Athabasca University (AU) and the Athabasca University Faculty Association (AUFA) have been in collective bargaining since April 6, 2018. As of today, there has been no meaningful progress towards reaching a new collective agreement.
The key issue is that AU continues to advance a two-year wage freeze and an aggressive set of language rollbacks. For context, every other public-sector agreement in Alberta has settled for two zeros, a wage re-opener (or an increase) in year three, and language improvements for the union.
AUFA has recently polled its members on AU’s proposed language rollbacks. The questions asked whether members supported giving AU the power to:
require non-therapeutic examinations by company doctors: 77% opposed.
select the majority of panel members for appeals by both professional and academic members: 84% opposed
suspend union members without pay or terminate them before their appeal is heard: 93% opposed
decide whether AU has violated the harassment provisions of the collective agreement: 84% opposed
reduce the layoff notice period by 50%: 81% opposed
reduce recall rights for laid-off staff by 75% for academics and 87.5% for professionals: 80% opposed
eliminate the existing probationary review process of professional staff members: 75% opposed
terminate probationary professionals at any time and with no effective recourse: 73% opposed
These results indicate AUFA members will not ratify any agreement that contains these proposals. In short, the only way AU may (or may not) be able to achieve these rollbacks is by locking out AUFA members.
A work stoppage is in no one’s interest and AUFA remains hopeful that a new collective agreement can be negotiated. But, AU insisting on unnecessary rollbacks when it is flush with cash is unacceptable and will eventually result in work stoppage. As of this week, AUFA has completed its preparations for a work stoppage.
The costs of AU locking out AUFA will be substantial and include operational disruptions, lost revenue, and profound reputational damage with students, donors, and the government.
A way to avoid an entirely unnecessary work stoppage is for AU to drop its unreasonable demands and propose a collective agreement more in keeping with the public-sector pattern.
Now would be the time for AU’s Board to re-evaluate the approach taken by its bargaining team and make a realistic proposal for settlement.
-- Bob Barnetson, AUFA Work Stoppage Planning Committee