On Monday January 22nd, the Board of Governors of the University of Lethbridge issued a “Notice to Bargain” for the “Sessional Lecturers’ Handbook” (SLHB) to the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA).
This letter is based on a disputed interpretation of the Post Secondary Learning Act (PSLA) and Labour Relations Code. The University’s interpretation of the Act and Code is the subject of an application for resolution by ULFA to the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB). You can read more about this case and the background to our dispute here, here, here, here, and here. The filings in this case are also public documents. The ALRB scheduled a case-management call on this case for February 1, has a second call tentatively scheduled for Feburary 6, and hearings planned for February 12 and, if necessary, February 13.
Board proposes opening nearly all terms and conditions for negotiations.
In inviting ULFA to begin negotiating the sessionals’ portion of its collective agreement, the University indicates that it intends to open nearly all articles in the SLHB for negotiation–except those having to do with compensation, statutory holidays, personnel files, medical leave, and some schedules. These are
- Article 1 Interpretation
- Article 2 Definitions
- Article 3 Amendments
- Article 4 Application and Exclusions
- Article 5 Recognition
- Article 6 Communication and Information
- Article 7 Delegation
- Article 9 Appointments
- Article 10 Rights and Responsibilities
- Article 11 Performance evaluation
- Article 12 Termination of Appointment
- Article 14 Grievance Procedure
- Article 15 Discipline
- Article 18 Copyright and Patents
- Article 19 Annual Meeting
- Schedule C Negotiation and Impasse
This is an unusually broad set of topics that involve issues ranging from core questions of academic freedom and professional identity to potentially less substantive issues like the definition of terms and processes for discussing issues of mutual interest.
Negotiations on such a broad list of topics has the potential to significantly alter the conditions under which members of the Academic Staff are employed as well as their rights and responsibilities. Since so many of these articles overlap with equivalent (in some cases identical) language in the “Faculty Handbook,” this list is also of interest to members of the professoriate, Librarians, Instructors, and Academic Assistants.
Not a Notice to Bargain
In keeping with our position before the ALRB, ULFA does not consider the Employer’s invitation from January 22 to be a valid Notice. In ULFA’s view, a valid notice must involve the entire Bargaining Unit (in this case, the Sessional Lecturers and Faculty Members, Librarians, and Instructors). In addition, it must refer to the entire collective agreement, again in this case, the Faculty Handbook as well as the SLHB. In a letter to the Employer, ULFA made this position clear. It also indicated that it intends to issue its own Notice to Bargain for the entire Bargaining Unit and Collective Agreement soon after the ALRB hearing in two weeks.
Time will tell
It is important to remember that all negotiating documents from either side, including the University’s letter of January 22nd, are presented “without prejudice” until a final agreement is reached. This means that while the University may have proposed opening all of these 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 that represented by the University’s letter of January 22nd. It is fully prepared to begin negotiations once the ALRB has ruled on our application regarding the number of collective agreements the parties are to discuss.
This post is intended to update the membership of ULFA about the current state of negotiations between the Union and the University. The information it contains is provided without prejudice and is intended for a general, non-specialist audience. While every effort has been made to ensure that the information this post contains is accurate, it does not represent an official legal or negotiating position. In the event of a disagreement between this post and an official notice or document, the official document is correct.