About AUFA

Welcome to AUFA—the Athabasca University Faculty Association. We represent Athabasca University’s more than 400 faculty and professional staff members. AUFA is committed to equity in employment. The association is responsible for negotiating the collective agreement between its members and the university and also provides assistance to members in the event of grievances. Executive officers are elected each May by the association’s members, in accordance with the association’s bylaws. AUFA also sponsors social events and holds two annual general meetings, in May and in October. All members are encouraged to take an active part in AUFA: we are your organization.



What aufa can do for you

The AUFA Executive is elected in May of each year for a one-year term commencing on July 1st. It meets monthly, on the second Thursday of the month.

We have two General Meetings per year – one in May and one in October. At the May Spring meeting, elections take place for the executive and a budget is prepared for the year. At the October General meeting, our financial statements as prepared by the accountant are approved. Ratification of negotiations’ Memorandums of Agreement, bylaw changes, etc. can take place at either general meeting.

Salaries and Benefits

AUFA negotiates salaries and benefits improvements on behalf of its members each February. This includes changes to the pay structure, adjusting salaries to reflect cost-of-living increases, settling up the benefits account and negotiating improvements to benefits. If AUFA and the employer are unable to negotiate a settlement, the matter is referred to final-offer selection arbitration.

Terms and Conditions

AUFA negotiates non-financial matters on behalf of its members in October of each bargaining year. This includes changes to the language of the agreement affecting matters such as hiring, assessment and promotion. If AUFA and the employer are unable to negotiate a settlement, the existing language prevails because this negotiation is not subject to arbitration.


History of AUFA

The Athabasca University Faculty Association (AUFA) arose in 1976 in response to a specific event: a proposal by the founding president Tim Byrne (as he left) to dismiss all professors and run Athabasca University (AU) experimentally as a faculty-free university.

At the time, the organization was very new—it had opened in 1971 and only received status as a university in 1975. As late as 1978, AU had just 15 courses in its calendar, and only eight open. All staff were hired on one-year contracts; some of which were renewed annually. The Athabasca University Staff Association (AUSA), which included academic, professional, and support staff, was a classic “company union.” Ostensibly, its purpose was to represent staff interests in discussions with management, but there was no collective agreement. Effectively staff had no more rights than common law provides all employees in Alberta. AUSA operated with the philosophy that the interests of management and staff were one and the same. Dr. Byrne’s plan to dismiss all professors revealed otherwise. While management believed that contracting-out of most functions would lower the costs of running collective agreement, employees wanted job stability with good wages and benefits.

AUFA was created when professors demanded a collective agreement for academics that paralleled such agreements at other universities in Canada—with tenure, protection of academic freedom, the right to sabbaticals, and a commitment to research. From the start, however, AUFA invited professionals to participate and to struggle for secure positions to replace year-to-year contracts.

In 1978, AUFA negotiated a detailed collective agreement with AUGC, the framework of which remains in place today in the Terms and Conditions Agreement booklet you will have received when you started at AU. Early in its existence, AUFA had joined the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), the national organization of faculty associations. CAUT provided the fledgling AUFA with a great deal of help in formulating the clauses that it wanted in its agreement, and with negotiations for both annual salaries and benefits and terms and conditions. It soon became clear that AUFA offered better representation to both faculty and professionals than AUSA. No academics participated in AUSA after 1978, and while some professionals continued to do so, their participation was seen as a management ploy to prevent support staff unionizing or even criticizing their supervisors. (The former occurred in 1984 after all professional members had been excluded from AUSA.)

AUFA was, at that point, a voluntary organization incorporated under the province’s Societies Act. It had no legal existence under the Labour Act, which in 1977 specifically excluded university professors from the right to form trade unions under that Act. As membership in AUFA was voluntary, collecting dues was not always easy because many staff, professionals in particular, treated the work that AUFA did as a “free good,” that is, a service that was available both to those who paid dues and those who did not. This limited AUFA’s effectiveness. AUGC was well aware that the association lacked a “war chest” with which to conduct grievance arbitrations or to resolve an impasse in collective bargaining. Its wage offers were sometimes below the rate of inflation, and AUFA was in no position to refuse.

As part of the new Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations (CAFA) however, AUFA fought to be recognized as the bargaining agent of all academics and professionals at AU. In 1982, when the Universities Act was amended, the provincial government had decided to accept CAFA’s suggestion that the four faculty associations in the province be the official bargaining representatives of academics and associated groups in the four universities. All employees designated academic would automatically become dues-paying members of their university’s faculty association. Professional staff at AU were afraid of losing the protections that they enjoyed in the AUFA agreement if the Universities Act limited AUFA to representation of academics. Ultimately, it was left up to AUGC to determine who was eligible to be regarded as an academic for the purposes of representation under the AUFA agreement. Though collective agreement forced AUFA to accept a downgrading of existing rights for professionals under the threat of simply removing them from the agreement, both academics and professionals remained in AUFA.