Bargaining Update May 20, 2021

On May 20, representatives of the Board and ULFA held their seventh bargaining session since the exchange of full proposals on January 18, 2021. 

Several articles and proposals were presented and discussed during this full negotiating session. 

The Board presented responses to ULFA proposals on Articles 4 (Applications and exclusions), 5 (Recognition), 6 (Communication and Information), and Schedule J (Conflict of Interest). The Board also presented their Proposal 9 on Career Progress and Merit (spanning portions of Articles 15, 21, 31, and Schedule A). 

The ULFA negotiating team presented their first response to the Board’s proposal on Article 11 (Rights and Responsibilities), and their initial proposal on Article 32 (Gradual Retirement and Reduced Load). 

Board proposals on Articles 4, 5, and 6, and Schedule J

In these proposals, the Board is seeking a 75% reduction in union dues for inactive members (academic administrators) while also seeking payment of rent from the Association for use of office space on campus. They did concede ULFA’s right to allocate the revenue from inactive member dues, and agreed that ULFA should be allowed time to present in orientation sessions for new academic staff. There are points of significant disagreement around the number of course releases that should be available to the Association, the extent to which Members’ right to be accompanied by ULFA representatives (including staff members) conflicts with administrators’ ability to manage the workforce, and the ways in which collegial governance can or should be enshrined in the Collective Agreement. Both parties are interested in the effective and efficient operation of the university, but have different perspectives on how to achieve this.

The Board’s  Article 6 proposal included the revocation of provision of some information to the Association that is currently being provided, and that was included in the Board’s original proposal for Article 6, including member’s gender and date of birth. The rationale provided by the Board is that equity information identifying individuals is unnecessary for ULFA to manage the Collective Agreement. 

ULFA believes that it may be difficult to participate fully in our co-management of the Collective Agreement, and our goals of improving EDI amongst the membership, without detailed information linking any self-declared equity-relevant status of members with their employment terms and conditions. The Board contends that aggregate information on several matters that are currently provided on an individual basis should be sufficient for this purpose. Ensuring the Collective Agreement, and applicable legislation, are being followed is a shared responsibility by the Board and ULFA. There are legislated and contractual obligations to store such information securely and use it only for the legitimate purposes of the union in accordance with Article 6.05 of the current Collective Agreement, the Post-Secondary Learning Act, the AB Labour Code, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and the Personal Information Protection Act. ULFA’s storage and use of Members’ personal information adheres to the strict protocols required by privacy legislation and provisions in the Collective Agreement. 

The Board also proposed in Schedule J that any use of University resources beyond that of a purely incidental nature is considered a conflict of interest.

Board Proposal #9: Evaluation and salary increments; June 3 Town Hall

The Board’s presentation of their “Proposal #9” outlined a plan to streamline the evaluation process for members by reducing the scores available in any category to 0 (unsatisfactory), 1 (satisfactory), or 2 (meritorious). Merit increments would be awarded to anyone who receives a score of 2 in any category. (Instructors would still receive only one score.)

For Faculty Members and Professional Librarians, the Board also proposes that a significant portion of the existing funds set aside for career progress would be moved into the merit pools, thus making merit units more valuable and decreasing the value of career progress. 

For Instructors, the Board proposes moving some of their increments from merit to career progress (that would be provided to all Instructors who receive satisfactory evaluations as is done for Faculty Members and Professional Librarians), reflecting the understanding that Instructors progress in their careers and deserve financial recognition for this, in addition to any increments provided for merit. The Board proposal also involves splitting the merit pools for Instructors by faculty/school, to avoid inequities that can arise if some deans give higher scores than other deans. 

ULFA raised the concern that increasing the value of a merit system may exacerbate the impact of systemic biases that tend to favour people with pre-existing privilege, by rewarding traditional understandings of what constitutes merit. The Board noted that equity issues are being discussed directly in other proposals, and both sides have expressed interest in improving how we address equity concerns.

The Board proposal has some implications in Schedule A (Salary Schedules and Stipends), where the Board’s contributions to career progress and merit funds are listed. The Board’s proposal for Schedule A indicates that its beginning is retroactive to July 1, 2020. There was some discussion of the need for clarity and a transition period for any changes that might be agreed to around this process.

This is a substantial proposal. ULFA will hold a Town Hall on June 3 at 11 a.m. to present further details of the Board’s proposal around evaluation and salary increments, and to gather feedback from Members. 

ULFA proposals on Articles 11 and 32 (Academic Freedom, Accompaniment, Reduced Load)

Persisting points of disagreement in Article 11 centre around academic freedom and accompaniment. ULFA has not accepted the Board’s position that qualifications should be added to the language around academic freedom in the Collective Agreement in order to avoid conflict with the smooth running of the university. ULFA also wants to retain the existing language around members’ right to accompaniment, and to remove the restriction that the President of the Association cannot participate in accompaniment of members.

In Article 32, ULFA seeks to change language that results in members who are on reduced load or gradual retirement having their pay increments doubly-reduced. Double reduction of increments was never ULFA’s intent, but since an arbitrator has ruled that this is the effect of the existing language, ULFA is proposing to change the language. In another grievance currently headed to arbitration, ULFA is arguing that since reduced loads are often sought by members of equity-deserving groups who have greater caring responsibilities, the double reduction of increments has a disproportionate impact on members in these groups, and is therefore a human rights concern. At this meeting, the Board questioned why ULFA is seeking to change the increments for all members on reduced load (not only for those in equity-deserving groups). ULFA maintains that doubly discounting salary increments is an unfair practice for all members, and that remediating this language is in ULFA’s member approved bargaining mandate. That this unfair practice is discriminatory for members belonging to equity-deserving groups is why ULFA is also seeking redress through the grievance/arbitration process.

The next negotiating session will be held on May 31. You can follow the status of all Articles opened during this round of negotiations here.