Our working conditions are students’ learning conditions. Our members deserve the working conditions that we have been fighting for and our students deserve faculty members who have reasonable workloads and the conditions to perform their best work. ULFA members perennially note that their workloads have increased for years in a piecemeal fashion. Recently, some ULFA members have been assigned additional classes to teach without any additional compensation. Many members note they now teach more students than before, without any additional classroom support. This puts our Members in the difficult position of choosing between spending less time with each student or putting in additional hours of unpaid overtime. We can’t improve these conditions without applying additional pressure on the Board. This has been demonstrated by many universities, most recently by Concordia University of Edmonton and the University of Manitoba.
We need to break a cycle of accepting bad deals and salary erosion. This has gone on for over a decade with no indication of changing course. We have lost COLA for years and fallen behind inflation. ULFA members took a 1% pay cut in 2013 when the university was in financial trouble and no other faculty association in the province did so. We’ve never recovered these losses. ULFA members are expected to continuously accept losses when times are tough, but we do not realize gains when times are good. We are already 10-15% behind our colleagues at comparator institutions. This impacts recruitment and retention at our university. Our members have already given enough.
The status quo is inequitable. Over 80% of our Members self-report working more than 40 hours a week. The Board has admitted in writing that they have not abided by our Collective Agreement since 2018 by failing to produce and implement policies to ensure that workloads for all members are equitable and reasonable. In terms of salaries, 32% of ULFA members earn less than the average income in Lethbridge. There is little transparency about pay equity at the U of L. Additionally, approximately 100/ 550 ULFA Members teach contract to contract without job security or basic health benefits and professional supplements. The University did not provide them with financial support for the costs associated with transitioning to online instruction and ULFA stepped in to provide this. ULFA members typically pay more than comparators for our own healthcare and premiums and yet the Board refuses ULFA’s proposal for joint stewardship over our benefits. This stewardship is necessary to ensure Member’s are getting the best health benefits possible.
Time’s up. The Board has a continued pattern of delays and prolonged negotiations. The only times that we’ve seen real movement have been when we have taken decisive action (e.g., hosting an information rally, withdrawing from mediation, etc.). We’ve been bargaining for over 600 days. This has gone on long enough. A strong strike mandate is the fastest way to bring negotiations to an end.
The Board’s current offer is insufficient. We have not made progress on the issues that our members gave us a mandate to fight for. We have primarily fought off 4% rollbacks, erosion of academic freedom, and other harmful language – all of which were unlikely to ever be accepted. These are not gains. They simply maintain the inequitable status quo. The salary offer remains lower than the current government mandate and other public sector settlements.