On June 4, ULFA’s Negotiating Team met with the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors’ Negotiating Team. The meeting was conducted virtually using the Zoom platform. With our Collective Agreement set to expire on June 30, 2020, ULFA had issued a Notice to Bargain on April 16. The Alberta Labour Relations Code calls for an initial meeting to be held within 30 days, but the difficulty of coordinating schedules under the COVID crisis resulted in delays to the timing of this meeting.
ULFA’s Negotiating Team consists of Dan O’Donnell (Chief Spokesperson), Olu Awosoga, Rumi Graham, Adam Letourneau, Joy Morris, and Rob Sutherland, with Aaron Chubb as a resource person. Mary Kavanagh and Claudia Steinke also joined this meeting as observers, and Eva Cool joined as an additional resource person to help with technological issues.
The Board’s Negotiating Team consists of Chris Nicol (Chair), Robert Wood (Vice-chair), Michelle Helstein and Linda van der Velde. Dr. Wood and Dr. Helstein were unable to attend this meeting.
The intent of this first meeting is to establish protocols and introduce negotiations. According to the Labour Code, the parties must exchange their first proposals at a subsequent meeting, to be held within 15 days, unless they mutually agree otherwise.
The meeting was very cordial in tone. Both sides acknowledged the challenges and uncertainties we are currently facing on many fronts.
The Board advised ULFA that due to a series of new appointments recently announced in senior administration (in particular the appointment of Dr. Wood as Acting VP Research and the appointment of Dr. Helstein as Acting Vice-Provost), there may be changes forthcoming to the composition of their Negotiating Team. They will advise us when any decisions are made.
In response to a request by the Board, ULFA clarified that in its proposal (from the Notice to Bargain) to extend the end date of our Collective Agreement, we had a one-year formal extension of the Collective Agreement in mind. While we are prepared to begin negotiations otherwise, as required by the Code, a formal extension would recognise and accommodate the unique situation we are in.
The sides mutually agreed to extend the 15-day deadline for the next meeting, with a goal of meeting again in three to four weeks. In the meantime, ULFA will prepare a draft Memorandum of Understanding formally extending the end date of our Collective Agreement for consideration.