University provides clarity on recent AASUA bargaining report

The university provides clarity on a recent collective bargaining report from the AASUA Executive and Negotiations Team.

19 March 2021

Members of the association of academic staff recently received a collective bargaining report from the AASUA Executive and Negotiations Team. In the university’s view, it would be inappropriate to allow inaccuracies or inaccurate editorializing in the report to remain unaddressed.

On the approach to bargaining

Contrary to AASUA’s assessment, since commencing active bargaining in November 2020, the two representative teams have reached agreement in many areas through full, productive discussions and active participation on both sides. Some of those proposals were first introduced by AASUA, and some by the university. Here are some examples of tentatively agreed items on matters initially proposed by AASUA:

  • Amendments to the language relating to student questionnaires in the evaluation of teaching. 
  • Amendments to the timelines in the disciplinary process.
  • Expressly identifying service to AASUA as qualifying as Service under the agreement. 
  • Language addressing the calculation of service for the purposes of determining severance entitlements.
  • A new article addressing employment equity, diversity and inclusion; even though new collective agreement language had been developed and recommended by a joint committee prior to the start of bargaining, the university agreed, at AASUA’s request, to engage in discussions to amend that joint recommendation. This new language is now tentatively agreed.
  • Reduction of the duration of probationary period(s) for Administrative and Professional Officers.

While not all discussions have led to agreement, substantive, respectful discussions have been held on a number of other issues to work towards reaching a positive agreement on language. Here are some examples on matters initially proposed by AASUA:

  • Language addressing the effects of unforeseen circumstances, including pandemics, on the evaluation of members’ performance; the university’s counter-proposal addressed this issue in the context of workload, rather than evaluation, which was wholly unacceptable to AASUA. The university’s counter-proposal has since been withdrawn. 
  • New language providing a performance improvement process for members who experience an unsatisfactory assessment of performance; whereas the university's counter-proposal included elements of AASUA’s concept and rejected others, it was not well-received by AASUA, as conveyed at the table. Despite best intentions, the university's bargaining team advised that if the university’s counter-proposal was unacceptable to AASUA, the university was prepared to withdraw.
  • New language providing an ability for members to opt-out of the full annual evaluation processes (FEC, LEC, ATSEC); the university bargaining team advised that it saw mutual benefit in aspects of AASUA’s proposal and tabled a counter-proposal, but ultimately withdrew after AASUA insisted any agreement would be contingent on the requirement that members who opt-out automatically receive a 1.0 merit award.

On Academic Freedom

The university has no interest or intent to adjust the existing academic freedom article in the collective agreement. The singular concern regarding academic freedom raised by AASUA at the table was promptly resolved on March 12. If there are outstanding university proposals perceived to interfere with AASUA members’ academic freedom, these have not yet been brought to the attention of the university’s bargaining team.  

On ‘complete management authority’

AASUA has reported that the Board appears to be seeking complete management authority to impose parameters of research, year-round teaching schedules, and performance management with absolutely no recourse for members. With respect to research, there have been no such proposals. AASUA misinterpreted the university's intent regarding a proposal addressing the dissemination of research results, which was promptly clarified and then withdrawn on March 12.  With respect to teaching, the university’s proposal provides for year-round programming, expressly limiting teaching assignments to no more than two terms in a year (except where the member agrees). With respect to performance management, this concept was first raised by AASUA.

On Intellectual Property  

The university has rejected AASUA’s proposal to amend the collective agreement on Intellectual Property; however, AASUA’s account fails to mention that the university’s bargaining team advised that it does not necessarily take issue with AASUA’s substantive proposals but will be undergoing a comprehensive, institution-wide review of the suite of Intellectual Property policies and other materials at the university, which will include consultation with AASUA. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to negotiate changes to the collective agreement language prior to this review.  

On ‘contested cases’

The university has proposed to eliminate faculty members’ ability to appear before FEC where performance is assessed as satisfactory (known as “0B”) or meritorious (merit awards of 0.5 or 0.75). The university has not proposed to completely eliminate the underlying concept of ‘contested cases’, which, in all other circumstances contemplated by the agreement, maintains members’ right to appear before FEC and to challenge the FEC assessment. 

The university’s desire in bargaining remains the same: a negotiated agreement, and certainty and stability, for the U of A community during challenging times. The university and its representative bargaining team are committed to sustaining our excellence in teaching, research, learning and community engagement by ensuring the long-term well-being of this great university. The university looks forward to continued good faith negotiations.