As we reported last week, ULFA filed an application with the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) for a ruling on the relationship between the Sessional and Faculty “Handbooks.”
This application came as a result of our December 15th meeting with the Board of Governor’s bargaining team at which time we discussed the issue of whether there were two bargaining units (Sessional Lecturers vs Faculty/Professional Librarians/Instructors/Academic Assistants) and, therefore, two collective agreements (the Sessional Lecturers Handbook vs the Faculty Handbook) or whether we have one unified bargaining unit and one unified collective agreement.
It became clear at this meeting with the Board of Governors that the two parties had irreconcilable interpretations of the Labour Relations Code and the Post-Secondary Learning Act as they pertain to this issue. ULFA subsequently filed an application with the ALRB on January 4th, who in turn has accepted the case for an expedited hearing.
The hearing will take place in Calgary at a date yet to be determined in the near future. You may have also seen around campus a notice of the ALRB case posted for ULFA members to see. If you haven’t seen it in your department or around campus, please follow up with your Dean’s Office to ensure this notice is posted publicly.
We will keep you informed of developments as they arise.
In our post on the December 15 meeting between Board and ULFA negotiating teams, we reported that there was some disagreement between the two sides as to the precise rules that would govern our negotiating in the New Year. The most fundamental of these involves the way negotiations for the “Academic Staff” bargaining unit must be conducted.
As we understand it, the Board’s position is that ULFA and the Board must negotiate separate and distinct collective agreements for Sessional Employees and Faculty, with separate Essential Services Agreements for each, separate negotiations, and, should agreement not be reached in a timely fashion, potentially separate or conflicting mediation, strike, and/or lockout processes. ULFA’s position is that ULFA represents one bargaining unit made up of all academic staff and thus, by law, we are required to enter into a single collective agreement for that bargaining unit. Further, dividing the bargaining unit into two parts with two collective agreements is inconsistent with best or common practice, the laws that govern our negotiations, and Labour Code precedent and policy.
This disagreement is important as bargaining strategy, timing decisions, the focus of bargaining committees, the group affected by an essential services agreement, an application for mediation or a strike or lockout is different depending on which view is correct. It would be very difficult to learn from the Labour Relations Board at the point of applying for mediation or a strike/lockout, that the bargaining has been for the wrong group and the parties need to start over.
At the December 15th meeting, the parties could not reach agreement on this matter and the Board announced its intention to proceed unilaterally to begin distinct Faculty and Sessional negotiations early in the new year. It further advised ULFA that the Association could seek a ruling from the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) if it disagreed with the Board’s proposed course of action. The two sides agreed at the conclusion of the meeting that a resolution of this matter was essential before negotiations could begin.
In a subsequent exchange of letters, ULFA indicated its intention to file an application with the ALRB for a ruling on the question as the Board suggested. The Board then confirmed its intention to proceed unilaterally to begin separate negotiations for Sessional and Faculty members of the Academic Staff. ULFA’s application to the ALRB was prepared over the Holiday break and filed on January 4th.
We do not have a timeline for a decision from the ALRB. We have been told, however, that cases like this can be heard quite quickly. We will continue to update the membership as the ALRB process continues.
The Faculty Association and Board Bargaining teams met on Friday Dec. 15.
The meeting was called by the Board as a followup to our November 10 meeting to discuss various protocols and processes that will govern bargaining once it begins in the new year.
Issues discussed at the December 15th meeting included the Essential Services Agreement (ESA), the number of “tables” (i.e. the number of agreements and sets of negotiations), and a very broad overview of potential topics for negotiation.
As a result of this discussion, the two sides have discovered some important differences of opinion and understanding, particularly pertaining to the mechanics of negotiation under the Labour Relations Code and the Post Secondary Learning Act.
This is not surprising, since we are entering a completely new negotiating environment as a result of the passing of Bill 7 this past Spring. In some cases these differences need to be resolved before bargaining can begin. We have tentatively scheduled a follow-up meeting in mid January and intend to use the meantime to further research the issues in question and the avenues that exist for their resolution. In some cases, this may involve appeals to external authorities such as the Alberta Labour Relations Board.
In keeping with our practice of alternating between Board and Faculty Association space, this meeting took place in the Faculty Association offices. The Board side was represented by Chris Nicol and Ed Jurkowski (co-chairs), Carrie Takeyasu, Scott Harling, and external consultant Geoff Tierney. This was also our first opportunity to meet with new Chief Human Resources Officer Chandra Singh who began in his new position on Dec. 7.
On the Faculty Association side were Daniel Paul O’Donnell and Paul Hayes with Terry Sway and Annabree Fairweather serving as resource persons. New to the team was Rumi Graham who is serving as an observer from the Economic Benefits Committee.