Job Action 101 – Part 2

Part 2: The Dollars-and-Cents of Strike Pay

The potential of job action is a likely cause of stress for our members. “If we went on strike, how could I afford my mortgage payments?” “What about my benefits?” “Will this have a long-term financial impact on my life?” In this installment, we focus on common financial concerns regarding the possibility of strike and other important facts regarding ULFA Member responsibilities to earn strike pay. By the end of this installment, we hope that you agree that ULFA Members will be well supported financially in the event of strike, placing Members in the driving seat so that they are free to decide without financial worry whether UL BoG proposals are acceptable in this crucial bargaining year

Will I get paid in the event of a strike?

Yes. In the event of a strike, all dues-paying ULFA Members (tenured or non-tenured) who participate in duties assigned by the Job Action Committee are entitled to strike pay, in lieu of their regular remuneration from the Board. 

Because ULFA’s Strike Fund is currently in very good financial standing, Members can expect to receive approximately $150.00 per calendar day plus core benefits (also see below) in the event of a strike. All members will receive the same amount, regardless of rank. 

This means that members earning up to approximately $95,000/year should not be significantly financially impacted by a strike. It is recommended that members earning above $95,000/year set aside approximately ~7% of their monthly net salary for each expected month of job action in order to offset the difference between their current take home pay and what they can expect to earn during a strike. 

To replace income lost during job action, ULFA recommends that Members earning more than $95k establish a personal job action saving account with sufficient funds for a job action lasting two to three times the national average for the post-secondary sector: i.e. equivalent to between 14% and 21% of their net monthly income. 

If a strike happens, how long can I expect to be on strike?

The average strike in the post-secondary sector lasts about 21 days (based on CAUT data), although, due to public pressure that is brought to bear on senior administration, they are often much shorter than this. 

To be prudent, Members should be prepared for a strike to last two to three times the average length to ensure that it has the intended effect (i.e. to plan for job action lasting two to three months). 

Essentially, the more prepared our Membership is, the less likely it is that a strike will occur and the more effective our ability to negotiate on key issues during bargaining will be. This is because strike preparations and the threat represented therein provides a sobering reminder to employers about the importance of making meaningful progress at the bargaining table.

Length of job actionEstimated total savings required to replace lost income for Members earning $95k+ (members earning less that $95k should experience minimal disruption).
Average (<1 month)7% of 1 month net salary
2x average (< 2 months)14% of 1 month net salary
3x average (< 3 months)21% of 1 month net salary

What happens to my pension contributions and benefits during a strike?

For the duration of a strike, Members will not receive pensionable earnings and no pension contributions will be made by the Board. However, because strikes typically lasts less than 2 months, a strike should not have any significant effect on retirement or pension earnings for Members.

Members will maintain all the core benefits outlined below during a strike.  

  • Dental
  • Vision
  • Group Life Insurance
  • LTD – Long term disability benefits
  • EFAP (Employee and Family Assistance Program)
  • Extended Health 

Optional member life insurance, optional spousal life insurance and ADD premiums (Accidental Death and Dismemberment) are not  included in the benefits covered by ULFA during strike or job action as they are not part of the benefit coverage in the current Collective Agreement. ULFA is currently in discussions with ULethbridge HR staff to determine how members might continue the payment of those optional premiums without a lapse in coverage. We hope to have a solution in place by May, 2021.

Where does strike pay come from?

For the first 3 days that ULFA members are on the picket lines (ie. starting 72 hrs after a strike vote), the ULFA strike fund must cover the full amount of each member’s strike pay. From day 4 onwards however, the CAUT Defence Fund kicks in which covers the first $88/day of each member’s strike pay whereby ULFA would only have to provide the top up amount to get to $150/day. This will last for the duration of the strike. Although ULFA has an impressive war chest built up, Faculty associations (FA), are also eligible for up to a 1 million dollar loan from CAUT after they deplete their own strike funds.  This additional backing ensures that FA’s can remain on strike until a solution, deemed acceptable by the membership, has been reached.  

What will I be required to do to collect strike pay?

Strike pay is not unconditional – to be eligible for strike pay, members must participate in assigned weekly strike-related duties. Members that do not participate in their assigned activities may not receive their strike pay or receive a reduced amount. In some cases, Members may be exempted from particular strike activities if they are physically or otherwise unable. Engagement and participation by the Membership is absolutely key to ensure a short, effective and successful strike.

Strike duties generally consist of picketing, but may include other duties related to operation of the strike headquarters. Picket lines will operate at several locations including the main ULethbridge campus and downtown where they will run from 7:30 am until 5:30 pm from Mon through Fri. There will be 3 picket shifts at each location (morning, midday and afternoon) and following an availability survey, members will be assigned to one of these 4 hour shifts. To be eligible for a full week of strike pay, each member will be expected to work their five 4 hour shifts per week.  

What is the cumulative effect of a strike on my life?

All told, you will likely only have the stress of job action for a month or two . Most strikes in this sector are considerably shorter. With the current ULFA strike fund, it is unlikely that you will face any significant financial hardship during this time frame. Given the considerable augmentation in strike pay afforded by the strike fund, the membership can focus on whether or not to accept a deal and not whether they can afford to go on strike. With a strike pay of $150/day, we can all afford to go on strike. What we cannot afford, is to accept a deal that would imperil working conditions, severely undermine our career earnings and result in long-term repercussions for our future retirement.   

As an ULFA Member and ULethbridge Employee, if you or your colleagues have any additional questions, concerns or comments regarding the financial aspects of a potential strike, we welcome you to reach out to ULFA staff.