October 15 - The University of Alberta’s Commitment to Collegial and Meaningful Consultations

15 October 2020

The University of Alberta is aware of the joint statement and complaint brought forward by AASUA and NASA. The University respects the significant role played by each union and while the institution has a difference of opinion regarding the Unions’ complaint, the University remains committed to maintaining and fostering a collegial environment for the whole of the U of A community, especially as we come together to develop the U of A for Tomorrow.

The Unions representing the University of Alberta’s academic and non-academic staff – AASUA and NASA, respectively – filed a joint Complaint to the Alberta Labour Relations Board (“ALRB”) on October 9, 2020. The Complaint alleges that the University has not appropriately included or consulted the Unions as part of the U of A for Tomorrow (UAT) initiative, and that this has resulted in an interference with the Unions’ ability to fairly and properly represent their members’ interests in breach of certain sections of Alberta’s labour legislation. The Complaint sets out the Unions’ unique version of events and interpretation of whether a breach of legislation has occurred. The ALRB has not made any decision regarding this complaint and has invited the University to make a submission to their process. The ALRB has also invited the University to participate in a hearing if one is deemed necessary. The ALRB will ultimately decide whether the Complaint will be upheld or dismissed as being factually or legally incorrect, or both. In the University’s respectful view, it is both.

On October 14, 2020 the Unions published a joint statement in which they articulated what the University believes is a subjective, factually incomplete, and legally incorrect account of this matter - particularly concerning the Academic Restructuring Working Group (ARWG) and Service Excellence Steering Committee (SESC).

The ARWG and SESC (which are the apparent focus of the Unions’ concerns) were designed and are intended to be working groups focused on obtaining critical information and feedback from individual academic and non-academic staff, students, and administrative leaders. The work of these groups and their recommendations will help inform any decisions made by the Board of Governors regarding academic restructuring and the SET operating model. It is important to note that both Unions are also represented on the Board.

The Staff Advisory Team (SAT) has also been established to provide a forum for SET and ARWG to regularly consult with a range of staff members about the restructuring considerations. The composition of SAT provides a broad, equitable, inclusive, and diverse range of perspectives; membership of SAT was established following an open call for nominations by the Faculties and Support Units.

These three committees (ARWG, SESC, and SAT) are not forums for adversarial negotiation regarding terms and conditions of employment nor do they engage in any collective bargaining matters.

In recognition of the Unions’ necessary and important role, the University has had a variety of ongoing meetings with each of the Unions, and will continue to meet specifically with them to ensure that the purpose of the Unions’ status and role as bargaining agents continues to be served. Engaging with the Unions in specialized, informational, and bargaining-focused meetings ensures that they are able to advocate directly for their members, while allowing the AWRG and SESC to continue their decidedly different work. The University is not using the ARWG or SESC or SAT to engage in discussions regarding terms and conditions of employment directly with the Unions’ individual members, nor is there any desire to do so. As is normal practice, any negotiation-focused discussions will be carried out between the Board of Governors and the Unions as bargaining agents.

The University would like to reiterate to all members of the U of A community – faculty, staff and students – that your feedback and input about the U of A for Tomorrow is imperative. The University continues to engage the whole of the U of A community - through GFC standing committees, town halls, faculty and unit level roundtables, check-in Pulse surveys, Thought Exchanges, feedback forms, and emails - seeking your ideas, concerns, points of information, and suggestions as part of the ongoing conversations and planning around restructuring. The U of A has a history of evolving to meet the needs of our changing society, and we all share the same goal to work together to reach the best possible U of A for tomorrow.