On Dec. 1, 1999, the members of the UBC Faculty Association voted 79 per cent in favour of bringing their collective agreements with the university under the B.C. Labour Code. The vote was precipitated by a challenge to the status of the faculty association as the legitimate bargaining agent for all its members in front of the B.C. Labour Relations Board.
Specifically, the challenge was brought by CUPE's certification application for sessional faculty, many of whom have been represented by the faculty association since 1975 when the association achieved bargaining rights. The faculty association had been attempting for many years to expand its bargaining unit to include all sessional faculty. This was achieved in January 1999.
The application brought by CUPE was opposed in the first instance by both the university and the association on the basis that a separate unit of sessional faculty was inappropriate given the functional integration, or similarity of core functions, between sessional and tenure track faculty.
At the labour board hearings held in September 1999, sessional faculty testified that they frequently taught the same courses as tenure track faculty, were involved in course development along with other faculty, and shared the same aspirations as faculty in tenure track positions. CUPE's position was, in part, that many possible "appropriate" units were possible, including one of sessional faculty. The hearings were adjourned for consideration of these arguments before considering the question of the status of the faculty association. However, on Nov. 1 an interim judgement was rendered which indicated the need for further inquiry of the status issue.
The faculty association's authority for collective bargaining is derived from an agreement on the framework for collective bargaining which was originally negotiated in 1975. To formalize the bargaining relationship as one within the parameters of the Labour Relations Code, a number of amendments to the agreement were required. These amendments were negotiated and on Nov. 10 Dr. Barry McBride, Vice President Academic and Provost, provided written confirmation the amendments to the framework agreement proposed by the faculty association that would formalize the existing collective bargaining relationship as one of voluntary recognition under the Labour Relations Code would be recommended to the board of governors if they were ratified by the general membership. A ballot to this effect was accordingly issued.
The amendments ratified by the membership will now be presented to the board for ratification. Subsequently, the hearing before the labour board will resume and a ruling regarding CUPE's certification application will be rendered.