On March 9, members of the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) executive, staff, and negotiating team attended the first Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations (CAFA) labour conference. The one day event took place in Calgary. It was preceded the evening before by a meeting of the CAFA executive with the presidents and staff of the the constituent organisations.
The speakers included a mix of Alberta Faculty Association representatives, representatives from the Alberta Labour Relations Board, labour lawyers, and representatives from other public-sector unions and labour organisations and Faculty Associations in other provinces. Participating Faculty Associations include those from the Athabasca University, the Universities of Alberta, Calgary, and Lethbridge, Grant McEwan and Mount Royal Universities, NAIT and SAIT, Lethbridge College, and many others.
The sessions covered a mix of important issues for the newly designated Faculty Association Unions:
- Summary of current legislative changes that will impact bargaining in PSE: Bill 7, Essential Services, OH&S and the role of the Labour Board;
- ‘Government in the Room’ during Bargaining;
- Essential Services for PSE;
- Preparation for Strike & Lockout Landscape: Protocols, War Chests, Mil Rates;
- Unionizing Post-Secondary: What you need to know;
- Mobilization and communication during bargaining;
- Duty of Fair Representation.
Among the many interesting presentations, Michael Shaw of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) discussed his experiences managing the logistics of their 2016 strike. UMFA has had the right to strike for over three decades. In that time, they have struck twice (once in 1995 and again in 2016). His account of their preparations stressed the degree to which job action requires great solidarity on the part of Association members… and lots of pylons.
The conference was proposed and organised in part by ULFA Executive Director Annabree Fairweather and ULFA executive and negotiating team members spoke on a number of different topics:
- Executive Director Annabree Fairweather (the new legal environment);
- Economic Benefits Chair/Negotiating team member Paul Hayes (the history and rationale behind ULFA’s 2015-2016 job action fund discussions and vote);
- Handbooks Chair/Negotiating team member Daniel Paul O’Donnell (communicating with members);
- Negotiating team resource person Terry Sway (Duty of Fair Representation).
In addition, Faculty of Management professor Kelly Williams-Whitt spoke on the interaction among different pieces of legislation since the passing of Bill 7 last year, including Essential Services and Occupational Health and Safety.
The conference was the latest in a series of events held by Alberta Faculty Associations to prepare for the upcoming round of negotiations.