The Job Action Committee, newly established under ULFA’s Job Action Policy, held its first meeting on Monday, October 1. This Committee includes Dr. Kristine Alexander, Ms Andrea Amelinckx, Dr. Robert Kossuth, and resource persons Derrick Antson and Annabree Fairweather.
The Job Action Committee is responsible for planning logistics and other processes and rules in the unlikely event of a lockout or strike. The likelihood of job action is very small and cannot take place until after a series of prescribed steps have been followed as set out in the Alberta Labour Relations Code. The Committee is tasked, however, with preparing for such an eventuality, and with ensuring that the ULFA membership has the tools and information in hand that it would require in such an event.
The committee discussed ULFA’s Job Action Policy, questions that are likely to arise through this work, and the logistics that might need to be prepared.
Does having a Job Action Committee mean we are going to have job action?
No. The likelihood of job action is very small and cannot take place until after a series of prescribed steps have been followed as set out in the Alberta Labour Relations Code. One such requirement is that ULFA and the Board of Governors must have an Essential Services Agreement in place prior to any job action and while the negotiating teams have met, there is no such agreement in place at this time. Additionally, the ULFA collective bargaining team has regularly reported on the positive progress to date of bargaining on the Faculty and Sessional Lecturer Handbooks.
What is “job action” and why does it need a committee?
Job Action means a work stoppage caused by a lockout (by an employer) or a strike (by employees). The committee is created under ULFA’s Job Action Policy and its primary responsibility is to make logistical preparations that would be used in the event of job action. This committee is intended to work in tandem with the collective bargaining team and the Essential Services Agreement (ESA) bargaining team so that in the event of job action, ULFA members will be prepared and ready in advance of a lockout or a strike. Members can follow regular updates on bargaining at ulfa.ca/bargaining.
If there’s no job action, then what does this committee do?
The Job Action Committee is needed up until the point that a new collective agreement is ratified. There’s a lot of work to do behind-the-scenes to prepare in the unlikely event of f job action. We have made some preparations already toward the new reality under which job action has become the final resort, by joining the CAUT Defence Fund and implementing a local preparedness fund. At this early stage we are focused on assessing the logistics of job action and building educational outreach with the membership about what’s involved.
ULFA members hold the ultimate authority to mandate a strike and we know that our members are well-informed and thoughtful about collective bargaining.
We need to prepare more carefully for the possibility of a lockout initiated by the Board of Governors because that situation can occur under timelines and circumstances that are not fully within our control. The best way to protect against a lockout is to be prepared and this committee is tasked with doing the preparation.
How can I get involved?
The Job Action Policy has many parts that need to be fleshed out and the Committee is in the incipient stages of organizing itself and making plans. There’s room for help and your participation would be welcome. Currently, there is room for people to get involved who have experience from ULFA’s standing committees (the Executive, Handbooks and Economic Benefits Committees, and Gender, Equity and Diversity Committee). Even if you don’t have any experience with ULFA, this is a great committee to be a part of and could use a diversity of representation across faculties, ranks, and campuses.
I have more questions!
We have put together a list of job action frequently asked questions that might help answer some of your questions. We are exploring opportunities for a town hall to discuss some of these issues and will keep you informed about developments from our meetings.
You are also welcome to contact the Job Action Committee members:
Representatives of the ULFA and Administration bargaining teams met briefly on September 24 to plan future negotiations.
The meeting was cordial and constructive and both sides emerged with a stronger sense of the current state of the various articles still under discussion. There remains much work to do, in part due to the large number of articles under discussion and the fact that we are now beginning to deal with articles where the two sides have more divergent approaches.
Next negotiations are scheduled for October 22. Given the current pace, the two sides agreed to schedule meeting dates for December.
The Alberta Labour Relations Board ruled in ULFA’s favour on Friday in the first stage of an Unfair Labour Practice complaint against the University of Lethbridge’s Board of Governors (You can read more about the key issues at stake and the history of this complaint by following the links from this post). This ruling allows the process to continue to a hearing on the substantive issues raised in ULFA’s original complaint.
The core issue in this complaint involves the continuation of terms and conditions beyond the expiration of the collective agreement on June 30, which is known as “bridging” under the provisions of the Labour Relations Code (Section 130), and the changing of terms and conditions of employment after notice to bargain has been given, which is known as a “statutory freeze” (Section 147). Specifically, ULFA argues that both sections apply to the continued payment of benefits such as COLA as it is written in the current Collective Agreement and that the failure to do so represents an unfair labour practice.
The Governors argued that the question of whether COLA should be subject to bridging was a question of how of the current Handbook(s) should be interpreted, rather than a disagreement over the application of the Code. As a result, they argued, the question was more appropriately dealt with under the Interpretation processes described in Article 1 of the current Handbook. Under Article 1, the question would be referred for resolution to a committee consisting of the ULFA and University Presidents. Should this committee fail to reach agreement, the two sides would then prepare final positions which would be referred to an Arbitrator for selection. The Arbitrator would not be allowed to mediate the dispute and Members could, conceivably, lose newly acquired rights under Bill 7.
In Friday’s ruling, the Labour Board rejected the Board of Governors’ argument.
In doing so, the Labour Board relied heavily on the tests used in U.N.A., Local 75 v. WestView Regional Health Authority,  Alta. L.R.B.R. LD-031 (“WestView”), which was cited by both ULFA and the Board of Governors in their written submissions:
12 In exercising its discretion to defer to arbitration, the Board balances two public interests. The first is the public interest in having employers and unions address their day to day disputes about the workplace through their own dispute resolution process. The second is the interest in having a single tribunal oversee access to and the broad rules of collective bargaining. The primary factor is whether the application raises an issue of “statutory proportions”. See: Electrical Contractors Association of Alberta 85-016.
13 There is no easy test of when a matter raises an issue of statutory proportions. Some of the questions used by the Board to assess whether the matter is one of statutory proportions are:
- Does the issue affect only the parties to the agreement or will it affect the labour relations community?
- Does the collective agreement enable the arbitrator to adequately remedy the issue?
- Is the matter primarily a statutory right or obligation, or a collective agreement right or obligation?
- Does the issue go beyond the collective agreement to the collective bargaining relationship?
- Is the statutory issue the main issue in the proceeding or an ancillary issue?
- Do issues demand the labour relations expertise of the Board more than the contract interpretations expertise of an arbitrator?
On the basis of these tests, the Labour Relations Board found that “the matter raised in ULFA’s complaint is a matter of statutory proportion,” noting:
The parties are bargaining under a different statutory regime than existed when they entered into the two previous collective agreements. They are now subject to the collective bargaining provisions set out in the Code. The application of the bridging provision in section 130 of the Code must be considered and applied in the context of this dispute, as well as the freeze provisions contained in section 147(3) of the Code. The University also averted to provisions contained in the Post-secondary Learning Act in effect when the agreements were negotiated. While the Board may be required to interpret provisions in the collective agreements, this task is not an unusual one for the Board to undertake in complaints of this nature.
Indeed, the Board concluded,
The interplay of these statutory and contractual provisions raise questions unique to the post-secondary education sector which have not been addressed by the Board in previous decisions and it is possible the outcome of the decision will affect other parties in the sector.
The next steps in the Labour Board process are a case management meeting (currently scheduled for November 28) and a two day hearing (Dec. 18 and 19) all of which will take place in Calgary.
The Bargaining Team for the Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE) Local 53 announced on September 14 that it has applied for mediation in its negotiations for the renewal of its (expired) Collective Agreement with the University (see also their Sept. 12 announcement).
The request came after negotiations broke down on Sept. 7, AUPE reports, “when the university submitted a number of unsatisfactory proposals.” This followed what the union describes as a “year of intense bargaining” and the presentation of a “comprehensive package” by AUPE to the administration on August 20 and 21.
The primary issues at stake include
- Adjusting maternity wage top-ups to accommodate new legislation,
- Age discrimination in the application of sick leave for AUPE members over the age of 65,
- Lack of significant movement on medical benefits,
- Lack of movement on pay.
AUPE stated that “The University indicated that they had no interest in dealing with other Union monetary proposals such as vacation improvements.”
The AUPE bargaining team argues that this lack of progress on monetary issues in light of the surplus represents “an insult to the hard working front line staff as the University was able to allocate funds to improve the working terms for its Administrative Professional Officers.”
“This is unacceptable,” the union continued. “You deserve a collective agreement that reflects the importance of the work you do.”
This impasse was reached, AUPE reported to its members, despite the fact that the University administration has accumulated a surplus of $206 million. “Our research shows the University certainly has the ability compensate you fairly, and your bargaining team is committed to making sure that happens.”
AUPE applied for mediation under Section 20 of the Public Sector Employee Relations Acts (PSERA), which draws on Divisions 11-13 of the Labour Relations Code (PSERA applies to public employees not covered by the Post Secondary Learning Act, include Staff at the U of L). Under the Code as incorporated into PSERA, informal mediation may be requested by either party at any time (Section 64). Under Section 65, either party may also request formal mediation in an attempt to resolve impasse before either party resorts to job action. Mediation under Section 65 is required before a vote can be held on lockout/strike.
Under Section 65, the mediator has 14 days from the date of his/her appointment to hear representations, mediate the dispute, and encourage the parties to reach settlement. At the end of the 14 days, the mediator may propose terms of settlement for the parties to accept or reject, or indicate that no proposal is being made. A 14 day cooling off period is required after mediation before any further action can be taken.
We will continue to work with our friends and colleagues in the AUPE bargaining unit and show solidarity as they progress through a difficult bargaining year.
ULFA and the Board’s negotiating teams met to discuss an Essential Services Agreement for the second time on Tuesday, September 18. As agreed in our first meeting, ULFA presented a draft questionnaire that provides some background information on Alberta’s Essential Services legislation and provides a simple poll on whether through their employment at the University ULFA members may be providing essential services (activities which if they were interrupted by lockout/strike might endanger health or safety of members of the public). If ULFA members provide essential services then ULFA and the Board must have an Essential Services Agreement prior to any legal lockout/strike.
It was agreed that, after some final editing, the questionnaire will be sent out to all ULFA members via a link to a web-based survey. It is expected that this will occur within the next few weeks. It is important that all of our members watch for the email and respond promptly. The survey information will be viewed by both teams to serve as a basis for further bargaining.
For background information on the Essential Services Agreement and its negotiation to date, find more information here, here, here, and here.
ULFA’s negotiating team for Essential Services includes Rob Sutherland (Chair), Kelly Williams-Whitt, Locke Spencer, and Dawn McBride, with Annabree Fairweather serving as resource person. The Board’s negotiating team changed for the second meeting and included Chris Hosgood (Chair) and Carolin Cattoi-Demkiw, with Scott Harling serving as resource person. The next meeting is scheduled for early in October.
Bargaining teams for the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association and Board of Governors met to exchange language on September 11.
|Presented by ULFA
||Presented by the Board
|Article 1 (Purpose and Objectives)
Article 3 (Amendments and Modification of the Collective Agreement)
Article 4 (Applications and Exclusions)
Article 25 (Supervision and Discipline)
|Article 34 (Medical Leave)
“Part II” Professional Librarians
Articles 1, 3, and 4 have been the subject of several exchanges. Article 25 was ULFA’s first response to the Board’s initial proposal for this article (presented on June 4th). Article 34 was a partial response to ULFA’s original proposal from May 14 for a major modernisation of our leave provisions. “Part II” introduced the final part of the Board’s proposal to reorganise major sections of the current Agreement by employee category.
In addition to these articles, the Board side also provided a document outlining its understanding of the economic context for our current negotiations. As the Board team noted, this presentation largely reprised their similar outline from June 4, with some additional details focussing on Sessional Lecturers.
Also, ULFA had included a number of increased health benefits in its Schedule B proposal but is not able to get quotes from Blue Cross about the expected costs implications to our current plan. The Board obtained this costing information from Blue Cross and shared it with ULFA so that negotiations in this area can proceed with both sides fully informed as to the financial implications of each possible change.
Agreement-in-Principle was reached on Article 1. This is a renumbered and amended version of the previously unnumbered “Purpose” and “Objectives” Preambles in the 2016 Collective Agreement.
We also may be getting close to agreement on Article 3 (“Applications and Exclusions”). In this case, the remaining point to be resolved involves a specific part of a new “Solidarity clause” governing the conditions and circumstances under which members may observe the picket lines of other unions.
In the case of Articles 4, 25, 34, and Part II, there is more work to be done.
In the case of Article 4, we are discussing the question of who falls under the Collective Agreement. The main areas of current discussion involve what defines someone as being a member of the Academic Staff, and the degree to which so-called “Inactive Members” are subject to (and entitled to protection by) the Collective Agreement, including the protection of Academic Freedom. “Inactive Members” are members of the Academic Staff who hold appointments to the Board of Governors or in the Senior Administration (i.e. Associate Deans, Deans, Associate Vice Presidents, Vice Presidents, and the President).
In the case of Article 25, we are still in very early stages of discussion. ULFA’s presentation on the 11th focussed on the organisation of the Article and the order in which supervisory and disciplinary processes take place. This was only the second time language has been exchanged on this article in this round of bargaining.
In the case of Article 34, the Board of Governors’ team provided a partial response (focussing on Medical leaves only) to ULFA’s earlier proposal for a major revision of paid and unpaid leaves. In their presentation, the Board indicated that other types of leaves will be addressed in a different article to be presented at a later date. Given the partial nature of the Board’s current response, it is at this point difficult to know how close or far apart the two sides are on this article. While very little of ULFA’s original proposal for this article was reflected in “article 34,” it is entirely possible that the second part will find more common ground. In addition, the Board side indicated that it may propose removing some sections from the language it presented on the 11th, as they are duplicated in one of more of their proposed new “Parts.”
“Part II” concluded the Board’s initial presentation of its “Parts”–i.e. a proposal to reorganise large sections of the current Collective Agreement into discrete sections dealing with individual employment categories (Faculty Members, Librarians, Instructors/Academic Assistants, and Sessional Instructors). The Board’s presentation of these “Parts” over the last four months suggests that they are currently very much a work-in-progress: the Board has indicated that they intend to make additional retroactive changes to the parts already presented. Although ULFA has indicated some broad concerns about the proposal on the basis of these texts, the lack of a definitive text has prevented us from preparing a specific response to date.
Change in Negotiators
The Board provided official notification of a change to their negotiating team, due to the forthcoming departure of Ed Jurkowski (Dean of Fine Arts) who will be taking up a position at the University of Manitoba. Robert Wood (Dean of Graduate Studies) has joined the Board negotiating team as an observer effective immediately, and will become an official member of the team when Dr. Jurkowski departs at the end of October. Dr. Wood’s previous experience includes the recent successful completion of negotiations under Bill 7 with the Graduate Students and Post Docs.
To ensure that negotiations continue at a reasonable pace, the two sides have agreed to meet for a “case management” meeting on Sept 24, at which point they will discuss additional meeting times and the exchange of articles.
On the whole, negotiations have been proceeding with dispatch. In most cases, the two sides have been able to respond in a timely and efficient manner, with several articles exchanged on a near weekly basis during the spring and summer. This should serve us well as we now begin the slower process of reviewing articles on which we have more substantively different perspectives. Many of the remaining articles are also quite lengthy. We should expect this to slow the rate at which proposals involving substantive changes can be developed, considered, and responded to, despite the hard work of everyone involved.
The current status of negotiations can be seen here.