AUPE Applies for Mediation in contract negotiations with Board of Governors

The Bargaining Team for the Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE) Local 53 announced on September 14 that it has applied for mediation in its negotiations for the renewal of its (expired) Collective Agreement with the University (see also their Sept. 12 announcement).

The request came after negotiations broke down on Sept. 7, AUPE reports, “when the university submitted a number of unsatisfactory proposals.” This followed what the union describes as a “year of intense bargaining” and the presentation of a “comprehensive package” by AUPE to the administration on August 20 and 21.

The primary issues at stake include

  • Adjusting maternity wage top-ups to accommodate new legislation,
  • Age discrimination in the application of sick leave for AUPE members over the age of 65,
  • Lack of significant movement on medical benefits,
  • Lack of movement on pay.

AUPE stated that “The University indicated that they had no interest in dealing with other Union monetary proposals such as vacation improvements.”

The AUPE bargaining team argues that this lack of progress on monetary issues in light of the surplus represents “an insult to the hard working front line staff as the University was able to allocate funds to improve the working terms for its Administrative Professional Officers.”

“This is unacceptable,” the union continued. “You deserve a collective agreement that reflects the importance of the work you do.”

This impasse was reached, AUPE reported to its members, despite the fact that the University administration has accumulated a surplus of $206 million. “Our research shows the University certainly has the ability compensate you fairly, and your bargaining team is committed to making sure that happens.”

About mediation

AUPE applied for mediation under Section 20 of the Public Sector Employee Relations Acts (PSERA), which draws on Divisions 11-13 of the Labour Relations Code (PSERA applies to public employees not covered by the Post Secondary Learning Act, include Staff at the U of L). Under the Code as incorporated into PSERA, informal mediation may be requested by either party at any time (Section 64). Under Section 65, either party may also request formal mediation in an attempt to resolve impasse before either party resorts to job action. Mediation under Section 65 is required before a vote can be held on lockout/strike.

Under Section 65, the mediator has 14 days from the date of his/her appointment to hear representations, mediate the dispute, and encourage the parties to reach settlement. At the end of the 14 days, the mediator may propose terms of settlement for the parties to accept or reject, or indicate that no proposal is being made. A 14 day cooling off period is required after mediation before any further action can be taken.

We will continue to work with our friends and colleagues in the AUPE bargaining unit and show solidarity as they progress through a difficult bargaining year.

Essential Services Bargaining Update: September 18

ULFA and the Board’s negotiating teams met to discuss an Essential Services Agreement for the second time on Tuesday, September 18. As agreed in our first meeting, ULFA presented a draft questionnaire that provides some background information on Alberta’s Essential Services legislation and provides a simple poll on whether through their employment at the University ULFA members may be providing essential services (activities which if they were interrupted by lockout/strike might endanger health or safety of members of the public). If ULFA members provide essential services then ULFA and the Board must have an Essential Services Agreement prior to any legal lockout/strike.

It was agreed that, after some final editing, the questionnaire will be sent out to all ULFA members via a link to a web-based survey. It is expected that this will occur within the next few weeks. It is important that all of our members watch for the email and respond promptly. The survey information will be viewed by both teams to serve as a basis for further bargaining.

For background information on the Essential Services Agreement and its negotiation to date, find more information hereherehere, and here.

ULFA’s negotiating team for Essential Services includes Rob Sutherland (Chair), Kelly Williams-Whitt, Locke Spencer, and Dawn McBride, with Annabree Fairweather serving as resource person. The Board’s negotiating team changed for the second meeting and included Chris Hosgood (Chair) and Carolin Cattoi-Demkiw, with Scott Harling serving as resource person. The next meeting is scheduled for early in October.

Bargaining Update: Sept 11, 2018

Bargaining teams for the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association and Board of Governors met to exchange language on September 11.

Presented by ULFA Presented by the Board
Article 1 (Purpose and Objectives)
Article 3 (Amendments and Modification of the Collective Agreement)
Article 4 (Applications and Exclusions)
Article 25 (Supervision and Discipline)
Article 34 (Medical Leave)
“Part II” Professional Librarians

 

Articles 1, 3, and 4 have been the subject of several exchanges. Article 25 was ULFA’s first response to the Board’s initial proposal for this article (presented on June 4th). Article 34 was a partial response to ULFA’s original proposal from May 14 for a major modernisation of our leave provisions. “Part II” introduced the final part of the Board’s proposal to reorganise major sections of the current Agreement by employee category.

In addition to these articles, the Board side also provided a document outlining its understanding of the economic context for our current negotiations. As the Board team noted, this presentation largely reprised their similar outline from June 4, with some additional details focussing on Sessional Lecturers.

Also, ULFA had included a number of increased health benefits in its Schedule B proposal but is not able to get quotes from Blue Cross about the expected costs implications to our current plan. The Board obtained this costing information from Blue Cross and shared it with ULFA so that negotiations in this area can proceed with both sides fully informed as to the financial implications of each possible change.

Results

Agreement-in-Principle was reached on Article 1. This is a renumbered and amended version of the previously unnumbered “Purpose” and “Objectives” Preambles in the 2016 Collective Agreement.

We also may be getting close to agreement on Article 3 (“Applications and Exclusions”). In this case, the remaining point to be resolved involves a specific part of a new “Solidarity clause” governing the conditions and circumstances under which members may observe the picket lines of other unions.

In the case of Articles 4, 25, 34, and Part II, there is more work to be done.

In the case of Article 4, we are discussing the question of who falls under the Collective Agreement. The main areas of current discussion involve what defines someone as being a member of the Academic Staff, and the degree to which so-called “Inactive Members” are subject to (and entitled to protection by) the Collective Agreement, including the protection of Academic Freedom. “Inactive Members” are members of the Academic Staff who hold appointments to the Board of Governors or in the Senior Administration (i.e.  Associate Deans, Deans, Associate Vice Presidents, Vice Presidents, and the President).

In the case of Article 25, we are still in very early stages of discussion. ULFA’s presentation on the 11th focussed on the organisation of the Article and the order in which supervisory and disciplinary processes take place. This was only the second time language has been exchanged on this article in this round of bargaining.

In the case of Article 34, the Board of Governors’ team provided a partial response (focussing on Medical leaves only) to ULFA’s earlier proposal for a major revision of paid and unpaid leaves. In their presentation, the Board indicated that other types of leaves will be addressed in a different article to be presented at a later date. Given the partial nature of the Board’s current response, it is at this point difficult to know how close or far apart the two sides are on this article. While very little of ULFA’s original proposal for this article was reflected in “article 34,” it is entirely possible that the second part will find more common ground. In addition, the Board side indicated that it may propose removing some sections from the language it presented on the 11th, as they are duplicated in one of more of their proposed new “Parts.”

“Part II” concluded the Board’s initial presentation of its “Parts”–i.e. a proposal to reorganise large sections of the current Collective Agreement into discrete sections dealing with individual employment categories (Faculty Members, Librarians, Instructors/Academic Assistants, and Sessional Instructors). The Board’s presentation of these “Parts” over the last four months suggests that they are currently very much a work-in-progress: the Board has indicated that they intend to make additional retroactive changes to the parts already presented. Although ULFA has indicated some broad concerns about the proposal on the basis of these texts, the lack of a definitive text has prevented us from preparing a specific response to date.

Change in Negotiators

The Board provided official notification of a change to their negotiating team, due to the forthcoming departure of Ed Jurkowski (Dean of Fine Arts) who will be taking up a position at the University of Manitoba. Robert Wood (Dean of Graduate Studies) has joined the Board negotiating team as an observer effective immediately, and will become an official member of the team when Dr. Jurkowski departs at the end of October. Dr. Wood’s previous experience includes the recent successful completion of negotiations under Bill 7 with the Graduate Students and Post Docs.

Future Plans

To ensure that negotiations continue at a reasonable pace, the two sides have agreed to meet for a “case management” meeting on Sept 24, at which point they will discuss additional meeting times and the exchange of articles.

On the whole, negotiations have been proceeding with dispatch. In most cases, the two sides have been able to respond in a timely and efficient manner, with several articles exchanged on a near weekly basis during the spring and summer. This should serve us well as we now begin the slower process of reviewing articles on which we have more substantively different perspectives. Many of the remaining articles are also quite lengthy. We should expect this to slow the rate at which proposals involving substantive changes can be developed, considered, and responded to, despite the hard work of everyone involved.

The current status of negotiations can be seen here.

Bargaining to resume Sept 11

With the exception of an initial meeting on the Essential Service Agreement, there were no bargaining sessions in August. The Board of Governors and ULFA negotiating teams are next scheduled to meet to discuss our Collective Agreement on Sept. 11.

At this point there are roughly 38 articles and schedules under discussion (it is impossible to give a precise count, as some proposals involve combining, adding, or eliminating various articles and schedules). The current status of all articles under discussion can be found here.

Bargaining Update: Essential Services Agreement

ULFA and the Board’s negotiating teams met to discuss an Essential Services Agreement for the first time on Friday, August 24. There was a productive discussion on the new legislation and the requirements on both parties to establish an agreement that protects the health and safety of members of the public in the event of a lockout or strike of academic staff. It was agreed that a joint questionnaire would be created to collect information on the types of research/services by ULFA members that may involve health and safety.

For background information on the Essential Services Agreement and its negotiation to date, find more information hereherehere, and here.

ULFA’s negotiating team for Essential Services includes Rob Sutherland (Chair), Kelly Williams-Whitt, Locke Spenser, and Dawn McBride, with Annabree Fairweather serving as resource person. The Board’s negotiating team includes Chris Hosgood (Chair), Nancy Pastoor, and Lorna Selinger, with Scott Harling serving as resource person. The next meeting is scheduled for later in September.

Bargaining update for July 25: ESA, Collective Agreement bargaining, Labour Board applications, and changes in the bargaining team

Here are some updates on various aspects of the 2018 negotiations.

Collective Bargaining to resume in September after July 25th meeting

The Collective Bargaining teams for the Board of Governors and ULFA met on July 25th for the last bargaining session of the Summer (holiday schedules made it impossible to find time in August).

During the session, the two sides exchanged the following articles (you can follow the progress of negotiated articles here):

ULFA Administration
9 (Personal Files)
33 (Gradual Retirement and Reduced Load Status)
1 (Preamble and Objectives)
3 (Amendments)
24 (Appeals of Recommendations by STP Committees)
“Part I” and “Part IV” (Faculty Members and Sessional Instructors)

At this point in the negotiations, most of the “low hanging fruit” has been dealt with and the two sides are now beginning to deal with more difficult issues. Resolving such questions requires considerable discussion and creativity as negotiators attempt to find ways of reaching agreement starting from disparate opening positions.

Wednesday’s negotiations were characteristic of this: while the sides seem close on Articles 1, 9, and 24, they have discovered areas of potentially more substantive disagreement in 3 and 33. In each case, considerable attention was devoted to probing the areas of difference and attempting to understand the core issues on each side.

“Part I” and “Part IV” are part of a new proposal from the Board to consolidate all information regarding personnel processes (e.g. hiring, promotion, PARs, etc.) for different categories of employees. “Part I” is the consolidation for members of the Professoriate, “Part IV” the consolidation for Sessionals. The Administration has previously presented a “Part III” for Academic Assistants/Lecturers. These parts represent a considerable reorganisation of the Handbook and will require careful study when negotiations resume in September.

As in previous sessions, the two sides worked productively together and negotiations continue to progress well.

“Bridging” Labour Board application

The Board of Governors and ULFA are currently involved in a case before the Labour Board regarding the applicability of “bridging” provisions in the Labour Relations Code to Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increases. You can read more about this here,  here, here, and here.

Under the “bridging” provisions of Section 130(1) of the Code, all articles of the collective agreement that were in effect when notice to bargain was given remain in effect until (1) negotiations are concluded; (2) negotiations are interrupted by job action; or (3) two years have passed without ratification of a new contract. A more detailed discussion of the background to this issue can be found here.

ULFA’s position is that bridging provisions apply to the application of COLA on July 1st (Schedule A.02). The Board of Governors has taken the position that bridging does not apply to COLA. In response, ULFA has filed an Unfair Labour Practice complaint with the Alberta Labour Relations Board. In response, the Board of Governors asked the Labour Relations Board to dismiss ULFA’s complaint, arguing that the question is a matter of interpretation of the Handbook rather than the applicability of the Code to the Handbook. In the Board of Governors view, the correct avenue for resolving this dispute is via the provisions of Article 1 (Interpretation) in the Faculty Handbook). ULFA disagrees with this position, arguing that the question is one of the applicability of the Code to the Handbook rather than the interpretation of the Handbook. ULFA also argues that Article 1 processes are an inappropriate mechanism for resolving this dispute.

On July 4th, the parties agreed to argue the Board of Governors application via written submissions. The Board of Governors submitted their request on July 18th. ULFA was given one week to reply, and submitted its response on July 25th. The Board of Governors now has until August 1st to respond to ULFA’s submission, at which point the Labour Relations Board will consider the case and reach a determination. If the Labour Relations Board decides in favour of the University, resolution of this case likely will be deferred to the processes outlined in Article 1 of the 2016 Handbook; if it decides in ULFA’s favour, the next step likely will be a hearing on the merits of ULFA’s case before the Board. This hearing will be scheduled sometime in September.

Essential Services Agreement (ESA) negotiations and Labour Board Application

Essential Services Agreements (ESAs) cover the provision of Essential Services in the event of job action (i.e. a lockout or strike). Under the Labour Relations Code, management and unions in the Post Secondary sector are required to negotiate an ESA unless an exemption is requested and granted by the Commissioner. Exemptions may be requested on the ground either that no essential services are performed by the employees in question or that all essential services can be performed by other employees in the event of job action. Under the Code, an Essential Service is a service that is required to preserve human health and safety or the maintenance of law and order. We have discussed ESAs several times over the last year, including here, here, here, here, and here.

On June 26th, the Board of Governors submitted a unilateral request for exemption from the ESA requirement with the Labour Relations Board on the grounds that members of the Academic Staff perform no essential services. This claim conflicts with ULFA’s research on the matter, which suggests that several classes of employees within the Academic Staff perform such services on a periodic or emergent basis.

The Commissioner for Essential Services met with management and the union on July 16 for a case management call. At that call the two sides were encouraged to begin negotiations and the Board agreed to temporarily pause further action on the request for exemption while the two sides attempted to find dates for negotiation. A second case management call was scheduled for July 26th but has since been canceled due to the fact that the parties are coming back to the table to bargain the ESA. The request for exemption has been paused so that the parties can work toward agreement at the table.

The two sides are in the process of scheduling dates for ESA negotiations to start by end of August.

Changes in the ULFA bargaining team

Finally, there has also been a change in the ULFA bargaining team. Dr. Paul Hayes has led the Economic Benefits side of our bargaining since 2017. He leaves for Japan on a teaching exchange and is stepping down from negotiations as a result. Dr. Rumi Graham has been appointed to the bargaining team as Dr. Haye’s replacement. She is a welcome addition to the team in this official capacity, though she has been involved as an observer in this round of negotiations and has participated on the negotiating team for many years.

In addition, Dr. Rob Sutherland has joined the team as an observer. He has recently commenced a two year term as chair of the Economic Benefits Committee.

The bargaining team now includes Dr. Dan O’Donnell (chief spokesperson), Dr. Rumi Graham, and Mr. Terry Sway. Observers on the bargaining team are Dr. Joy Morris, Dr. Rob Sutherland, and Dr. Kelly Williams-Whitt. Which is a lot of doctors.