ULFA Navitas/UICC Investigation Group Meets Again With Board

Investigation group meets second time with Board regarding the hiring of instructors for UICC

Reminder: There will be Town Halls being held on March 26 at 9:00am – 10:00am and March 27 at 9:00am – 10am

The ULFA investigation committee met on Thursday March 7 with representatives of the Board to discuss the processes and conditions under which faculty teaching in the new ULethbridge International College Calgary (UICC) could be hired under the Academic Staff Collective Agreement (ASCA).

The UICC is the name that has been decided on by the Board for the International “Pathways” College they are beginning in collaboration with Navitas, an Australian higher education international recruiting company. A Pathways college or program provides a route by which students can acquire additional training, experience, or support before or as they begin university-level studies. Examples involving non-foreign students include the U of L’s Indigenous Student Success Certificate (ISSC). The UICC is different both in that it is focused on recruiting students from overseas and that it is being operated by the Board in collaboration with a private company. 

The UICC was approved by the General Faculties Council (GFC) in October 2022. The first intake of students and staff is expected to be in place by Fall 2024.

Academic Staff Associations are defined under the Post Secondary Learning Act (PSLA) (1 (b)). Under the Labour Relations Code (Code), they are the exclusive bargaining agent of all members of the Academic Staff employed by the Board (58.3(1)(c)). This means that Members of the Academic Staff at the University of Lethbridge, no matter in which college, or faculty they are employed, and regardless of any contracts between the Board and external entities, are protected by the terms and conditions of the ASCA.

ULFA was approached by the Board in late January with a request to discuss how faculty teaching at the UICC could be employed under the ASCA. Initially, the Board suggested that a number of changes, additions, or clarifications of the ASCA might be required in order to create suitable terms and conditions for Members of the Academic Staff working specifically at that college. 

This appears to have been based on first of all on an assumption that ULFA itself would prefer a new job category to be created for Members employed at the UICC and secondly on what the Board side felt were a number of unique features of the college that might be incompatible with existing language in the ASCA — e.g. the concept of continuing employment under Article 27.02.1 (“an appointment which shall continue until retirement unless terminated under a provision of this Collective Agreement”) in a college that is currently funded through a ten-year, renewable contract with Navitas.

Our first meeting took place on February 22nd, 2024. At that meeting, the ULFA investigative committee clarified that the Union did not have a specific desire to create a new class of Academic Staff Member under the ASCA. It also indicated its belief that most if not all of the issues raised by the Board could already be accommodated under existing language. At the end of the meeting, the two sides agreed that the Board would consider whether the College could be accommodated under the ASCA without change and, if not, to identify what specific aspects might require additional or modified language. 

At the second meeting (March 7), the two sides once again discussed potential differences between employment as a Member of the Academic Staff in the UICC and elsewhere in the University. The ULFA Investigative committee pointed out that we already have existing language that covers most elements of the College’s proposed activity — from provisions for the assignment of duties, to seniority language that allows for specific skills to be prioritised when considering competing rights of first refusal (e.g. skills in both a domain such as Accounting and experience working with foreign students). Even the issue of the ten year contract, the ULFA team felt, might be covered by existing language around programme redundancy due to the material loss of funding (e.g. 34.03.3), particularly since, if the Navitas contract was renewed at the end of its first decade, Members of the Academic Staff within the UICC might end up being employed for twenty years of more in the same College.

At the end of the second meeting, the two sides agreed to meet to review the questions again, this time (pending Executive approval) to look at specific language changes (if any) that might be required to ensure Members of the Academic Staff at the UICC enjoy the same rights and protections as all other Members of the Academic Staff at the U of L.

If any language changes are required, ULFA bylaws require a proposed MOU to be ratified by a majority of Members at a General Meeting (15.1). In the event the changes require the creation of a new class of Members, the bylaws require any proposed MOU to be ratified by a two thirds majority (3.2).

The formation and approval of what is now the UICC over the last few years was a controversial process. 

The question of the status of Members of the Academic Staff working within the UICC also has important legal implications for the ULFA Membership as a whole, including bargaining and other rights under both the PSLA and Code.

We will be holding Town Halls to discuss these issues on Tuesday, March 26 and Wednesday, March 27, both via Zoom only, from 9:00 to 10:00 am. Members have registration links to these Town Halls provided via email.