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CAUT Bulletin Archives

October 2012

CAUT Declares Bargaining Alert for Concordia University College of Alberta

[Brent Bereska]
[Brent Bereska]
An “unprecedented assault” on an academic staff association’s ability to negotiate a just and fair first agreement has led CAUT to issue an alert for Concordia University College of Alberta, the first time in more than a decade the organization has taken such action.

About 50 academic staff at Concordia were newly unionized in April after applying to the Alberta Labour Relations Board for cer­tification, but are stymied in efforts to negotiate a first collective agreement with the school’s administration.

An ‘alert’ highlights a situation in which an employer passes the bounds of hard bargaining to engage in an extreme form of bad faith bargaining and is seriously inhibiting the free collective bargaining process.

Deb Hemmerling, president of Concordia University College of Alberta Faculty Association, said the mobilizing event for academic staff came last year after the administration presented them with a “draft faculty agreement” that attempted to erode their existing employment rights.

“We realized our jobs were ephemeral,” Hemmerling said. “As individual contractors, we felt our concerns wouldn’t be heard.”

Days after certification — a move that succeeded despite vigorous opposition from the administration — the faculty association served notice to bargain. But the process has been marred by delay, including the employer’s initial refusal to accept offered bargaining dates, and culminating in the resignation of the vice-president academic, who acted as the chief negotiator for the employer.

Since then, Concordia has refused to follow normal bargaining conventions, and has arbitrarily ruled certain items out of bounds for the bargaining process, including academic freedom, permanence, promotion, performance evaluation and appointments.

“They’ve declared that some things aren’t bargainable,” said Hemmerling. “Our assertion is that if it’s about the workplace, it should be in the collective agreement.”

She noted that although the two sides are now meeting regularly, these major issues remain unresolved. “But at the end of the day, we have to keep approaching the process with as much good will as possible, and bring that to the table. Ultimately, we will all be working together.”

James Turk, CAUT’s executive director, said “CAUT will take all measures necessary to publicize the events which led to the invocation of an alert, and provide all possible support to its member

Turk advised that if the situation isn’t resolved by the parties, CAUT will consider imposing censure through its council.

Concordia College was founded in 1921 by the Lutheran Church to prepare men for preaching and teaching ministries, but now offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Its name was changed to Concordia University College of Alberta in 1995 to reflect its status as a degree-granting institution.