Here are some updates on various aspects of the 2018 negotiations.
Collective Bargaining to resume in September after July 25th meeting
The Collective Bargaining teams for the Board of Governors and ULFA met on July 25th for the last bargaining session of the Summer (holiday schedules made it impossible to find time in August).
During the session, the two sides exchanged the following articles (you can follow the progress of negotiated articles here):
|9 (Personal Files)
33 (Gradual Retirement and Reduced Load Status)
|1 (Preamble and Objectives)
24 (Appeals of Recommendations by STP Committees)
“Part I” and “Part IV” (Faculty Members and Sessional Instructors)
At this point in the negotiations, most of the “low hanging fruit” has been dealt with and the two sides are now beginning to deal with more difficult issues. Resolving such questions requires considerable discussion and creativity as negotiators attempt to find ways of reaching agreement starting from disparate opening positions.
Wednesday’s negotiations were characteristic of this: while the sides seem close on Articles 1, 9, and 24, they have discovered areas of potentially more substantive disagreement in 3 and 33. In each case, considerable attention was devoted to probing the areas of difference and attempting to understand the core issues on each side.
“Part I” and “Part IV” are part of a new proposal from the Board to consolidate all information regarding personnel processes (e.g. hiring, promotion, PARs, etc.) for different categories of employees. “Part I” is the consolidation for members of the Professoriate, “Part IV” the consolidation for Sessionals. The Administration has previously presented a “Part III” for Academic Assistants/Lecturers. These parts represent a considerable reorganisation of the Handbook and will require careful study when negotiations resume in September.
As in previous sessions, the two sides worked productively together and negotiations continue to progress well.
“Bridging” Labour Board application
The Board of Governors and ULFA are currently involved in a case before the Labour Board regarding the applicability of “bridging” provisions in the Labour Relations Code to Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increases. You can read more about this here, here, here, and here.
Under the “bridging” provisions of Section 130(1) of the Code, all articles of the collective agreement that were in effect when notice to bargain was given remain in effect until (1) negotiations are concluded; (2) negotiations are interrupted by job action; or (3) two years have passed without ratification of a new contract. A more detailed discussion of the background to this issue can be found here.
ULFA’s position is that bridging provisions apply to the application of COLA on July 1st (Schedule A.02). The Board of Governors has taken the position that bridging does not apply to COLA. In response, ULFA has filed an Unfair Labour Practice complaint with the Alberta Labour Relations Board. In response, the Board of Governors asked the Labour Relations Board to dismiss ULFA’s complaint, arguing that the question is a matter of interpretation of the Handbook rather than the applicability of the Code to the Handbook. In the Board of Governors view, the correct avenue for resolving this dispute is via the provisions of Article 1 (Interpretation) in the Faculty Handbook). ULFA disagrees with this position, arguing that the question is one of the applicability of the Code to the Handbook rather than the interpretation of the Handbook. ULFA also argues that Article 1 processes are an inappropriate mechanism for resolving this dispute.
On July 4th, the parties agreed to argue the Board of Governors application via written submissions. The Board of Governors submitted their request on July 18th. ULFA was given one week to reply, and submitted its response on July 25th. The Board of Governors now has until August 1st to respond to ULFA’s submission, at which point the Labour Relations Board will consider the case and reach a determination. If the Labour Relations Board decides in favour of the University, resolution of this case likely will be deferred to the processes outlined in Article 1 of the 2016 Handbook; if it decides in ULFA’s favour, the next step likely will be a hearing on the merits of ULFA’s case before the Board. This hearing will be scheduled sometime in September.
Essential Services Agreement (ESA) negotiations and Labour Board Application
Essential Services Agreements (ESAs) cover the provision of Essential Services in the event of job action (i.e. a lockout or strike). Under the Labour Relations Code, management and unions in the Post Secondary sector are required to negotiate an ESA unless an exemption is requested and granted by the Commissioner. Exemptions may be requested on the ground either that no essential services are performed by the employees in question or that all essential services can be performed by other employees in the event of job action. Under the Code, an Essential Service is a service that is required to preserve human health and safety or the maintenance of law and order. We have discussed ESAs several times over the last year, including here, here, here, here, and here.
On June 26th, the Board of Governors submitted a unilateral request for exemption from the ESA requirement with the Labour Relations Board on the grounds that members of the Academic Staff perform no essential services. This claim conflicts with ULFA’s research on the matter, which suggests that several classes of employees within the Academic Staff perform such services on a periodic or emergent basis.
The Commissioner for Essential Services met with management and the union on July 16 for a case management call. At that call the two sides were encouraged to begin negotiations and the Board agreed to temporarily pause further action on the request for exemption while the two sides attempted to find dates for negotiation. A second case management call was scheduled for July 26th but has since been canceled due to the fact that the parties are coming back to the table to bargain the ESA. The request for exemption has been paused so that the parties can work toward agreement at the table.
The two sides are in the process of scheduling dates for ESA negotiations to start by end of August.
Changes in the ULFA bargaining team
Finally, there has also been a change in the ULFA bargaining team. Dr. Paul Hayes has led the Economic Benefits side of our bargaining since 2017. He leaves for Japan on a teaching exchange and is stepping down from negotiations as a result. Dr. Rumi Graham has been appointed to the bargaining team as Dr. Haye’s replacement. She is a welcome addition to the team in this official capacity, though she has been involved as an observer in this round of negotiations and has participated on the negotiating team for many years.
In addition, Dr. Rob Sutherland has joined the team as an observer. He has recently commenced a two year term as chair of the Economic Benefits Committee.
The bargaining team now includes Dr. Dan O’Donnell (chief spokesperson), Dr. Rumi Graham, and Mr. Terry Sway. Observers on the bargaining team are Dr. Joy Morris, Dr. Rob Sutherland, and Dr. Kelly Williams-Whitt. Which is a lot of doctors.