On June 15, ULFA filed an application to the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) under section 16(3) of the Labour Relations Code regarding an alleged unfair labour practice. You can read more about the background to ULFA’s application here and here.
The fundamental issue at question was whether the “bridging” provisions of the Code apply to various economic benefits in the current Collective Agreement, particularly the calculation and application of a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) and other increases called for by the collective agreement (e.g. Career Progress Increments, Merit Increments, Professional Supplement). Bridging is the process by which the terms of a collective agreement are deemed to continue to apply to the parties, notwithstanding any termination date in the agreement, after notice to bargain has been served.
The University filed a response to ULFA’s application on June 26. In its response, the University argued
- That ULFA’s application was premature in as much as the Collective Agreement had yet to expire at the time of application;
- That the dispute relates only to the payment of COLA and not Career Progress or Merit Increments or the Professional Supplement. In contrast to its practice during the 2014, 2013, and 2004 negotiations (during which some or all of these payments were withheld and paid retroactively after settlement), the University indicated that it intends to pay Career Progress, Merit, and Professional supplement beginning with the July pay period;
- It does not intend to pay COLA barring a ruling to the contrary from the Labour Board or arbitration under Article 1 of the Collective Agreement;
- That the dispute is primarily a matter of interpretation of the Handbook rather than the application of the Code to the Handbook, and hence should be handled under the provisions of Handbook Article 1 rather than by application to the ALRB.
In addition, the University echoed ULFA’s opinion that negotiations are progressing constructively and cordially.
Point (2) from this list important, because this means that Members who are eligible should a) have immediate access to their 2018 Professional Supplement; and b) have career progress and merit apply to their July 2018 pay cheque. Only the question of the application of the COLA remains in dispute. All members who have earned Career Progress and/or Merit Increments in 2017-2018 should see these amounts applied in their July pay cheques; all members who have access to Professional Supplement funds should have access currently to their 2018-2019 funds.
On June 28, the University followed up on point (4) with an application to the Labour Relations Board asking it to decline to act on ULFA’s request for a ruling and provide instead “declaratory relief” that the question should be handled using the provisions for binding arbitration under Article 1 of the Handbook. Depending on how an arbitrator ruled, this could prevent ULFA from accessing its statutory rights under the Code and Bill 7. ULFA’s position remains that the question of whether bridging applies to the 2016-2018 Handbook is clearly a question of the application of the Code, rather than the interpretation of the Handbook.
Currently, the two sides are discussing with the Labour Board the best means of dealing with their competing applications. Meanwhile, bargaining continues, with the next two negotiating sessions set for July 16 and 25.
We will provide more details as they become available.