varying professional needs of the faculty, the issue of management rights and the intrinsic values of the parties involved, a more collaborative model of bargaining is necessary to accommodate Level II issues. The latter include faculty participation in college governance, peer evaluation, and the selection of other faculty. The study contributed to the research literature and produced a number of recommendations for practice.

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