University of Lethbridge collective bargaining moves to mediation

After 15 sessions of bargaining with the faculty association, the U of L board of governors has filed for mediation.

Yesterday, the University of Lethbridge announced that its board of governors had applied for informal mediation after failing to reach an agreement during negotiations with the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association.

The most recent collective bargaining agreement between the two parties expired at the end of last June. ULFA has twice offered to extend this CBA by 2 years with 0% salary increases, and the board team rejected it both times.

According to the U of L announcement, the parties have been negotiating since 18 January 2021—when they met to exchange full proposals—and have met 15 times, the most recent being yesterday.

The U of L board of governors claims to have bargained in good faith in each of the meetings, except that I’m not sure that yesterday’s meeting counts as a bargaining meeting.

According to a newsletter issue sent out by ULFA yesterday, the board bargaining team informed the ULFA bargaining team that they intended to file a request with the Labour Relations Board for informal mediation. The board team notified the ULFA team only an hour before communicating it to faculty at large.

Plus, the request was filed with LRB 2 days prior to the meeting. In addition, the board team said that they refuse to bargain without a mediator present.

ULFA has counterfiled a request with the LRB for formal mediation. According to ULFA, formal mediation would result in fewer delays and would be less expensive.

At the most recent bargaining session, held just 10 days ago, the two parties had scheduled 6 additional bargaining sessions for the next two months.

Maybe it’s just me, but setting up 6 bargaining sessions and then filing for mediation only a week later doesn’t sound like bargaining in good faith.

The board team reported that “certain articles have emerged as a high priority for both ULFA and the Board and certain positions continue to be far apart in several crucial areas.” They failed to provide any details on what those articles or positions are, however.

In an article posted on their website earlier this month, however, ULFA indicated one main issue is that the U of L is insisting a 4% wage rollback that will be retroactive. That would be followed by several years of freezes on cost of living adjustments.

According to ULFA, U of L faculty already make 10–15% less than faculty at comparator universities, and it was the only faculty association in Alberta to take a 1% wage cut the last time universities faced financial trouble.

These are similar wage rollbacks to those that the board has proposed to AUPE workers at the U of L.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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