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Why is the U of L board limiting faculty pay raises?

ULFA has already agreed to 3 years of wage freezes, and they’re proposing an increase in the final year of just one percentage point more than what the board is offering.

Back in October, I had reported that the University of Lethbridge board of governors had filed for mediation after refusing to concede to proposals made by the U of L Faculty Association.

They filed for mediation following 15 bargaining sessions to create a collective bargaining agreement to replace the one that expired in June 2020.

ULFA had proposed extending the previous agreement for 2 years with 0% increases, but the U of L board of governors was determined to implement 4% wage rollbacks in the first year, followed by several years of wage freezes.

Those proposals have since been changed to wages freezes in 2020, 2021, and 2022, 1.25% in April 2023. The board wanted a 1.5% increased in December 2023 and ULFA wants a 2.5% increase. Both parties have also proposed a 0.5% “gains sharing” increase in December 2023.

By the end of the proposed 4-year agreement, salaries for ULFA members will be 14% behind inflations since the 1% wage rollback they received in 2013. Plus, their salaries are behind those at comparator institutions, by 10–15%.

Last week, I reported that the mediator determined that no common ground could be made because the two parties were too far apart in their proposals. As a result, the mediator never recommended terms of settlement.

This means that U of L faculty still have no contract. And they have filed for a strike vote, held Wednesday and Thursday this week.

If members vote in favour of a strike, it doesn’t mean that faculty will automatically strike. They could use it as leverage in further negotiations, assuming the board of governors will come back to the bargaining table.

But given that the board intends to lock faculty out of email and other online services should they go on strike, it seems as though they’re not in much of a bargaining mood.

But why is the board so intent on not making any concessions? Alberta Health Services and United Nurses of Alberta managed to finish the mediation process successfully, despite AHS coming with 3% wage rollbacks and subsequent wage freezes.

Well, let’s take a look at some of the board members. I’m going to skip the 6 members who are faculty, students, and unionized staff, as I assume they’d be sympathetic to faculty.

Kurt Schlachter chairs the board of governors. He’s a lawyer and regional managing partner with Stringham LLP, an Alberta-based law firm headquartered in Lethbridge. He has chaired the board since 2016.

Harvey Labuhn is the board’s vice chair. He is a chartered accountant and partner with Avail LLP, a Lethbridge-based accounting firm. He has been on the board since 2016.

Terry Whitehead chairs the board’s advancement committee. He is managing partner with Alexander Whitehead Executive Search, a Vancouver-based headhunting firm. He has been with the board since 2017.

Kelly Philipp chairs the board’s audit committee. He is the chief financial officer with Haul-All Group of Companies, a Lethbridge-based manufacturing company. He has been on the board since 2018.

Dean Gallimore chairs the board’s finance committee. he is a chartered professional accountant and the former managing partner of the Lethbridge KPMG LLP office. He has been on the board since 2019

Shilpa Stocker chairs the board’s governance committee. She is a management consultant, specializing in economic development, strategic planning, and project management. She has been on the board since 2016.

Rick Casson is a general board member. He was the Lethbridge MP from 1997 to 2011, representing the Reform, Canadian Alliance, and Conservative parties. He has been on the board since 2019.

Jason Elliott is one of two alumni reps on the board. He is a certified HR professional and, until last summer, was the HR manager at the City of Lethbridge. He has been on the board since 2019.

Darcy Gonci is a general board member. He is a chartered professional accountant and currently the director of finance with McDaniel & Associates, a Calgary-based oil and gas reserve evaluation engineering service firm. He has been on the board since 2019.

Karen Gunn is a general board member. She a risk manager with Calgary-base Rogers Insurance. She has been on the board since 2017.

David Johnson is the other alumni rep. He is the executive director of the Government Finance Officers Association of Alberta. He has been on the board since 2020.

Karen Reid is a general board member. She is the chief financial officer with Charlton & Hill, a Lethbridge-based plumbing and HVAC company. She has been on the board since 2018.

So in summary, the board has 3 accountants, 4 financial officers, 2 managing partners, an HR manager, a management consultant, an insurance risk manager, and a former conservative politician.

Is it any wonder that the board is refusing to concede? It’s stacked with people in positions that would generally put a company’s bottom line above worker needs.

In fact, when you go to the board website, the first primary responsibility they list is “act in the best interest of the institution”. Not the best interest of faculty. Not the best interest of unionized workers. Not the best interest of students. The institution.

And keep in mind that most of the board members listed above were appointed during the Alberta NDP administration.

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By Kim Siever

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

5 replies on “Why is the U of L board limiting faculty pay raises?”

How much does the 5.7% budget reduction from the UCP government for 2021/22 have to do with this?

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