ULFA Response to AB Budget 21

The University of Lethbridge Faculty Association would like to express its profound disappointment in the UCP government’s continuing failure to support post-secondary education. 

Post-Secondary Education is a crucial factor in our province’s post-pandemic economic recovery. The University of Lethbridge is the 2nd largest employer in Lethbridge and Lethbridge College is the 5th largest. With 750 Post-Secondary workers already laid off across the Province, additional cuts mean fewer customers for our city’s businesses and services and less money circulating in the Lethbridge economy. 

By forcing our colleges and universities to charge more for fewer services, we make it difficult to attract new students to the Lethbridge area, and we end up encouraging our own children to go elsewhere if they want to receive the kind of quality education they used to be able to get right here, in Southern Alberta. By attempting to tie future funding to metrics and measures that have failed time-and-time-again in other countries and provinces, moreover, the UCP government will only ensure that its short-sighted approach continues to damage the quality of Alberta’s colleges and universities for years to come.

In the 1960s, the people of Lethbridge marched in the streets to demand that the provincial government create a new university in Lethbridge, to serve the needs of our community. We knew then, as we know now, that the future of Lethbridge and the surrounding counties depends on access to high quality post-secondary education. 

It is time to put an end to these reckless and ideologically driven attacks on one of the most important drivers of economic diversification and growth in our province.

Bargaining update: February 22, 2021

The ULFA and Board negotiating teams held a second meeting focused on language and economic benefits on February 22. Discussions continued to be cordial and productive as we considered several proposals from each side.

As agreed at the February 8 meeting, ULFA led off by presenting its Article “YY” proposal. This proposal embeds Schedule R (diversity, equity and inclusion) as a full-fledged article in the CA, clarifies the role of the Joint Equity Committee, and strengthens accommodation provisions. ULFA also presented proposals on Schedule B (economic benefits), a new Article “BB” which proposes to create a joint ULFA-Board committee to co-manage the ULFA benefits plan, and Article 19 (probation and continuing appointment/tenure).

The Board team presented a response to ULFA’s Schedule E proposal (professional activities report). They also presented proposals for language modifications to parts of the following five articles, focusing on the role of service in Members’ responsibilities and career progression, but leaving other aspects to a later date: Article 11 (rights and responsibilities), Article 12 (STP criteria for faculty), Article 13 (assignment of duties), Article 14 (professional librarians), and Article 15 (instructors and academic assistants). Because there are other changes in the Board’s initial proposals for these articles that have not yet been explained, ULFA expects to hold off on responding to an article until all of the Board’s proposals for such article have been discussed.

For the next meeting on March 8th, the parties tentatively agreed to prepare the following:

  • ULFA team: responses to the Board’s Article 3 and Schedule E proposals and a presentation on ULFA’s Article 28 proposal. ULFA will also begin work on a response to the Board’s Article 13 proposal.
  • Board team: responses to ULFA’s Article YY and Article 19 proposals, begin the process of gathering data requested in ULFA’s Schedule B proposal (unlikely to be ready for the next meeting), and possibly a response to ULFA’s proposal on a new teaching professoriate. 

Just a reminder that you can track the progress of exchanged bargaining proposals in this spreadsheet.

Negotiating update: February 8, 2021

Representatives of the Board and ULFA met on February 8 for the first discussion of language in the current round of negotiations. 

As mentioned in the last blog, the ULFA side prepared: 

  • Article “YY” (a proposal to create a new article on Equity and Diversity based on the current Schedule R);
  • Schedule E (a proposal to generalize and update the PAR report form);
  • Article 20/Article “ZZ” (a proposal to simplify and generalize STP processes); and 
  • Article 28 (a proposal to update IP provisions of the handbook).

For their part, the Board team indicated that they would present on: 

  • Article 3 (procedures for updating the Collective Agreement), 
  • Criteria for performance evaluation and associated review processes; and 
  • Teaching Professoriate

In the event, the two sides discussed

  • the Board’s proposals for Article 3, 
  • ULFA’s proposals for Schedule E and Article 20/ZZ, and 
  • an ULFA proposal for the Teaching Professoriate (since the Board did not prepare language on this topic and ULFA had in our package, it was decided that it would be better for ULFA to present first). 

The two sides agreed to begin the next meeting with ULFA’s proposal on Article “YY” (EDI). As in the last round, you can follow the status of all articles under negotiation this year on this spreadsheet.

Although it is more than 6 months since the end of our Collective Agreement, this was the first time the two sides discussed language in any detailed way. 

The two sides remain far apart, although the discussion was constructive and there are some early signs in these few articles of opportunities for fruitful conversation. The Board side indicated that their mandate will once again not allow for any increase in costs, while the ULFA side indicated that its mandate requires it to address the erosion in salaries and benefits that has occurred in the years since U of L academic staff (uniquely in the province) last conceded to salary rollbacks in 2013 . 

Since mandates are starting points and negotiations are how we reconcile contrasting visions, it should be clear that neither side is going to get their complete mandate. But the session was a reminder of how far apart these starting positions are.

The next meeting is scheduled to take place on February 22, with the two sides intending to meet biweekly for the foreseeable future.

ULFA Report on Covid-19 and Workload Survey

ULFA report COVID 19 Workload

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been almost universally negative for the ULFA membership. ULFA conducted a survey of its membership between November 30 and December 16, 2020. The survey was composed of 46 questions and 241 members responded to it, representing 40% of ULFA’s membership as of December 2020.

The results show, unsurprisingly, that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an adverse impact on the ability of members to competently perform their teaching, research, and service duties. The time members have to competently perform their duties has decreased, while the time required to competently perform those duties has increased. The impacts have been particularly pronounced on respondents with caregiving responsibilities, those who identify as women, those aged 49 and below, and those who identify as members of other equity-seeking groups.

Please read the full report here.

Bargaining Update: January 28, 2021 ULFA and Board meet; plan first presentations of language

Recent and upcoming meetings

The ULFA and Board negotiating teams met on January 28, 2021 for a final preliminary session to discuss process. The two sides agreed to begin with articles that were thought to be either “easy” (i.e. where agreement seems close or likely) or easily isolatable (i.e. not dependent on changes elsewhere).

At the meeting ULFA agreed to open negotiations at our next two sessions (scheduled now for February 8 and 15) by presenting proposals for Article “YY,” Schedule E, Article 20, Article “ZZ,” and Article 28.

Article “YY” concerns Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. ULFA’s proposal is for a new article based on the current Schedule R. This would confirm the existence and purpose of the Joint Equity Committee and establish procedures for a variety of processes involved in ensuring an interest-based approach to investigating and resolving equity matters.

Schedule E describes the form Faculty Members use to submit their PAR reports. ULFA’s proposal is to make the form more broadly suitable to all employee categories and ensure that the form agrees with the criteria used in the PAR process in each case.

ULFA’s proposal for Article 20/ZZ is intended to make the Collective Agreement easier to navigate. Article 20 currently contains information on promotion for members of the professoriate and the processes by which STP hearings (specifically for promotion of members of the professoriate) are carried out. All other STP processes (for members in other job categories and for other types of decisions) refer to the Article 20 process, but fail to indicate what adjustments, if any need to be made. ULFA’s proposal is to remove the information on process from 20 to a new Article ZZ (i.e. to be assigned a number), which will then be generalized to cover all STP processes. This is part of a large reorganization of the Collective Agreement that has been under discussion between the Board and ULFA for several years. The two sides agreed to begin negotiations with such a reorganization during the last round of negotiations (Schedule S).

Finally, Article 28 contains the Collective Agreement’s provisions on Intellectual Property. At the end of negotiations for the last Collective Agreement, the two sides agreed to reconsider an ULFA proposal for revisions at the beginning of this round (Schedule S).

For their part, the Board said they would present proposals for the amendment of Article 3, criteria for performance evaluation and associated review processes, and the Teaching Professoriate.  

A new blog

ULFA has been using this bargaining blog for several years as one of the major tools by which we keep our membership (who ultimately must vote to ratify any agreement) informed about progress at the table. At our most recent meeting, the Board side indicated that they intended to create their own blog in order to keep third parties informed about the progress of bargaining (unlike ULFA, whose positions come from and ultimately must be ratified by its broad membership, the Board is internally responsible for both the mandate its team presents during negotiations and the ratification of any ultimate settlement). The Board’s blog was launched on February 1 through an announcement in a newsletter that is distributed to all employees. You can follow the Board’s posts at https://www.uleth.ca/hr/collective-bargaining-updates