ESA Update April 14, 2021

The teams representing the Board and ULFA met to continue negotiating an Essential Services Agreement (ESA) Wednesday April 7th. This meeting was in follow-up to the February 11th meeting in which ULFA presented a draft ESA to the Board. ULFA’s draft was based on the signed Dec. 2019 ESA with some additional points added in part due to lessons learned from the institutional COVID-19 shutdown this past year.

During the April 7th meeting, the Board presented their response ESA proposal which rejected all of the new elements introduced in the ULFA draft ESA and also removed one item from the expired ESA that both sides had previously accepted.

The majority of the discussion centered around three topics:

  1. Supervision of counseling practicums
  2. Time-sensitive research
  3. Job action safety

Within the discussion there was agreement that an ESA may contain mutually agreed-upon content above and beyond the minimum required by law to protect life and health of the public. There were also points discussed that reflect a diversity of perspectives.

  1. Counseling Practicums

While the December 2019 ratified ESA (now expired) included a provision to allow student practicums in counselling programs to continue during job action, the Board’s current proposal removes this permission. The rationale presented for rejecting the continuation of student counselling practicums was that the host agency responsible for supervising student work can just take over the practicum clients. ULFA’s team emphasized that there is a potential danger to health in high-risk clients if the therapeutic relationship is suddenly lost. In addition, the ULFA team noted that it is unlikely that agencies would be able to take on such a large pool of clients. Both sides indicated that they will explore this issue further by contacting managers at agencies partnered with UL counselling programs to better understand the risk to the public if all of the counselling practicum students were to withdraw their counselling at once outside of the therapy plan.

  1. Time-sensitive research

The ULFA ESA proposal included recognition that there is shared interest in maintaining certain time-sensitive research activities during job action. Interruption in these research activities could have a long-lasting impact that will cause harm to institutional reputation and individual research programs. Research interruptions with lasting effects can include missed applications in annual grant cycles, loss of tissue samples, cell cultures, and/or cultivated plant or animal samples. There was also a discussion thread started relating to the equity of the impact of job action on research programs in various disciplines. In contrast to ULFA’s position, the Board asserted that we cannot learn useful information to inform an ESA from the 2020 COVID-19 shutdown.

  1. Job action safety

While the point of an ESA is to ensure safety during job action, the Board rejected the inclusion of a 6 m picket zone on the west side of campus in the ESA. This perimeter space is intended to ensure that any picket activities do not block public sidewalks and are not too close to roadways. The Board stated the item would more properly belong in a strike protocol. ULFA maintained it would be prudent to include relevant items to maintain public health and safety within the ESA agreement and not leave those items up to a strike protocol, which, unlike an ESA, is not required to be in place prior to any job action.

At the conclusion of the meeting the Board indicated that it would further investigate the need for including provisions for the counselling programs within the ESA, and ULFA indicated that its team would develop a new draft ESA to present at the next meeting.