In a decisive victory, the University of British Columbia Faculty Association has gained the right to represent all faculty members at UBC.
In a decision handed down Dec. 18, the B.C. Labour Relations Board reaffirmed the faculty association as the appropriate bargaining unit for all full-time faculty members and sessional lecturers. In addition, the decision upheld an earlier panel's ruling which officially recognized the faculty association's status as a trade union under the labour code.
Last year the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) sought leave to appeal after an earlier board ruling dismissed its application to represent sessionals at UBC in a separate bargaining unit or as part of an existing teaching assistants local.
CUPE cited five grounds as a basis for their appeal. These included a challenge of the original board finding that there was "functional integration" of sessionals and regular faculty members and an assertion that the board had erred in assessing the status of voluntary recognition agreements under the Labour Code relative to rights acquired through certification.
In its summary findings the board denied CUPE's request on four grounds. And, CUPE's assertion that the original panel had erred in finding there was functional integration of sessionals and regular faculty members was dismissed outright.
"We're pleased by the final ruling of the B.C. Labour Relations Board in the matter of CUPE's attempted raid on UBC sessional faculty members," said faculty association president Norma Wieland.
"In two previous decisions on the matter, the board had already found that the faculty association bargaining unit comprising all faculty was the appropriate bargaining unit."
In its ruling, the board upheld the original panel's decision that "both faculty members and sessional lecturers are engaged to perform the core function of teaching. To the extent that faculty and sessionals share teaching responsibilities, they were found to perform virtually identical work and could teach the same course during the same semester without any outward appearance of any difference." It is the "overlapping and shared duties" the board found to "require a bargaining unit inclusive of both."
The board report also states that it sees no reason to question the finding of the original panel that this significant level of functional integration resulted in industrial instability concerns if sessional and regular faculty were in separate bargaining units.
The board did grant leave to apply for reconsideration on one ground: the issue of the relative weight to be afforded voluntary recognition agreements.
Significantly, CUPE did not challenge the original panel's conclusions on the validity of the voluntary recognition agreement. "Given that recognition of the validity, the only question that remains is one of law," the board said. "Is there anything inherent in the status of voluntary recognition that would make it of a lesser significance than a certification so as to lead to a different rule?" In its conclusion the board found "no distinction between the two categories of representational rights."
"We're delighted with the outcome," said CAUT executive director Jim Turk.
"The decision makes important statements about the functional integration of full-time and sessional faculty and on the validity of voluntary recognition. This should bring an end to CUPE's attempts to stop the sessionals from being represented by the faculty association."
Wieland agrees. "All energies can now be concentrated on the continuing work to achieve improvements in the pay and status of our sessional faculty members," she said.