The University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) negotiating team met with representatives of the Board of Governors of the University of Lethbridge on Tuesday, April 24 and Wednesday, April 25.

These were the first two sessions of negotiations for our first Collective Agreement under the new labour regime introduced with Bill 7 last year.

The focus of these meetings was on logistics, protocols, and high-level thematic discussion of goals and expectations. We identified some areas where it seems likely our positions are relatively close and hence perhaps easy to bridge; we also identified others where, as in any negotiations, the two sides will have to work harder to find common ground or mutually acceptable solutions.

One area in which the two sides seemed broadly congruent in approach and expectation involved the simplification of the current agreement: both sides seemed to have generally compatible goals for a number of sections.

We are beginning negotiations later than we’d initially planned due to the necessity of waiting for a ruling from the Alberta Labour Relations Board earlier this spring; the extra time, however, appears to have been put to good use by both sides in preparing our positions. In addition to discussing overall goals and aspirations we were able to get into some detail about the specific types of issues each side wanted to address.

We also devoted some time to looking at the problem of the shortened time frame for negotiating before the bridging provisions kick in on July 1. The two sides have agreed to free up additional time in May and June as well as attempt to add an extra hour to most already-scheduled meeting times. This will speed up negotiations with an eye to concluding as close to July 1 as possible.

Finally, the two sides discussed their plans for the next meetings, scheduled for Friday May 11 and Monday May 14. In these meetings, we intend to look closely at the degree to which certain sections of the Handbook might be merged and the mechanisms by which this might be accomplished.

Representing ULFA were Bargaining Team Daniel O’Donnell (Spokesperson), Paul Hayes, and Terry Sway. Rumi Graham and Joy Morris served as Observers and Annabree Fairweather as resource person. Representing the University were Bargaining Team Ed Jurkowski (Co-Chair), Chris Nicol (Co-Chair), and Carrie Takeyasu. Scott Harling and Geoff Tierney (Geoff Tierney Law) served as resource persons.