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CAUT Bulletin Archives

June 2000

UBC Faculty Association Wins Labour Board Case

Norma Weiland
On May 25 the B.C. Labour Relations Board issued a decision which confirmed the University of British Columbia Faculty Association as "the sole collective bargaining agent for a unit which includes both sessionals and faculty." In its ruling, the board dismissed an application by the Canadian Union of Public Employees to represent the sessionals at UBC in a separate bargaining unit or as part of an existing teaching assistants local. In addition, the 16-page decision officially recognizes the status of the UBCFA as a union which is voluntarily recognized under the Labour Relations Code.

This decision marks the successful conclusion to a saga which really began in 1975 when full time sessional faculty first became our members. They were followed in 1993 by sessionals with an appointment of 50 per cent or more. Our push to bring the last group of sessionals into the association – those with less than a 50 per cent appointment – began in 1998.

Just as our efforts at the bargaining table paid off and the UBC administration agreed to voluntarily recognize those sessionals still outside the faculty association (one course sessionals), CUPE began an organizing drive which we saw as an illegal raid on our members. The faculty association, buoyed by the support of our long term sessional members resolved to fight the incursion.

As CUPE campaigned, so did we. Two votes were held – one to amend the framework agreement to include all sessionals (overwhelmingly ratified by existing members) followed by a vote of one course sessionals (91 per cent in favour) on their inclusion in the bargaining unit and the collective agreement.

At the end of their drive, CUPE claimed sufficient sign-ups to bring the matter before the Labour Board (but not enough for automatic certification). The board ordered a vote which was kept sequestered, pending a decision on the issues.

In a subsequent interim decision, the board recognized the appropriateness of a bargaining unit comprising all faculty, acknowledging the "functional integration"of sessional and other faculty in carrying out the teaching mandate of the university. The decision also suggested the faculty association should take steps to ensure unequivocally that our voluntary recognition was under the Labour Code as we asserted.

Consequently a vote was held of all members to amend the framework agreement and place ourselves under the Labour Code. This was ratified also by a very strong vote in favour. It is this result as well as the appropriateness of our bargaining unit comprising all faculty which was upheld by the May 25 board ruling.

Throughout the long process we had strong support from many long term sessional members. Our history has been one of inclusion of sessional faculty and over the years sessional members have served on the association executive and other important committees including salaries and economic benefits committees. Our collective agreements covering sessional faculty include a minimum salary scale, access to benefits, vacation pay (including one course sessionals), lay off and seniority clauses.

The 1998 agreement also included a provision to convert a list of long term sessionals to 12-month lecturers. There is still much to be done but our sessional members recognized what CAUT has also stated: "When it comes to pay scales, academic freedom, seniority and pensions, faculty associations have done better for sessional lecturers than others."

We are glad to have the battle behind us and look forward to the challenge of continuing to represent the interests of our sessionals. In our recent elections, one more sessional member was elected to our executive (bringing the total to two) as well as two other new members who vowed to work also for sessional issues. I am the first president of the UBC Faculty Association who began my term on the executive as a sessional member.

This is a bargaining year coming up and we look forward to strong participation from our sessional faculty in working for increased salaries and improved conditions of employment commensurate with their important role as teaching faculty at UBC.

Throughout the campaign we were grateful for the continuing support from CAUT as well as for the financial help with some of our campaign expenses.

Norma Weiland is president of the University of British Columbia Faculty Association.