The annual Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) Forum for Chief Negotiators was held this past weekend in Ottawa. Three members of the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) bargaining team (Paul Hayes, Dan O’Donnell, and Annabree Fairweather) attended.
The annual forum is an opportunity to gather resources for bargaining support, catch up on bargaining trends from across the country, and to exchange experiences with other negotiating teams. The event also includes a two-session workshop in which bargaining team members practice preparing and presenting some issue in contemporary collective bargaining.
The theme this year was “Bargaining for Solidarity.” The speakers and the exercises concentrated for the most part on the question of how Faculty Associations/Unions can best represent the diverse workforces found on most campuses–diverse in the sense of both types of employment and demographic groups.
The agenda is available online. Highlights pertaining particularly to the case of the University of Lethbridge included the opening speaker, JP Hornick, Chief Spokesperson for the Faculty side in the recent College strike in Ontario, and Linda St-Pierre, Chief Spokesperson of the Laurentian University Faculty Association Bargaining Team during their 2017 strike.
Hornick’s presentation focused on membership communications. She recommended constant, multi-channel, and realistic communications with Membership both in preparation for bargaining and while bargaining is going on. ULFA had already adopted many of her suggestions, but the team still picked up some good ideas to ensure the membership remains as well informed as possible during negotiations.
St-Pierre’s presentation focused on the Laurentian University Faculty Association’s experience in the lead-up to its 2017 strike. This presentation was particularly notable because the lead bargainer on the Management side in those negotiations was Geoff Tierney, whom the University of Lethbridge has recently hired as a consultant to its bargaining team for our current negotiations.
The meeting was also important for the indications it gave regarding national themes in collective bargaining in the sector. From the various presentations and questions, for example, it is clear that there are currently national trends towards
- ensuring that the contributions made by Contract Academic Staff (i.e. “Sessional Lecturers” at the University of Lethbridge) are appropriately recognised,
- addressing the increasingly evident human rights issues at play in the use of student questionnaires in performance evaluation, and
- ensuring that Faculty Association unions have proper access to information about their membership in order to fulfil their legal obligation of fair representation.
These are all issues that have been of concern to our membership and to ULFA.