In our post on the December 15 meeting between Board and ULFA negotiating teams, we reported that there was some disagreement between the two sides as to the precise rules that would govern our negotiating in the New Year. The most fundamental of these involves the way negotiations for the “Academic Staff” bargaining unit must be conducted.
As we understand it, the Board’s position is that ULFA and the Board must negotiate separate and distinct collective agreements for Sessional Employees and Faculty, with separate Essential Services Agreements for each, separate negotiations, and, should agreement not be reached in a timely fashion, potentially separate or conflicting mediation, strike, and/or lockout processes. ULFA’s position is that ULFA represents one bargaining unit made up of all academic staff and thus, by law, we are required to enter into a single collective agreement for that bargaining unit. Further, dividing the bargaining unit into two parts with two collective agreements is inconsistent with best or common practice, the laws that govern our negotiations, and Labour Code precedent and policy.
This disagreement is important as bargaining strategy, timing decisions, the focus of bargaining committees, the group affected by an essential services agreement, an application for mediation or a strike or lockout is different depending on which view is correct. It would be very difficult to learn from the Labour Relations Board at the point of applying for mediation or a strike/lockout, that the bargaining has been for the wrong group and the parties need to start over.
At the December 15th meeting, the parties could not reach agreement on this matter and the Board announced its intention to proceed unilaterally to begin distinct Faculty and Sessional negotiations early in the new year. It further advised ULFA that the Association could seek a ruling from the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) if it disagreed with the Board’s proposed course of action. The two sides agreed at the conclusion of the meeting that a resolution of this matter was essential before negotiations could begin.
In a subsequent exchange of letters, ULFA indicated its intention to file an application with the ALRB for a ruling on the question as the Board suggested. The Board then confirmed its intention to proceed unilaterally to begin separate negotiations for Sessional and Faculty members of the Academic Staff. ULFA’s application to the ALRB was prepared over the Holiday break and filed on January 4th.
We do not have a timeline for a decision from the ALRB. We have been told, however, that cases like this can be heard quite quickly. We will continue to update the membership as the ALRB process continues.