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Understanding the Administration decision to reject timesheets from hourly-paid research employees and lay them off after Feb 21.

Dear Members,

The Board of Governors announced yesterday at the end of an email from Ariane Tennant (Subject: “Research & Student Employee Continuity During Strike,” 10:05 8 Feb) that it would refuse to honour hourly employee timesheets in the event of a strike, even if approved by a proxy. 

The email instead asked that Faculty Members with hourly employees estimate their hours in a Qualtrics form for the current pay period (i.e. until February 21). After February 21, there will be no mechanism for approving or estimating student hours, meaning all hourly-paid research employees will be, in effect, laid off by the Board.

Hourly-paid employment is an important source of income for many students. It was for this reason that ULFA encouraged faculty to appoint proxies to approve timesheets in the event of a strike after the Board of Governors indicated it would lock Members out from all online systems, including payroll. 

With this move, however, it appears that there is nothing faculty members can do to continue to support our hourly-paid students with funds from their research accounts or to protect them from the Board’s intention to lay them off after February 21.

To alleviate in part this hardship to our students, ULFA will establish a support fund for students and other employees harmed by what increasingly appears to be a scorched-earth approach to labour relations on the part of the Board. We will donate a portion of money received from other unions to this fund and will solicit donations from the local, provincial, and national communities. We are currently researching platforms and designing policies for access. We hope to make a further announcement in the next few days, should strike/lockout become inevitable.

In the meantime, we encourage all Members who have hourly-paid employees to use the following form to estimate student hours for the current pay period: https://uleth.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6o2502SgxvAphVs. This should happen today.

ULFA regrets this short-sighted and reckless decision on the part of the Board of Governors. Students are the future of this institution and, while a strike/lockout will inevitably involve some disruption to students, ULFA’s position is that both sides should work together to ensure this disruption is kept to a minimum. There is no short-term tactical advantage to the Board in negotiations that could be worth depriving students of income derived, for the most part, from external research grants brought to the university by ULFA Members.

The Board’s announcement is in keeping with a series of erratic but increasingly aggressive and irresponsible attacks on our reputation as a student-centred university. ULFA believes that this approach will cause permanent damage to the institution. It calls on the Board of Governors to reconsider what appears to be a “win-at-all-costs” strategy in which they appear prepared to sacrifice a reputation built up over decades in order to achieve a few minor gains at the negotiating table. 

Nothing is worth harming our students in this way.