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CAUT Bulletin Archives

February 2013

Concordia University College faculty ratify first contract

Union president Deborah Hemmerling grateful for support during bargaining.
Union president Deborah Hemmerling grateful for support during bargaining.
Faculty at Concordia University College of Alberta have overwhelmingly ratified their first collective agreement, ending a lengthy battle for the 50 permanent academic staff who gained certification from the provincial labour relations board last April.

Members of the CUCA Faculty Association — also a first as the only Alberta faculty association covered by the province’s labour relations code — voted 98 per cent in favour Feb. 6 to accept the tentative agreement hammered out over three days of intense, mediated dialogue between the administration and the faculty union in January.

Union president Deborah Hemmerling credits the skill of the government-appointed mediator with breaking a stalemate that had lasted since the unit first served notice to bargain just days after certification last spring.

“Things looked pretty dark before Deborah Howes set up the meetings. I’d have to say she’s pretty good at her job,” Hemmerling said.

The two-year deal, a “typical collective agreement” according to Hemmerling, delivers job security for members, which was the biggest concern for instructors who held the status of individual contractors prior to unionization. The previously existing salary structure remains at status quo under the terms of the agreement.

Hemmerling also praised the “financial and moral” assistance provided to the faculty association by CAUT, and thanked all other associations and individuals who expressed support throughout the process.

“I can’t begin to convey how much it meant to us. To get all those messages, and receive the guidance from CAUT that we did, was immeasurably important, because we were so very new to the situation,” she said.

Although the union had been attempting to negotiate a contract for months, it was stymied by the tactics of the school’s administration, including an initial refusal to accept offered bargaining dates, a refusal to negotiate some items central to university agreements, and the resignation of the vice-president academic, who acted as the chief negotiator for the employer.

Calling the bargaining environment an “unprecedented assault” on an academic staff association’s ability to negotiate a just and fair first agreement led CAUT to issue an alert for Concordia last fall, the first time in more than a decade the organization had taken such action.

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.

During the difficulties, the membership remained solidly in support of its union.

It was only after the union applied for a provincial mediator in December, Hemmerling said, that the employer buckled down to meaningful talks, leading to the recent agreement.

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.