Response to AASUA’s message to members of May 7, 2021

The university corrects inaccuracies contained in a recent collective bargaining communication from the AASUA Executive and Negotiations Team.

10 May 2021

University corrects inaccuracies in recent AASUA bargaining communication

Members of the association of academic staff recently received a Bargaining Bulletin Update from the AASUA Executive and Negotiations Team. At this point in the process, a communication which contains inaccuracies and misrepresentations of team-to-team negotiations risks undermining the parties’ relationship and entrenching bargaining positions. 

On bargaining concessions

AASUA suggests that the university is not prepared to concede on language while also seeking financial concessions, which is correct. However, it is important to note that AASUA is similarly not prepared to concede on language while also tabling compensation proposals well-above both CPI and current bargaining trends.  Neither party’s financial proposals have been discussed, let alone accepted. Given the parties’ respective financial proposals, an expectation that either party would concede on language, without negotiation or reasoned consideration, is unrealistic. 

In the context of the seven articles identified by AASUA which have been discussed most recently, the university has agreed to many of AASUA’s proposals, and for others, has made a good faith effort to address AASUA’s interests through counter-proposals and compromise. Examples include:

  • new language addressing health & safety
  • including service to the Association within the definition of service
  • addressing the effect of the pandemic on the evaluation of performance
  • addressing the use of USRI’s in evaluating performance
  • providing an ability for faculty members to opt out of the FEC process
  • introducing a Performance Improvement Plan for faculty whose performance has been assessed as unsatisfactory
  • providing procedural enhancements to the GAC process
  • in the context of academic reorganization, revisions to the calculation of the notice period, salary paid during that period, and the calculation of severance
  • in the context of a financial emergency, increasing the eligibility for, and calculation of, a voluntary severance payment

By contrast, university proposals of substance within these same seven articles, minor matters aside, have been rejected outright by AASUA.  AASUA provides several examples in its communication.  The university takes no issue with AASUA’s hardline approach, as this is their prerogative and they would not be expected to concede on language; however, to imply that the university is the intransigent party does not accurately reflect negotiations to date. 

On Article A2 (University Responsibilities)

The university proposed that department chairs be allowed the flexibility to assign teaching in any two academic terms, including intersession, to enable year-round learning for students.  The university was clear in the written language, during discussions at the table and in its March 19 bargaining update, that its proposal did not mean that a faculty member could be required by the chair (or dean) to teach in more than two academic terms.  AASUA has suggested, for the first time by its communication, that the university’s proposal in combination with current language (providing the dean with the authority to resolve disputes between a department chair and faculty member), can ultimately result in the faculty member being required to teach in more than two academic terms. That is not an interpretation the university shares, which we would have confirmed at the table if brought to our attention.  AASUA chose to reject the proposal outright rather than attempt to address the university’s (or for that matter students’) interest. 

On Article A6 (Faculty Evaluation)

AASUA continues to suggest that the university tabled a proposal to fully eliminate contested cases before FEC. This is a misrepresentation as we noted in the university’s March 19 bargaining update

AASUA indicates that the university would only consider AASUA’s opt-out proposal under two conditions: 1. that the non-adjudicated award could be zero; and 2. that the merit increment pool is reduced. This is a misleading simplification of a detailed discussion. The university proposed that where performance requirements were met, faculty members electing to opt out would receive an increase to salary (in an amount to be negotiated between the parties in the context of the overall monetary discussions).  With respect to the determination of the merit pool, the university proposed that faculty members electing to opt out would not be counted in the 1.2X formula; however, their salary increases would also not be deducted from the pool. Contrary to AASUA’s account, impasse was reached because AASUA was not prepared to negotiate any formulation of an opt out provision that did not include an automatic non-adjudicated merit award of 1.0.

On Article A7 (Unacceptable Academic Performance)

AASUA suggests that the university presented a counter-proposal for a Performance Improvement Plan process that would give the university the ability to unilaterally initiate the process for any member, at any time. The university clarified immediately at the bargaining table that this was not the university’s intent. 

On Article A10 (Academic Reorganization)  

The university accepted all of AASUA’s proposed non-monetary language changes in the article and indicated that it would defer a response on AASUA’s proposed enhancement of the severance calculation to the parties’ overall monetary discussions. AASUA rejected the university’s deferral, insisting that its severance proposals are non-monetary issues.  Being forced into an immediate response, the university rejected AASUA’s severance proposals.

On Article A11 (Financial Emergency)

AASUA has rejected the university’s proposed change to the definition of a financial emergency, which would change the trigger from a deficit to a reduction of operating revenues. No rationale for this rejection was provided at the table.  It would appear, based on AASUA’s communication, that AASUA’s principal concern is that the threshold proposed by the university (10% reduction) is too low in spite of the fact that the university team stated the 10% figure was merely an opening position and negotiable.  

Contrary to AASUA’s claims, the university did not propose any unilateral authority of the university or president to initiate across-the-board salary reductions without agreement from AASUA. In the event of a financial emergency, the proposal provides that any implementation of salary reductions could only be done so on terms agreed to by AASUA.


The university and AASUA are in the middle of a very challenging negotiation in which monetary issues are still to be considered.  Misrepresentations of the parties’ negotiations will not ameliorate this challenge.  We continue to bargain in good faith, seeking an agreement that reflects the importance of the work of our academic staff, as well as the realities of the academic sector in Alberta.