February 10th Negotiation Update

On February 10th, just hours before the strike deadline, the Board and ULFA negotiation teams held their sixth negotiation session following the close of formal mediation on January 17th 2022. 

On February 9th the ULFA team offered a settlement proposal which included terms with 2.75%-3.25% increases over 4 years, plus a fixed dollar increase to base salary of $2600. The across the board value of this depends on rate of pay, but it amounts to an equivalent ~5% over 4 years. The February 8th and 9th negotiation sessions are reported here

The February 10th session commenced with the Board presenting an offer of settlement. In the introductory remarks, the Board team indicated that there are typically three categories that they use to triage incoming proposal items from the reciprocal negotiation team: Yes, Maybe, and No. It was then indicated that for the ULFA proposal there is a fourth category: Hell-No. The Board negotiation team indicated that every one of the main ULFA mandate items fell into the `Hell-No’ category. The team then indicated that the proposal being presented for ULFA to consider was approved for offer very reluctantly by the administration.

The offer included one concession over and above the Board offer from February 9th (in which they accepted all concessions in the ULFA offer and none of ULFA’s other proposed language). This offer related to ULFA’s proposed Schedule BB, establishing a joint committee to oversee Members’ economic benefits. The Board proposed that an MOU would be created with the aim of exploring alternative structures to what had been proposed by ULFA, around management of benefits. The Board had hinted that they might be considering some such position in the February 1st negotiation session. In their presentation on February 10th, the Board team indicated that ULFA’s proposed BB, as written, would not work within the collective agreement and would only end up frustrating Members due to its inability to effect any improvements. The ULFA team, while disagreeing with the evaluation, was surprised to hear of this from the Board team for the first time as the current form of Schedule BB has not changed since Jan 18th 2021 and the ULFA team has presented this exact proposal to the Board on 5 prior occasions. Furthermore, the Board’s offered concession was not to negotiate some alternate form of Schedule BB, but to develop an MOU in which to create something that may be incorporated into the next round of collective bargaining. The implicit expectation in this proposal was that ULFA would trade away all potential for current gains in the collective agreement for the chance of something related to this one thing potentially materializing in the future.

Schedule BB aside, the ULFA team was again disappointed that there was no movement  provided in the latest Board offer. Furthermore, and systemic to the pattern observed within negotiations for this entire round (this is day 665 of negotiations), the Board statement that it considers ALL major ULFA mandate items to be within the `Hell-No’ category suggests that the Board negotiation team is not bargaining in good faith, nor is it actually bargaining. Explicitly stating that there is zero flexibility is not a bargaining position, but a position of impasse. 

The February 9th ULFA offer expired on February 10th at 10:59am right before the strike deadline. The consequence of our most recent offer expiring makes the current ULFA default proposal on Schedule A revert to the pre-mediation offer (which was a cumulative 12% over 4 years – see here for justification and details of these proposals). The ULFA team has demonstrated flexibility in negotiations but is not willing to just give away its monetary position without seeing anything else in return for it. The ULFA team is waiting for the Board team to come forward with a proposal that does provide substantive concessions. To indicate that we are holding firm on a 12% offer is completely disingenuous.

The ULFA team concluded the session by indicating its refusal to bargain against itself in negotiations, insisting that the Board team bring a proposal that includes substantial concessions to the table, and indicating that nothing sufficient to stop or delay the strike had been demonstrated. The Board team did call the ULFA team back to the table before the strike deadline, but only to provide a written statement about the aspects of ULFA’s position that they do not like. 

Both teams have indicated that they are available to listen to any new proposals, but at this point in time there are no future dates or times set for negotiation.

The ULFA negotiation team is grateful for the show of solidarity on all of the picket lines today (over 200 Members across 5 picket locations in Lethbridge and Calgary), and had some really positive interactions with media.

You can follow the status of all Articles opened during this round of negotiations, including changes that have taken place within mediation, here (progress outside of mediation is available here).