Components of the Offers of Settlement

Components of the Offers of Settlement 

The Offers of Settlement made by each side on January 17 that have since been published, both include Article 5 (Recognition), Article 6 (Communication and Information), Schedule A (Salary Schedules and Stipends), and Schedule B (Economic Benefits). In addition, the Board’s Offer included an MOU on Navitas, and the ULFA Offer included a proposed new Schedule “BB” (Academic Benefits Management Committee).

Schedule A (Salary Schedules and Stipends)

There is only one substantive area of difference between the Board’s proposal and the response that ULFA provided: after increases of 0% on July 1, 2020, July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2022, and an increase of 1.25% on April 1, 2023, the Board proposal provides an increase of 1.5% plus 0.5% from possible “gain sharing” on December 1, 2023, where ULFA’s proposal provides an increase of 2.5% plus the same 0.5% from possible “gain sharing”. In both proposals, these increases apply to salary maxima and minima as well as to base salaries, but not to anything else. In the graphs provided below, you can see the extent to which the value of salaries have eroded since 2013 against the Consumer Price Index, and the difference in the extent to which they will continue to erode under each of the two proposals. 

In its settlement offer, ULFA withdrew proposals that course overloads be paid out at the Sessional Lecturer rate, and that Members be paid minimum wage (rather than the current $10/hour) for any travel time relating to overload courses. 

An evaluation of compensation erosion due to inflationary pressures in Alberta is presented in Figure 1. Years of 0% Cost of Living Adjustments at the U of L have left members’ salaries increasingly eroding against inflation. At the end of the proposed 4 year deal, under the Board’s proposal, Member salaries will be 14% behind inflation since the 1% rollback in 2013. Member salaries fall ~10%-15% behind compensation with agreed comparator institutions as well. This is of course most injurious to the career earnings of Members who were hired in 2013 or later who have never seen a COLA increase, but have been watching the value of their starting salaries steadily erode. 

Figure 1. Historical UL COLA values compared with AB-CPI over the same period (top), and Cumulative Effect of UL COLA with inflation/CPI factored in (bottom). The future data is estimated based on financial sector inflation projections/estimates.

In 2013, ULFA Members settled for the worst financial deal in the sector. To do so again would further harm our reputation and our ability to attract and retain high-quality academic staff. The measure of a community is the extent of well-being of its least powerful members. Given the inflationary fiscal climate right now in the province, newer and precarious colleagues, who are particularly vulnerable right now, are best supported via strong Collective Agreement provisions. A discussion of the provincial context of Schedule A is provided here

Schedule B: Economic Benefits

The main differences between the Board and ULFA Offers of Settlement in regard to Economic Benefits are:

  • ULFA proposes that the Member and Spouse/Dependent Tuition Benefits should apply to Sessional Lecturers as well as to other Members. This would represent only an “in kind” cost for the Board, while providing a significant benefit to some of our most vulnerable Members.
  • ULFA has requested that the Board implement a number of improvements to Members’ extended health benefits. In its latest Offer, ULFA agreed that Members would bear the costs of these improvements. Under this condition, the Board has agreed to several of the improvements requested by ULFA. However, the Board Offer does not include requested improvements to the dental benefit, even under this condition.
  • ULFA proposes that Term Members and Sessional Lecturers should continue to be covered by the Employee and Family Assistance Program, a step that was implemented on a temporary basis during the pandemic. The Board has not agreed to this.
  • ULFA proposes that Emergency Travel Benefits should be extended to Members over the age of 75. The Board Team’s expressed position is that when such Members require health insurance for work-related trips outside the country, they should arrange it at their own expense and be reimbursed from their professional supplements.
  • ULFA proposes that Sessional Lecturers, Term Members, and Members on a Reduced Load of less than 50% should have access to Professional Supplements. The Board has not agreed.
  • ULFA proposes that in cases where a couple are both Members, tuition benefits should be additive. The Board has not agreed.

In its settlement offer, ULFA withdrew its proposal that childcare costs during work-related events outside of Lethbridge should be covered by the Board.

Article 5: Recognition

The main differences between the ULFA and Board Offers of Settlement with respect to Article 5 are:

  • ULFA proposes the creation of a guaranteed non-voting position on the Budget Advisory Committee for an ULFA Member representative. The Board has not agreed.
  • ULFA proposes that ULFA representation on University committees may not be reduced without the consent of ULFA. The Board has not agreed.

The ULFA Negotiating Team believes that these are fairly minimal attempts to address the mandate item of improving collegial governance at the University. ULFA Members have repeatedly been asked to accept salary offers that do not keep up with inflation, and to face higher workloads as Members leave and are not replaced under the pressure of government funding cuts. Direct representation in, and information about, decision-making processes around finances seems a reasonable request in response. ULFA has withdrawn significant portions of its original position, which included: 

  • two voting representatives on the Budget Advisory Committee and representation on any other budget-related committee; 
  • one representative to any appointment or review/reappointment committee for a senior academic administrator; and 
  • the formation of a committee of Members who would advise the Provost on academic staffing priorities.

Points that both sides have agreed to change in their respective Offers of Settlement include:

  • Adding explicit language stating that the Collective Agreement takes precedence over any University policy or procedure. The precise language is not agreed upon.
  • ULFA may participate in HR orientation sessions for new Members.
  • Rewording the language of “course releases” granted for ULFA service, to reassignments of teaching duties, normally in increments of 10% of FTE duties. This was a Board proposal.
  • An increase by one to the course releases granted to ULFA by the Board in a regular year, or by two in a bargaining year.
  • Doubling the number of course releases that ULFA is permitted to purchase in support of ULFA service.

The Board’s Offer of Settlement withdrew its proposal to charge rent to ULFA. No other union on campus pays rent, and the union at the University of Alberta is the only Faculty Association in Alberta to do so. 

In its settlement offer, ULFA withdrew a proposal to prevent the Board from contracting out work that is normally done by ULFA Members. 

Article 6: Communication and Information

The main differences between the ULFA and Board Offers of Settlement with respect to Article 6 are:

  • ULFA currently receives lists of new Members only twice per year. This means that there are sometimes significant delays before new Members begin to receive information from ULFA. ULFA is asking to receive lists of new Members three times per year rather than twice. This is a significant reduction from ULFA’s original proposal that this information be provided monthly. The Board has not agreed.
  • ULFA currently receives information about inactive Members (senior academic administrators) only once per year. Often it is left to a new Associate Dean to inform ULFA themselves that they should no longer be receiving certain union communications. ULFA initially proposed that this information be provided monthly, but is now asking to receive it three times per year. The Board has not agreed.
  • ULFA is also asking to receive detailed information about Members three times per year, rather than annually. With annual lists, the aggregate comparative data that ULFA is able to provide to Members is often significantly out of date. Again, this is a reduction from ULFA’s original proposal that this information be provided monthly. The Board has not agreed.
  • ULFA would like the data that is being provided about the number of credit hours taught at each level to be broken down according to whether Members are in temporary (Term) or permanent (or probationary) positions, not only by job title. The Board has not agreed.
  • Article 13.03 mandates that Deans create policies and procedures that endeavour to ensure that the total amount of work undertaken by each Member is both reasonable and roughly equivalent. ULFA is asking to receive explanations of how these policies and procedures are intended to actually achieve these goals, and of how their application supports these goals. The Board has only offered to provide any written guidelines that may accompany the policies and procedures. This is the main workload-related improvement that ULFA has sought in this round of negotiations. A better understanding of the mechanisms that are currently in place to ensure fairness of workloads is required before a well-thought-out proposal around workload can be crafted for future negotiations.

Points that both sides have agreed to change in the Offers of Settlement include:

  • The Board has conceded that ULFA will be permitted to use information provided by the Board in ways that are required by legislation.
  • The Board will include ULFA contact information in letters of offer.
  • The Board will include Member email addresses, as well as any information they collect about any equity/diversity/inclusion categories with which the Member has self-identified, in the information provided to ULFA.
  • The Board will provide ULFA with all policies and procedures relating to workload equity under Article 13.03 (see above). They have also recommitted to taking Article 13.03 seriously (as this is existing language, it cannot be considered a “gain”).

MOU on Navitas

The Board has offered a Memorandum of Understanding entitled “Agreement on Academic Instruction Involving Partnerships with Organisations Involved in Student Recruitment”. Discussions within the University community have indicated that the Board has the firm intention of pursuing a partnership with Navitas. The Board has indicated that it is their intention to come to an agreement with ULFA to ensure that anyone hired to teach courses through this partnership will be a Member of ULFA, and therefore protected by academic freedom and other clauses in our Collective Agreement. They have suggested that this could take a form similar to the agreement that Navitas has with Wilfrid Laurier University. To codify their intention, they have offered this MOU.

ULFA is concerned for the individuals who may be teaching courses through such an agreement. ULFA is also concerned for the academic integrity of courses that may be offered if instructors are not protected by a union with academic freedom clauses in its Collective Agreement. Many ULFA Members have deep concerns about any possible agreement with Navitas, including the ethics of exploiting international students.

Recognising that ULFA has no direct role in Board decision making involving a student recruitment partnership, the ULFA Negotiating Team endeavoured to come to an agreement with the Board that would address some of ULFA’s concerns about any such partnership. The Board agreed to include clauses protecting Members’ rights to oppose any such agreement and ULFA’s right to provide support to any such efforts. Despite these clauses, Members who had studied Navitas on behalf of ULFA expressed grave concerns that the proposed MOU might undermine Member efforts to oppose Navitas. The Board also insisted on explicitly including a clause asserting their right to proceed with an agreement if they are unable to reach an agreement with ULFA regarding Navitas. While the ULFA Team recognises the Board’s ultimate rights, this explicit language undermined our trust in the process, and combined with the other concerns of Members, resulted in the ULFA Team removing the Board’s Navitas MOU from ULFA’s Offer of Settlement.

Schedule BB: Academic Benefits Management Committee

ULFA Members are constantly seeking improvements to benefits. Most of the details of the benefits that Members receive are not listed explicitly in the Collective Agreement, and can be changed unilaterally without the consent of Members. Since the Board contributes a specified amount toward each Member’s benefits premium, there is also no incentive for either the Board or the staff responsible for managing the benefit plans to ensure that Members are receiving optimal value for the money that is paid out for benefits.

To address these issues and as another effort to work on the collegial governance aspect of the bargaining mandate, ULFA proposed the formation of a joint committee to manage benefits for academic staff. The language ULFA proposed was based on language from the University of Alberta’s academic staff Collective Agreement. The Board has rejected this proposal without proposing any alternative.

For ULFA members, please reach out to ULFA if you have questions or comments, and watch your inboxes for further communication and information.

A post discussing mediation and the discussions of the January 18th and 21st town halls is provided here.

A post providing further detail on what has led to the current impasse is provided here.

More details on the work of the Job Action Committee can be found here.

You can follow the status of all Articles opened during this round of negotiations here.