Lethbridge Post-Secondary Joint Public Town Hall on Alberta Budget 21

March 30th, 7pm on Zoom

Students, faculty and staff have all been negatively impacted by budget cuts to our post-secondary institutions, but the impact also extends into the local Lethbridge economy. Join labour and student groups from Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge for a Joint Town Hall on Alberta Budget 21 and hear how it is impacting students, staff, faculty and the wider community.

Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge create hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity each year for our city through well paying jobs, providing an affordable education for the citizens of Lethbridge and surrounding area, and attracting students from elsewhere, who then patronize our businesses.. 

Unfortunately, deep budget cuts year-after-year are eroding these two pillars of our community. The impact can be felt in reduced learning opportunities and less money in the local economy. With increased tuition, student spending power is reduced, or eliminated as students choose to study elsewhere. As staff and faculty face layoffs and salary rollbacks, their spending power in the local economy is reduced, which results in fewer dollars spent, hurting local businesses. Further, less investment in our institutions means fewer opportunities for tradespeople and other contractors in our community that benefit from these investments. 

The working and learning conditions at both institutions are inseparable. The scale of these recent cuts have led to collaboration between all student and labour groups on both campuses with an eye to how we can support our community by supporting our college and university. Join student, staff and faculty representatives from Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge and hear about the impacts of these cuts, and what is being done to preserve the high quality post-secondary education Lethbridge and Southern Alberta deserves.

Please invite people you know from our community including friends, family, and political, religious, educational and business leaders.

This Town Hall is co-hosted by student and labour groups from both the college and university, and include: Alberta Union of Provincial Employees Local 053, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees Local 071, Lethbridge College Faculty Association, Lethbridge College Students’ Association, Lethbridge Public Interest Research Group, University of Lethbridge Faculty Association, University of Lethbridge Graduate Association, University of Lethbridge Graduate Students’ Association, University of Lethbridge Students’ Union.

March 30th, 7pm on Zoom

Media inquiries can be directed through Aaron 

Please register in advance:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_PQI64Ku8RYSDc8gnDXKfmg

Bargaining update: March 22, 2021

On March 22, ULFA and the Board held their fourth bargaining session since the January 18th exchange of full proposals. The meeting opened with a discussion on the feasibility of scheduling meeting times more frequently than once every two weeks. The Board team suggested lengthening the two scheduled April meetings as a short-term substitute for more frequent meetings, given that significant portions of the packages exchanged in January have yet to be formally presented. The ULFA team agreed to extend the April 8 and 22 bargaining meetings to five hours each, and the Board team indicated weekly meetings would be possible for them beginning in May. The teams also discussed the desirability of continuing to bargain over the summer, and agreed to follow up around questions of summer availability. 

The Board team presented proposals on Schedule E (Professional Activities Report) and Article 13 (Duties of Members), both of which have gone back and forth already. There remain differences to resolve regarding Schedule E. A significant gap exists between the two sides’ perspectives on aspects of Article 13: for example, the Board asserted management rights as a reason for not accepting ULFA’s proposal to contain workload by defining an average work week as 37.5 hours. The Board did agree with ULFA’s position that the existing language on PARs does not belong in Article 13, although the parties have yet to agree on where it will end up.

The last item presented by the Board team was their “Proposal #15” on “limited term and sessional appointments.”  “Proposal #15” involves opening a number of Articles in order to make changes: 

  • 2 (Definitions) 
  • 14 (Professional Librarians)
  • 15 (Instructors/Academic Assistants)
  • 16 (Termination)
  • 18 (Appointments)
  • 34 (Sessional Lecturers) and 
  • Schedule A (Salary Schedules/Stipends).

Proposal #15 would move all provisions for term appointments into Article 34 (Sessional Lecturers) and would treat term employees like Sessional Lecturers for most purposes. This would include introducing a limited Right of First Refusal for term appointees while removing any limitations on how many times they could be employed on a casual basis. Suggested changes to Schedule A.01.4 would reduce the minimum stipend for Sessional Lecturer I and  II and introduce a new Sessional Lecturer III category with a minimum course stipend at the current Sessional Lecturer II stipend. The new Sessional Lecturer III rank would apply to Sessional Lecturers who have taught sufficiently frequently and have previously been appointed at the rank of Sessional Lecturer II.

The ULFA team presented the proposed deletion of four Schedules, which it suggested are no longer needed: C (Grandfathering for Probationary Appointments MOU), F (Academic Career Implementation), I (Implementation of Academic Assistants/Instructor Language), and K (Student Evaluations of Teaching MOU). The ULFA team also proposed a minor wording change in Schedule J (regarding when Members must declare uses of University facilities as a possible conflict of interest or commitment).

The ULFA team made initial presentations on their proposals for Articles 4 (Applications and Exclusions) and 6 (Communication and Information). The Article 4 proposal consists of a single change to omit current language specifying how ULFA should allocate its Association dues. The Board was receptive to this change. ULFA’s Article 6 proposal, which seeks additional, timely information on its membership, led to some very productive interest-based discussion on possible ways to meet ULFA’s information needs within the Board’s staffing and system capacities. 

ULFA’s final presentation in this meeting was a response to the Board’s Article 5 proposal. By including language adapted from the U of A collective agreement, ULFA’s response addresses the Board’s desire to affirm management rights. This offer is contingent on the parties finding a mutually agreeable  way (such as ULFA’s Article 13 proposal to limit the work week) to contain the amount of work expected of members. ULFA’s Article 5 response also proposes language prohibiting the Board from contracting out work (teaching, research, performance as a Professional Librarian, etc.) commonly performed by members of the academic staff. The proposal gives ULFA the right to participate in new Member orientations and increases existing course release provisions. The proposal also contains a new collegial governance section which provides ULFA representation in some University decision-making processes such as budgeting and determining hiring priorities.

The two sides agreed to the deletion of Schedules C and K. The Board team indicated it will take a closer look at the proposals to delete Schedule F and I. 

Both sides agreed to end the meeting a bit early so team members could participate in the GFC Committee of the Whole meeting. As a consequence, ULFA did not present its response to the Board’s Article 11 (Rights and Responsibilities) proposal or its Article 32 proposal as originally planned. For the next meeting on April 8, ULFA tentatively offered to respond to the Board’s “Proposal #15” (described above) with ULFA’s proposals for Articles XX (Evaluation) and the numerous Articles and Schedules most implicated by Article XX. The extension to a 5-hour meeting makes presenting this collection of Articles feasible, and will enable ULFA to explain the interconnections. Both parties agreed to exchange a list of items that will be presented at the next meeting on April 8 via email correspondence.

You can track the progress of exchanged bargaining proposals in this spreadsheet.

Bargaining update: March 8, 2021

Another productive meeting of the ULFA and Board negotiating teams took place on March 8. The Board team began with an update on the status of the ULFA team’s request for costing information on desired improvements to certain Schedule B benefits. They noted the costing requests have been handed off to the benefits carriers with an expected turn-around time of 4 to 6 weeks. 

The ULFA team responded to the Board team’s latest proposals on Schedule E (professional activities report) and Article 13 (assignment of duties). While there is considerable distance between the parties’ respective positions on Article 13, progress was made toward a shared understanding of workable improvements to Schedule E. The ULFA team also presented its Article 28 (intellectual property) proposal, which has four main goals: organizational clean-up for easier readability, updating and standardizing language in the copyright section to align with the federal statute; specifying a process for staffing the IP committee; and improving provisions of the patent section to promote innovation, the commercialization of inventions, and the University’s ability to realize ancillary benefits from joint ventures between researchers and industry.

The Board team presented a response to ULFA’s Article YY (EDI) proposal that included a suggestion to rename the Joint Equity Committee (JEC) as the Joint Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee. The Board team also presented proposals to clarify management rights in Articles 1, 5 and 11. You may recall that at the previous meeting on February 22, the Board team presented proposed changes to Article 11 dealing specifically with how service should be included among members’ responsibilities and in evaluation criteria. All of the Board team’s proposed changes to Article 11 have now been presented.

As the March 8 meeting was somewhat shorter than usual due to scheduling conflicts, the parties agreed to identify items for discussion via email in advance of the next meeting, which is scheduled for March 22. The Board team requested a presentation by ULFA on its Article 15 proposal in the near future. This will enable the Board team to continue working on a response to the ULFA team’s proposal to clarify the procedures for probation, tenure/continuing appointment, and promotion, so that the language covers all job categories explicitly (Articles 19, 20, and ZZ). These were presented to the Board team on February 8 and 22. ULFA’s proposal for Article 15 also includes the establishment of a Teaching Professoriate, which the sides discussed in broad terms on February 8. The Board team has expressed interest in considering the idea of a Teaching professoriate in some form, although the visions of this held by the two sides are initially far apart. 

You can track the progress of exchanged bargaining proposals in this spreadsheet. Although progress is being made in getting all of the issues in these negotiations onto the table for at least an initial discussion, negotiations are still in the very early stages and there is a long way to go before we will be approaching anything like agreement on any of the major issues at stake.

Job Action 101

 

This is the first in a series of “Job Action 101” posts, the aim of which is to demystify some of the fundamental aspects of job action and address common questions about how Members can effectively prepare.​​ 

 

Part 1: What to Expect in the Event of a Strike or Lockout​​ 

​​ 

As negotiations between ULFA and the U​​ of​​ L​​ Board of Governors​​ (the Board) continue, the ULFA​​ Job Action Committee​​ (JAC) is hard at work preparing in case of job action (i.e. lockout or strike). Collective bargaining remains the primary and preferred method to achieve a balanced, fair, and mutually beneficial agreement for all parties. However, in the event of strong and irreconcilable disagreement between ULFA and the Board, implementation of unified strike action of the ULFA Membership represents a vital and sometimes necessary mechanism to gain traction on key issues affecting the Membership, students and in effect, the entire University Community. ​​ 

​​ 

This is the first in a series of “Job Action 101” posts, the aim of which is to demystify some of the fundamental aspects of job action and address common questions about how Members can effectively prepare.​​ 

​​ 

​​ 

What is Job Action?​​ 

​​ 

Get the facts on the Lockout of Honeywell workers | UAW

“Job action” is a powerful tool used by an employer and/or an employee union in order to resolve otherwise insoluble disagreements between the parties during collective bargaining. In effect, job action can take the form of:​​ 

​​ 

  • Lockout​​ - when the employer locks out employees

 

  • Strike​​ - when the union withdraws labour from the employer.​​ 

​​ 

 

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Lockouts and strikes are governed by the terms of the​​ Alberta Labour Relations Code.​​ For example, a strike cannot occur until an application for a​​ strike vote​​ has been made the​​ Alberta Labour Relations Board. If the ALRB allows the application, then there also must be a positive​​ strike vote​​ by union (ULFA) members.​​ NOTE:​​ a majority strike vote does not mean that a​​ union will go on strike,​​ only that the members have empowered the Executive to do so if a compromise with the employer cannot be achieved. ​​ The decision to vote in favour of a strike is a very significant decision and it is important that your vote reflects your true views. However, it is very commonly the case that a credible threat of a strike is enough to bring the two sides back to meaningful negotiations. In the post-secondary sector there are several times more strike votes than actual strikes.​​ 

​​ 

​​ ​​ 

What is expected of me during a strike?​​ 

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During a strike, we withdraw our labour and participate in job action duties (such as participating in​​ pickets, volunteering in the headquarters, coordinating volunteers and resources, etc.). Labour includes, but is not limited to, the following:​​ 

 

​​ 

  • Teaching, supervising, and advising students​​ 

  • Sending/receiving employment-related email, including to students​​ 

  • Library work, including collections, copyright, teaching, and research assistance​​ 

  • Service to the university and/or university-related community work

  • Administrative duties​​ 

​​ 

http://www.perfectworldproductions.com/campaign/portfolio/work-to-rule.jpg

There are alternative ways to engage in a strike, including “work-to-rule”, refusing to work overtime, rotating short periods of labour withdrawal, etc. Depending on the circumstances, these options may be considered in advance of a full labour withdrawal.​​ 

​​ 

All academic staff have the right to participate in job action (strike), unless you are required to remain at work by the terms of the​​ Essential Services Agreement (ESA).​​ ​​ Upon the passing of a vote to strike, the ULFA Job Action Committee will organize with members to form picket and other information campaigns with individual duties assigned to members by the ULFA Job Action Committee to support the cause.​​ 

​​ 

A strike only starts on the date and time and at the location set out in the Strike Notice given by ULFA to the Employer. It is unlawful for members to begin strike activity in advance.​​ 

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What is our current situation regarding negotiations and a possible strike vote?​​ 

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​​ The progression towards a possible strike is outlined in the following table, which is based on​​ the​​ Canadian Association of University Teachers’ (CAUT)​​ job action preparedness model. Under this framework we are currently between Levels 3 and 4 as our current agreement is now past due, and there remain a number of key issues that are still under negotiation. The possibility of a strike vote is still low but the ULFA Executive will continue to provide updates to the Membership regarding negotiation progression.​​ 

 

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Level 1​​ ​​ 

Preparing for​​ 

Bargaining​​ 

​​ 

​​ 

There is a current agreement in force​​ 

Next round of negotiations has not begun​​ 

​​ Members should communicate issues to the Bargaining Resource Committee​​ 

BRCchair@ulfa.ca ​​ ​​​​ 

Level 2​​ ​​ 

Exchanging​​ 

Interest​​ 

​​ 

ULFA & the BoG have exchanged letters of interest to engage in bargaining​​ 

Level 3​​ ​​ 

Negotiating​​ 

​​ 

A new agreement is being actively negotiated between​​ 

the two parties​​ 

​​ Members should direct any unanswered questions/concerns to the ULFA Executive Officer eo@ulfa.ca​​ 

Level 4​​ ​​ 

Approaching Deadline​​ 

​​ 

​​ 

​​ 

​​ 

A new agreement has not been reached ​​ 

The current agreement is expiring​​ 

No end date to negotiations in sight​​ 

Likelihood of job action is still low​​ 

​​ Members should ensure they attend any opportunities to learn about the state of negotiations​​ 

​​ 

Level 5​​ 

​​ 

Negotiations fail​​ 

​​ Be informed of legal framework for bargaining &​​ 

 

​​ 

One party applies for the appointment of a mediator, who is assigned for 14 day period to find a common ground​​ 

 

job action (e.g.​​ Post secondary Learning Act,​​ AB​​ Labour Relations Code​​ etc.)​​ 

Level 6​​ ​​ 

Alerting​​ 

Members​​ 

​​ 

​​ ​​ 

​​ 

Mediation fails​​ 

14 day off cooling off period​​ 

ULFA applies to the Labour Relations Board to hold a strike vote and conduct a supervised Member vote.​​ 

Possibility of job action is high ​​ 

​​ 

​​ 

Members may communicate feedback to the Negotiating Team when requested ​​ Continue to communicate any bargaining questions/concerns​​ 

to ULFA​​ 

Level 7​​ 

​​ 

​​ 

​​ 

A positive strike vote has occurred​​ 

Union must wait 3 days but not more than a maximum of 120 day before declaring a strike. During this interval, the union can legally go on strike (but is not required to)​​ 

 

​​ Members may not picket until after a 72 hr notice to strike has been served.​​ 

Level 8​​ ​​ 

Strike​​ ​​ 

​​ 

Union declares a strike by serving 72 hours strike notice on the employer of the date, time and location of the start of the strike.” The strike/lockout continues until a collective agreement is reached.​​ 

​​ 

​​ 

  • The strike/lockout continues until a collective agreement is reached.​​ ​​ 

  • Members are expected to​​ 

follow the direction of the Executive.​​ 

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Bargaining update: February 22, 2021

The ULFA and Board negotiating teams held a second meeting focused on language and economic benefits on February 22. Discussions continued to be cordial and productive as we considered several proposals from each side.

As agreed at the February 8 meeting, ULFA led off by presenting its Article “YY” proposal. This proposal embeds Schedule R (diversity, equity and inclusion) as a full-fledged article in the CA, clarifies the role of the Joint Equity Committee, and strengthens accommodation provisions. ULFA also presented proposals on Schedule B (economic benefits), a new Article “BB” which proposes to create a joint ULFA-Board committee to co-manage the ULFA benefits plan, and Article 19 (probation and continuing appointment/tenure).

The Board team presented a response to ULFA’s Schedule E proposal (professional activities report). They also presented proposals for language modifications to parts of the following five articles, focusing on the role of service in Members’ responsibilities and career progression, but leaving other aspects to a later date: Article 11 (rights and responsibilities), Article 12 (STP criteria for faculty), Article 13 (assignment of duties), Article 14 (professional librarians), and Article 15 (instructors and academic assistants). Because there are other changes in the Board’s initial proposals for these articles that have not yet been explained, ULFA expects to hold off on responding to an article until all of the Board’s proposals for such article have been discussed.

For the next meeting on March 8th, the parties tentatively agreed to prepare the following:

  • ULFA team: responses to the Board’s Article 3 and Schedule E proposals and a presentation on ULFA’s Article 28 proposal. ULFA will also begin work on a response to the Board’s Article 13 proposal.
  • Board team: responses to ULFA’s Article YY and Article 19 proposals, begin the process of gathering data requested in ULFA’s Schedule B proposal (unlikely to be ready for the next meeting), and possibly a response to ULFA’s proposal on a new teaching professoriate. 

Just a reminder that you can track the progress of exchanged bargaining proposals in this spreadsheet.

Negotiating update: February 8, 2021

Representatives of the Board and ULFA met on February 8 for the first discussion of language in the current round of negotiations. 

As mentioned in the last blog, the ULFA side prepared: 

  • Article “YY” (a proposal to create a new article on Equity and Diversity based on the current Schedule R);
  • Schedule E (a proposal to generalize and update the PAR report form);
  • Article 20/Article “ZZ” (a proposal to simplify and generalize STP processes); and 
  • Article 28 (a proposal to update IP provisions of the handbook).

For their part, the Board team indicated that they would present on: 

  • Article 3 (procedures for updating the Collective Agreement), 
  • Criteria for performance evaluation and associated review processes; and 
  • Teaching Professoriate

In the event, the two sides discussed

  • the Board’s proposals for Article 3, 
  • ULFA’s proposals for Schedule E and Article 20/ZZ, and 
  • an ULFA proposal for the Teaching Professoriate (since the Board did not prepare language on this topic and ULFA had in our package, it was decided that it would be better for ULFA to present first). 

The two sides agreed to begin the next meeting with ULFA’s proposal on Article “YY” (EDI). As in the last round, you can follow the status of all articles under negotiation this year on this spreadsheet.

Although it is more than 6 months since the end of our Collective Agreement, this was the first time the two sides discussed language in any detailed way. 

The two sides remain far apart, although the discussion was constructive and there are some early signs in these few articles of opportunities for fruitful conversation. The Board side indicated that their mandate will once again not allow for any increase in costs, while the ULFA side indicated that its mandate requires it to address the erosion in salaries and benefits that has occurred in the years since U of L academic staff (uniquely in the province) last conceded to salary rollbacks in 2013 . 

Since mandates are starting points and negotiations are how we reconcile contrasting visions, it should be clear that neither side is going to get their complete mandate. But the session was a reminder of how far apart these starting positions are.

The next meeting is scheduled to take place on February 22, with the two sides intending to meet biweekly for the foreseeable future.