Board of Governors Mislead Students, Public, Press over Positions at the Bargaining Table.

In recent communications to the public and the press, the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors suggests that a University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) demand for “12% raises” is holding up negotiations.

This is a lie. 

Our most recent offer of settlement was made to the Board on the same day it published this false claim. Our offer asked for roughly the equivalent of 5% in total over four years. Likewise, at the end of mediation our offer to settle was 1% above the Board’s salary offer.

In contrast, the Board’s financial offer has remained the same since the failure of mediation almost a month ago. 

Two years ago, ULFA’s opening position called for an average of 3% per year over the life of our contract. This came after years of 0% Cost of Living Adjustments,  was in line with wage inflation at the time, and was consistent with our Members’ mandate to stop salary erosion against inflation and our comparator institutions. 

In the last decade, ULFA Members have lost 15% against inflation, and up to 17% against our comparator institutions. 

Those are double-digit percentages. 

Clearly ULFA,  not the Board, has shown flexibility in our salary position.

It’s about more than money

The Board’s presentation was misleading as well in that it implies that financial matters are the main area of disagreement between the two sides.

In fact, the financial discussion is only a small part of the current impasse. As or more important to our Members is the Board’s intransigence on matters of collegial governance, a teaching professoriate, and professional funds for sessional and part-time instructors. 

The ULFA bargaining team has consistently indicated that it is prepared to accept gains on terms-and-conditions that are entirely under the Board’s control in exchange for a lower financial settlement, which the Board says rests entirely with the Kenney government. 

The Board responded to this in the last session with a list of “Hell No” items on which they would refuse to budge under any circumstances, indicating that they would prefer a long lockout to bargaining on any of ULFA Member main issues.

A disturbing pattern of threats and misleading communication

The Board knew the truth about ULFA’s offer when it published its blog. But it chose to publish a misleading account anyway. 

This willingness to misinform the public, students, and press as to the true status of negotiations is unfortunate. 

But it is not unexpected. 

This is, after all, the same Board of Governors that, in the last three weeks, has

  • Threatened students with the loss of “the semester” even though this has never happened as a result of job action at a Canadian university
  • Filed and then withdrawn an “urgent” complaint to the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) within the space of a single day
  • Suggested that ULFA was threatening to disrupt student learning, while filing an application to lock teachers out of their classes
  • Published blogs indicating that ULFA was blocking progress at the table while citing progress at that same table in official filings that same day
  • Planned to lay off student workers paid through external research funds by preventing ULFA members from using proxies to approve student pay sheets and providing no mechanism for estimating hours after February 21.

This is not how you should run a public university, let alone conduct yourself in complex labour negotiations. 

In the end it is about respect

ULFA has such strong support from students and other unions precisely because these groups have experienced the same kind of disrespect from the Administration year-in, year-out.

ULFA continues to believe that the two sides would be far better off negotiating. That the Board appears to prefer spending tax- and tuition-dollars on this kind of grandstanding is why 92% of participating ULFA Members voted to strike if they could not receive a fair deal. 

Responsible leaders attempt to solve problems, not make them worse.