Progress on an Essential Services Agreement

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According the Alberta Labour Code, ULFA and the Board of Governors must establish an Essential Services Agreement (ESA). The terms of this agreement specify which academic staff activities must be continued in the case of a job action in order to protect public health and safety. Background on this required bargaining process can be found in an earlier post here and here. ULFA and the Board have met several times already to discuss the parameters of this bargaining and discussion is ongoing.

Initially the Board stated that no academic staff covered by our collective agreement provide any services that would be considered essential under the legislation. At the table we agreed to conduct a survey of our Members to cast a broad net to ensure that Members who might be providing essential services were not overlooked. Both sides examined the resulting survey responses and agreed that a next step would be to interview our Members, focusing on those who indicated that their duties may require coverage in the event of job action.

The ESA bargaining process is separate from the Handbook negotiations, and requires a different approach. The objective for ULFA is to ensure the health and safety of the University community is protected in the event of job action (strike or lockout), but also to have as few people as possible be put in the position of having to cross picket lines. We believe this approach aligns with the Board of Governor’s objectives as well, which opens the door to more creative problem-solving at the ESA bargaining table.

Representatives of both sides (Kelly Williams-Whitt and Rob Sutherland for ULFA) will participate in interviews of more than a dozen of our members next week (January 28 and 30) to collect more detailed information for establishing an ESA.