Issues on the Table: Increments for Members on Reduced Load

The amount of work expected of a full-time member of the academic staff is not clearly established in our Collective Agreement (see our related blog post on workload). Even assigned contact hours for teaching can vary across departments and faculties from semester to semester and from year to year. Nonetheless, some members wish to reduce the workload expectations that have been placed on them, or that they may place on themselves. Article 32 (Gradual Retirement and Reduced Load Status) provides a mechanism for doing this. Members can negotiate and sign an agreement with the Board that sets their workload at a specified percentage of full-time equivalency (FTE) status. Once signed, such agreements remain in force until retirement unless they are mutually changed or revoked.

The Problem

When a member goes on a Reduced Load Status, the Board’s position is that the member will accumulate less experience, so their performance increment, comprised of both a career progress increment portion and a merit increment portion, should be reduced accordingly. ULFA does not disagree with this. However, ULFA does disagree with the way in which the Board implements this, which has the effect of reducing the member’s increment twice. This was never ULFA’s understanding of the negotiated language, but a grievance several years ago led to an arbitration hearing in which the arbitrator ruled that the Collective Agreement as written does allow the Board to do this.

An example illustrates the issue. Let’s say a member whose full-time salary is $80,000 signs an agreement to go on a 50% load. Problematically, the Board’s practice is to add only 50% of a career progress increment and 50% of any merit increment to that $80,000 salary. For the sake of round numbers, let’s say the member’s career progress increment (currently $2600) plus their merit increment comes to $3000, calculated on a full-load basis. For this member, the Board’s practice is to add $1500 (50% of the $3000) to their FTE salary of $80,000. Their actual salary for the following year is therefore 50% of $81,500; i.e., $40,750. As a result, the salary they receive has only increased one quarter as much as that of a full-time member with the same performance scores.

A second grievance has been launched by ULFA on the issue. This grievance focuses on the presumption that most people who negotiate reduced load agreements have reasons for doing so that relate to a category that is protected by human rights legislation (e.g. gender or family status), and that the current practice therefore constitutes illegal discrimination. The easiest remedy to such a grievance is to remove the problematic double discount from the Collective Agreement. The Board and ULFA have failed to agree on resolutions for this grievance, so it is currently headed to mediation.

The Positions

In an attempt to resolve both the problem and the outstanding grievance, ULFA has proposed that salary increments for members on reduced load agreements should only be reduced once. (In the example above, the member’s actual salary for the following year should be $41,500.) To date the Board’s position is to maintain and continue to apply the status quo language, which effectively doubly-reduces salary increments. The Board team has not provided any justification for this position in the current round of bargaining, though their position was argued extensively during arbitration.
A proposal on Article 32 has been presented by ULFA at the negotiation table on May 20, 2021, and again on February 4, 2022.