In mid-October, AUFA was proud to host CAUT’s annual Western Regional conference—the first time we’d done so since 1999. Close to fifty representatives from academic faculty associations all across western Canada travelled to Athabasca for the event. The conference was generously sponsored by local businesses and institutions, which offered up a fabulous array of local goods for our attendees’ gift bags. In addition to the conference presentations, delegates had a choice of an art walk around Athabasca University, a guided historical tour of Athabasca, a screening of Just a Ploughboy (a locally produced documentary about playwright George Ryga), and a storytelling session, complete with soup and bannock, hosted by the Native Friendship Centre.
Each year, the conference focuses on a different theme. In recognition of the recent changes to the legislation governing faculty associations in Alberta, it seemed appropriate that this year’s theme was Faculty Association to Union. All of Alberta’s faculty associations are dealing with an unexpectedly abrupt legislative shift that brought faculty associations under the province’s Labour Code, thereby raising the possibility of strikes and lockouts. The conference provided an excellent opportunity for Alberta faculty associations to share their experiences to date and to hear from faculty associations in other provinces that have experience with bargaining under a strike/lockout regime.
Panellists from various faculty associations and unions spoke about work stoppage, about newly hostile Human Resources practices, and about the importance of solidarity. Our keynote speakers, James Hutt and Geoff Bickerton, were from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. James talked about the CUPW Delivering Community Power campaign, and, in a separate presentation, Geoff outlined some of the innovative ideas to combat climate change that CUPW is advancing in negotiations. At that point, CUPW had just notified Canada Post of impending strike action, so both James and Geoff had to call into the conference. In view of the circumstances, we are doubly grateful that they were able to donate their time.
The Western Regional conference includes a formal dinner, which has come to be known as the “President’s Dinner” because it has traditionally been sponsored by the president of the host university. This year, the dinner featured traditional Ukrainian food, provided by Derko Catering—and delegates were also treated to a performance by the Ukrainian Dance Society. Attendees included Dr. Alain May, AVP of Student and Academic Services at Athabasca University; Colin Piquette, the MLA for Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater; and Colleen Powell, the mayor of Athabasca. We are immensely grateful to CAFA (the Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations, which represents the province’s research universities) for generously offering to cover the cost of the dinner.
We extend a heartfelt thanks to the Western Regional Committee and, in particular, to Brenda Skayman at the AUFA office, as well as to all the volunteers and local sponsors. And thanks to you, AUFA members, for showing up!