In a letter dated March 6, 2018, the Board of Governors of the University of Lethbridge issued ULFA with a Notice to Bargain the Faculty Handbook. This notice depends on a disputed interpretation of the Labour Relations Code that was the subject of a recent hearing before the Alberta Labour Relations Board. The two sides are currently awaiting a ruling by the Labour Board.
Opens nearly all sections of the Faculty Handbook
In their letter, the Board proposes negotiating most sections of the Faculty Agreement:
- Article 1 Interpretation
- Article 2 Definitions
- Article 3 Amendments
- Article 4 Application and Exclusions
- Article 5 Recognition
- Article 6 Communication and Information
- Article 7 Annual Meeting
- Article 8 Delegation
- Article 11 Rights and Responsibilities
- Article 13 Assignment of Duties
- Article 15 Appointment of Instructors
- Article 16 Termination of Appointment
- Article 17 Personnel Committees
- Article 18 Appointment of Faculty Members
- Article 22 Grievance Procedure
- Article 23 Mediation
- Article 25 Supervision and Discipline
- Article 26 Termination of Appointment for Financial Emergency or Due to Program Redundancy
- Schedule C Negotiation and Impasse–Resolving Procedures
- Schedule H Code of Conduct of Board of Governors Faculty Representatives
As we noted in response to the Board’s notice regarding the “Sessional Lecturers Handbook” this is an unusually broad list of articles, which has the potential to fundamentally affect the conditions under which members of the Academic Staff are employed.
In a blog post commenting on our case at the ALRB, labour expert Bob Barnetson described the Board’s letter on the Sessionals Handbook as being unusually “aggressive.”
It is also the case, however, that the changes introduced by Bill 7 may require technical changes to language throughout the Handbook and both sides were expecting that it might be necessary to open a wider number of articles than would normally be the case. The precise nature of the Board’s proposed changes will become clear after the two sides meet to exchange language, sometime after the ALRB rules on our case.
Not a Notice to Bargain
As mentioned in our post on the Board’s notice to bargain the “Sessional Lecturers Handbook,” ULFA does not consider letters that refer to only one part of the Bargaining Unit or Collective Agreement to represent valid notices to bargain. ULFA had, however, already issued a bargaining notice of its own covering the entire collective agreement on Monday, March 5.
Time will tell
As we discussed previously, it is important to remember that all negotiating documents from either side, including the University’s letters of March 6 and January 22nd, are presented “without prejudice” until a final agreement is reached. This means that while the University may have proposed opening a large number of topics, that is no guarantee that all these topics will be discussed or that an agreement will be reached on all articles mentioned. It is very common for negotiating teams to alter or withdraw proposals and items for discussion in the course of bargaining. As a rule, moreover, it is easier to withdraw than add items for negotiations. This encourages teams to overestimate what they will discuss, rather than underestimate.
The ULFA negotiating team has trained for various approaches to bargaining, including comprehensive bargaining across the collective agreement. It is fully prepared to begin negotiations on the entire collective agreement either immediately or after the ALRB has ruled on our application for a ruling.