Earlier today, the University of Lethbridge Board negotiating team presented the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) bargaining team with an official Offer of Settlement. The Offer includes pay increases for all ULFA members as well as agreement and concession on a number of priority areas that ULFA has identified. This Offer is a result of productive discussions between the parties occurring during both the informal and formal mediation process which began on November 29, 2021.
In the period 2019-20 to 2022/23, the Government of Alberta will have cut the University's operating grant by 21 per cent. Additionally, COVID-related expenses and related loss of revenues are more than $8 million. The University has been required to make some very difficult decisions considering our financial realities including the elimination of approximately 10 per cent of our total work force. Additionally, the economic realities have been extremely difficult for some of our community members, including students who have incurred three years of seven per cent tuition increases and non-unionized staff who have had their salaries frozen by the Alberta government (both COLA and merit) since 2015.
Below is an overview of some of the significant items contained in the Offer of Settlement provided to the ULFA negotiating team on January 17, 2022. Our university community can read the Offer of Settlement which has been posted here.
The Board negotiating team is offering ULFA members cost of living salary increases of 1.25 per cent on April 1, 2023, and 1.5 per cent on December 1, 2023. These increases are in addition to annual career progress and merit increases which is approximately 2.5 per cent each year. ULFA members would also be entitled to an additional 0.5 percent in February 2024 (retroactive to December 1, 2023) based on a formula that measures Alberta’s economic performance. This represents significant progress from the Board’s opening position. This Offer contains no proposed salary rollbacks in any year of the proposed agreement.
The Board is proposing to maintain its commitment to the current benefit packages afforded to ULFA members. Further, the Board has agreed to ULFA's proposal to expand some benefit coverage, to be paid by Members.
Job Security (Financial Emergency)
ULFA expressed concern that the Board negotiating team had proposed to lower the threshold to declare a financial emergency. The Board negotiating team heard ULFA’s concerns and it has rescinded this language, to maintain the current threshold of job security for ULFA members.
Academic Freedom, Representation and Accompaniment
The Board negotiating team was seeking language to clarify academic freedom, as well as representation and accompaniment. The University removed these items in good faith given concerns expressed by ULFA. The Offer of Settlement proposes the language that exists in the current collective agreement remain unchanged.
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity (EDI)
EDI is an issue that is of great importance across our university. The Board negotiating team and ULFA came to agreement on a schedule that will lead to important mutual gains with respect to EDI at the U of L.
Assignment of Duties
The Board is proposing to provide ULFA with copies of policies, procedures and guidelines related to the assignment of duties, to further support equity and transparency.
The Board negotiating team and ULFA agreed on a proposal which will lead to mutual gains for the University and ULFA membership with respect to supporting intellectual property and the commercialization of research.
Presenting to the University Budget Advisory Committee
The Board negotiating team has offered to ULFA an opportunity to present to the Budget Advisory Committee on an annual basis. Relatedly, the University has recently amended the terms of reference for this committee and membership will now include faculty, staff and both undergraduate and graduate students. Details regarding this change can be found on the budget website.
Partnerships Regarding Student Recruitment
ULFA expressed concern that if the University entered into an agreement with Navitas, that related courses would not be taught by ULFA members. Responding to this concern, the Board has agreed to work with ULFA toward an outcome, where in the case that the University enters into an agreement with Navitas, all academic courses would be taught by ULFA members. The Board negotiating committee has offered to enter into an MOU in this regard.
Recognition for ULFA Executives
In response to an ULFA proposal, the Offer of Settlement provides support for increased time allocation for ULFA executives to attend to ULFA-related duties.
Though significant progress has been achieved through the mediation process, the ULFA bargaining team advised the Board bargaining team late this afternoon that it would be withdrawing from mediation. This results in a mandatory fourteen-day "cooling off" period after which ULFA will be able to ask its members to participate in a strike vote.
Our campus communities have endured great uncertainty due to the global pandemic and historic funding cuts. The Board team feels they have put forward an Offer of Settlement that supports the collective well-being and sustainability of our campus communities. The Board negotiating team is ready to re-engage with the ULFA team at the earliest possibility.