Bargaining to resume Sept 11

With the exception of an initial meeting on the Essential Service Agreement, there were no bargaining sessions in August. The Board of Governors and ULFA negotiating teams are next scheduled to meet to discuss our Collective Agreement on Sept. 11.

At this point there are roughly 38 articles and schedules under discussion (it is impossible to give a precise count, as some proposals involve combining, adding, or eliminating various articles and schedules). The current status of all articles under discussion can be found here.

Bargaining Update: Essential Services Agreement

ULFA and the Board’s negotiating teams met to discuss an Essential Services Agreement for the first time on Friday, August 24. There was a productive discussion on the new legislation and the requirements on both parties to establish an agreement that protects the health and safety of members of the public in the event of a lockout or strike of academic staff. It was agreed that a joint questionnaire would be created to collect information on the types of research/services by ULFA members that may involve health and safety.

For background information on the Essential Services Agreement and its negotiation to date, find more information hereherehere, and here.

ULFA’s negotiating team for Essential Services includes Rob Sutherland (Chair), Kelly Williams-Whitt, Locke Spenser, and Dawn McBride, with Annabree Fairweather serving as resource person. The Board’s negotiating team includes Chris Hosgood (Chair), Nancy Pastoor, and Lorna Selinger, with Scott Harling serving as resource person. The next meeting is scheduled for later in September.

Bargaining update for July 25: ESA, Collective Agreement bargaining, Labour Board applications, and changes in the bargaining team

Here are some updates on various aspects of the 2018 negotiations.

Collective Bargaining to resume in September after July 25th meeting

The Collective Bargaining teams for the Board of Governors and ULFA met on July 25th for the last bargaining session of the Summer (holiday schedules made it impossible to find time in August).

During the session, the two sides exchanged the following articles (you can follow the progress of negotiated articles here):

ULFA Administration
9 (Personal Files)
33 (Gradual Retirement and Reduced Load Status)
1 (Preamble and Objectives)
3 (Amendments)
24 (Appeals of Recommendations by STP Committees)
“Part I” and “Part IV” (Faculty Members and Sessional Instructors)

At this point in the negotiations, most of the “low hanging fruit” has been dealt with and the two sides are now beginning to deal with more difficult issues. Resolving such questions requires considerable discussion and creativity as negotiators attempt to find ways of reaching agreement starting from disparate opening positions.

Wednesday’s negotiations were characteristic of this: while the sides seem close on Articles 1, 9, and 24, they have discovered areas of potentially more substantive disagreement in 3 and 33. In each case, considerable attention was devoted to probing the areas of difference and attempting to understand the core issues on each side.

“Part I” and “Part IV” are part of a new proposal from the Board to consolidate all information regarding personnel processes (e.g. hiring, promotion, PARs, etc.) for different categories of employees. “Part I” is the consolidation for members of the Professoriate, “Part IV” the consolidation for Sessionals. The Administration has previously presented a “Part III” for Academic Assistants/Lecturers. These parts represent a considerable reorganisation of the Handbook and will require careful study when negotiations resume in September.

As in previous sessions, the two sides worked productively together and negotiations continue to progress well.

“Bridging” Labour Board application

The Board of Governors and ULFA are currently involved in a case before the Labour Board regarding the applicability of “bridging” provisions in the Labour Relations Code to Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increases. You can read more about this here,  here, here, and here.

Under the “bridging” provisions of Section 130(1) of the Code, all articles of the collective agreement that were in effect when notice to bargain was given remain in effect until (1) negotiations are concluded; (2) negotiations are interrupted by job action; or (3) two years have passed without ratification of a new contract. A more detailed discussion of the background to this issue can be found here.

ULFA’s position is that bridging provisions apply to the application of COLA on July 1st (Schedule A.02). The Board of Governors has taken the position that bridging does not apply to COLA. In response, ULFA has filed an Unfair Labour Practice complaint with the Alberta Labour Relations Board. In response, the Board of Governors asked the Labour Relations Board to dismiss ULFA’s complaint, arguing that the question is a matter of interpretation of the Handbook rather than the applicability of the Code to the Handbook. In the Board of Governors view, the correct avenue for resolving this dispute is via the provisions of Article 1 (Interpretation) in the Faculty Handbook). ULFA disagrees with this position, arguing that the question is one of the applicability of the Code to the Handbook rather than the interpretation of the Handbook. ULFA also argues that Article 1 processes are an inappropriate mechanism for resolving this dispute.

On July 4th, the parties agreed to argue the Board of Governors application via written submissions. The Board of Governors submitted their request on July 18th. ULFA was given one week to reply, and submitted its response on July 25th. The Board of Governors now has until August 1st to respond to ULFA’s submission, at which point the Labour Relations Board will consider the case and reach a determination. If the Labour Relations Board decides in favour of the University, resolution of this case likely will be deferred to the processes outlined in Article 1 of the 2016 Handbook; if it decides in ULFA’s favour, the next step likely will be a hearing on the merits of ULFA’s case before the Board. This hearing will be scheduled sometime in September.

Essential Services Agreement (ESA) negotiations and Labour Board Application

Essential Services Agreements (ESAs) cover the provision of Essential Services in the event of job action (i.e. a lockout or strike). Under the Labour Relations Code, management and unions in the Post Secondary sector are required to negotiate an ESA unless an exemption is requested and granted by the Commissioner. Exemptions may be requested on the ground either that no essential services are performed by the employees in question or that all essential services can be performed by other employees in the event of job action. Under the Code, an Essential Service is a service that is required to preserve human health and safety or the maintenance of law and order. We have discussed ESAs several times over the last year, including here, here, here, here, and here.

On June 26th, the Board of Governors submitted a unilateral request for exemption from the ESA requirement with the Labour Relations Board on the grounds that members of the Academic Staff perform no essential services. This claim conflicts with ULFA’s research on the matter, which suggests that several classes of employees within the Academic Staff perform such services on a periodic or emergent basis.

The Commissioner for Essential Services met with management and the union on July 16 for a case management call. At that call the two sides were encouraged to begin negotiations and the Board agreed to temporarily pause further action on the request for exemption while the two sides attempted to find dates for negotiation. A second case management call was scheduled for July 26th but has since been canceled due to the fact that the parties are coming back to the table to bargain the ESA. The request for exemption has been paused so that the parties can work toward agreement at the table.

The two sides are in the process of scheduling dates for ESA negotiations to start by end of August.

Changes in the ULFA bargaining team

Finally, there has also been a change in the ULFA bargaining team. Dr. Paul Hayes has led the Economic Benefits side of our bargaining since 2017. He leaves for Japan on a teaching exchange and is stepping down from negotiations as a result. Dr. Rumi Graham has been appointed to the bargaining team as Dr. Haye’s replacement. She is a welcome addition to the team in this official capacity, though she has been involved as an observer in this round of negotiations and has participated on the negotiating team for many years.

In addition, Dr. Rob Sutherland has joined the team as an observer. He has recently commenced a two year term as chair of the Economic Benefits Committee.

The bargaining team now includes Dr. Dan O’Donnell (chief spokesperson), Dr. Rumi Graham, and Mr. Terry Sway. Observers on the bargaining team are Dr. Joy Morris, Dr. Rob Sutherland, and Dr. Kelly Williams-Whitt. Which is a lot of doctors.

Board of Governors to Pay Career Progress, Merit, & Professional Supplement

ULFA and the Board of Governors are currently involved in a dispute before the Labour Relations Board regarding the applicability of bridging provisions to pay increases and other benefits that ULFA believes were payable as of Member’s July pay cheques. The expected increases include Career Progress Increments, Merit Increments, Professional Supplements, and Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA).

In recent years, in the absence of regulations to the contrary, the Board of Governors’ practice was often to withhold such increases until a new contract was settled. ULFA argues that based on the wording of our 2016 agreement and in the absence of a new agreement, such increases are required now that labour relations are conducted under the Labour Relations Code, rather than the PSLA. After the Board of Governors indicated that it would not pay some or all of these increases as ULFA believes is required, ULFA filed an Unfair Labour Practice complaint with the Labour Relations Board.

Board of Governors Agrees to pay Career Progress, Merit, & Professional Supplement

In its response to ULFA’s complaint, the Board of Governors has indicated that it will distribute Professional Supplement funds, and pay Career Progress and merit increments, though it still intends to withhold COLA barring a ruling to the contrary from the Labour Relations Board or an Arbitrator appointed under Article 1 of the current faculty Handbook (ULFA dispute the applicability of Article 1 in this case).

This agreement to pay the increments is a welcome improvement over the Board of Governors’ practice in previous years when they withheld some or all of these payments. Most members are, as a result, likely to see a salary increase on their forthcoming July pay (and in their salary letters). Eligible members may also submit claims against their 2018-2019 Professional Supplement Allowance.

No Agreement on COLA

Although it will pay Career Progress, Merit, and Professional Supplement, the Board of Governors has not agreed to pay COLA as ULFA believes is required. ULFA’s Unfair Labour Practice complaint on this matter is currently before the Labour Relations Board and, if successful, may result in a retroactive payment for COLA from July 1 onwards.

To get caught up on this ongoing discussion, we have previously provided updates here, here, and here. A background discussion of the issue can be found here.

Bargaining update for July 16: one article agreed-in-principle and some structural discussions

Negotiators for the Faculty Association and Board met yesterday for a further bargaining session.

The session was very productive, with one agreement-in-principle, several articles making significant steps towards provisional agreement, and the introduction by the Board team of a possible new way of organising parts of the Collective Agreement.

The Articles under discussion

The articles exchanged were:

ULFA Board
1 (Preamble and objectives),
3 (Amendments),
23 (Mediation),
24 (Appeals of Recommendations by STP Committee and Appeal Committees)
17 (Personnel Committees),
“Part III” (see below),
30 (Travel Fund),
31 (Research Fund),
Schedule A “Parts I through III”

You can follow the current status of all articles under negotiations here.

Article 23 (Mediation)

The two sides came to an agreement-in-principle to delete Article 23 (Mediation). The current Article 23 overlaps with several other articles including 9 (Personal Files), 11 (Rights and Responsibilities), 22 (Grievance), and 25 (Discipline) as well as several policies and traditional management responsibilities to maintain a safe workplace. The previous language could also be read as attempting to constrain students and members of other bargaining units over whom this agreement has no jurisdiction. This was the fourth iteration of discussions on this article.

Articles 1 (Preamble), 3 (Amendments), 24 (STP appeals), 30 (Travel Fund) and 31 (Research Fund)

The two sides came closer to reaching agreement on all of these articles. These articles have been exchanged multiple times and in most cases the language that remains outstanding focuses on a single conceptual issue that is reflected in just a small number of the clauses in that article. Discussion at today’s meeting revealed possible ways forward on several of these outstanding issues.

Articles 17 (Personnel Committees), “Part III,” and Schedule A “Parts I, II, III”

Article 17, “Part III,” and Schedule A (“Parts I, II, III”) represent the first iteration of the University’s proposal to collect and group together material that is distinct for each employee category in separate sections or “Parts.” This proposal involves a major reorganisation of the Handbook including the movement of large amounts of material from previously disparate Articles.

In today’s presentation, the University provided its initial example of how this grouping might affect individual employee categories, with a section on Academic Assistants and Instructors (“Part III”) and versions of Schedule A (economic benefits) for three out of the four proposed employee groups: Faculty, Professional Librarians, and Instructors/Academic Assistants. In the case of Article 17, the University provided a first look at how the “source” articles might look after material that is arguably specific to each group has been removed.

This was the first presentation of examples of this approach, which involves some fairly substantial changes in organisation and is at the moment still incomplete. We can expect several iterations of these articles (and the corresponding articles in the Collective Agreement’s “Common” section) before a final agreement will be reached.

Future Negotiations

The University and ULFA have a negotiating session scheduled for July 25. Since it has been impossible to find common times for negotiations in August, the parties agreed to meet again in September, and are attempting to schedule potential negotiating dates from the beginning of September through to the end of December. The two sides also discussed the pace of negotiations in the fall and other administrative issues.

Bargaining Team Membership Update

Today, ULFA also informed the Board that effective July 26, Rumi Graham will be taking over from Paul Hayes as an official member of the ULFA bargaining team. This change has been planned for some time, due to Paul’s forthcoming semester in Japan at Hokkai Gakuen University. Rumi has been an observer throughout negotiations, so is well-informed and prepared for this role.

Essential Services Case Management Meeting

On July 12, ULFA and the University had a case management meeting with Essential Services Commissioner Gwen Gray to discuss the University’s application for exemption on Essential Services.

The meeting was very productive and the Board has agreed to temporarily pause further action on the request for exemption. In the meantime, the parties have agreed to meet and begin bargaining the Essential Services Agreement without prejudice to the Commissioner’s decision on the exemption.

The parties looked for dates to negotiate in July but due to availability issues, are seeking dates to start in mid-August. A second case management has been schedule for July 26 at which point we will discuss our progress.