2017 May 30

Rhumblines

Dear Colleagues,

In this Rhumblines you will find news on three items:

  • the completion of the work of the Agreement Review Committee struck under the “Memorandum of Understanding” between the Association and the University of 15 June 2016
  • the General Meeting of May 2nd
  • CAUT Council’s meeting from May 4th to 6th

New Comprehensive Bargaining Regime

The Association and the University have reached an agreement on the terms for the new comprehensive bargaining regime with lockout/strike protocols mandated by the “Memorandum of Understanding” of 15 June 2016. This work was in the end made easier by the passage of Bill 7, “An Act to Enhance Post-secondary Academic Bargaining.” As Bill 7 makes the Association formally a trade union under the Alberta Labour Relations Code, almost all of the protocols that will govern the new comprehensive bargaining regime are set by the Code. The Association and the University have, however, reached agreement on timelines for bargaining. These are set out in two documents:

  • a “Memorandum of Agreement” which sets out the clauses in the collective agreement that need to be amended to establish the new regime; and

The Association, as a single bargaining unit, will negotiate a single agreement with a negotiating team of up to seven persons. Under this agreement, notice to bargain will be served by December 15th in the year before an agreement is scheduled to come to an end. In 2017-18, however, for the first round of negotiations under the new regime, both parties will have additional time to prepare. This is what is set out in the “Letter of Understanding.” Notice to bargain for the next round will be served by 15 January 2018, and the parties will exchange proposals at 1 March 2018.

The “Memorandum” otherwise involves some “housekeeping.” In other words, some of the clauses are existing clauses in the collective agreement that are simply being renumbered as clauses that drop away in accordance with the 15 June 2016 “Memorandum of Understanding.”

The “Memorandum of Agreement” also formally notes that both parties may still agree to go to voluntary binding arbitration. This is an option under the Alberta Labour Relations Code.

Should you have any questions about either the “Memorandum of Agreement” or the “Letter of Understanding” please let me know.

My hearty thanks on behalf of the Association go to the members of the Agreement Review Committee, Gordon Swaters (chair), Linda Cameron, Gerhard Lotz, and Christopher Mackay for their service to the Association in negotiating this agreement.

Referendum Vote on Lockout/Strike Fund

The Association’s preparations for its first round of negotiations under the new bargaining regime with lockout/strike protocols also necessarily involve arranging for a lockout/strike fund.

On May 2nd, the Association held a general meeting at which members considered a resolution for mechanisms for such a fund based on recommendations prepared by AASUA Council’s Ad Hoc Lockout/Strike Fund committee. The committee was chaired by Treasurer Ricardo Acuña. The resolution as set out in the formal notice sent to you in April is here.

At the general meeting members approved the resolution with an amendment that arranges for the referendum vote under 4.3.4 of the Association’s bylaws to take place in the early Fall so that the full complement of members of the contract academic staff (formally the “Academic Teaching Staff” at 1 July 2017) may vote.

Ricardo has prepared for your information a version of the slide presentation that he gave at the general meeting to provide the context and rationale for the resolution that members were asked to approve. The presentation has been updated to include responses to questions Ricardo received during the Q&A. There has also been one development since our general meeting.

As Ricardo reported at the general meeting, the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) has already made arrangements for its lockout/strike fund. ULFA’s members approved a 2.5 increase to their mil rate over a year ago in addition to the cost of subscribing to the CAUT Defence Fund. (A “mil rate” of 1 is .1 percent of one’s salary.) Since our general meeting, members of the Athabasca University Faculty Association (AUFA) have voted 87% in favour of a mil rate increase of 2.0 to arrange for their lockout/strike fund.

The recommendation approved by members at our general meeting involves a mil rate increase of 1.5 to allow the Association to subscribe to the CAUT Defence Fund and start building a modest supplementary plan of our own.

A lockout/strike fund is the essential means by which the Association guarantees that it can continue to meet various of its obligations to meet during lockout/strike, including obligations to its staff. Just as importantly, a lockout/strike fund provides the Association’s negotiating team with the leverage that it requires at the negotiating table under a lockout/strike regime to ensure that it can negotiate for the membership with strength, with the aim of securing the best terms and conditions of employment for our members every time it goes to the table. A lockout/strike fund is, in effect, an insurance plan. As Ricardo notes in his presentation, a strong fund actually reduces the odds that either a lockout or strike fund will occur by ensuring that both sides will bargain constructively.

Please note that even with the increase to the mil rate proposed in the resolution our mil rate would still be on the low end within the national context.

I hope you will take the time to listen to Ricardo’s presentation on the context and rationale for the recommendation approved by members at the general meeting in full.

Ricardo’s video presentation is here.  

If you would prefer simply to look at the slides, they are here.

Should you have any questions, please be in touch with Ricardo and/or me at racuna@ualberta.ca and sale@ualberta.ca.

CAUT Council

Finally, I want to draw your attention to a few important presentations that took place at the May meeting of the Council of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). Vice-President Rachel Milner and I attended on the Association’s behalf.

Yves Gingras on “Bibliometrics”

CAUT Council heard a presentation with a scathing critique of bibliometrics from Yves Gingras, Canada Research Chair in the History and Sociology of Science at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM).

Gingras delivered his remarks with humour but his analysis, which is presented more fully in his recent book published by MIT, is devastating. As the blurb for Bibliometrics and Research Evaluation: Uses and Abuses (2016) notes:

Gingras shows that bibliometric rankings have no real scientific validity, rarely measuring what they pretend to.

Although the study of publication and citation patterns, at the proper scales, can yield insights on the global dynamics of science over time, ill-defined quantitative indicators often generate perverse and unintended effects on the direction of research. Moreover, abuse of bibliometrics occurs when data is manipulated to boost rankings. Gingras looks at the politics of evaluation and argues that using numbers can be a way to control scientists and diminish their autonomy in the evaluation process. Proposing precise criteria for establishing the validity of indicators at a given scale of analysis, Gingras questions why universities are so eager to let invalid indicators influence their research strategy.

You can read the full description of the book here.

David Naylor, Fundamental Science Review

David Naylor, former president of the University of Toronto, presented to Council on the “Fundamental Science Review.” This presentation was followed by a very energetic Q&A. You can read the full report for yourself here.

Homa Hoodfar, “Transnational Academic Freedom”

CAUT Council also heard from Homa Hoodfar, the Concordia University professor who was incarcerated in Evin prison in Iran last year. Professor Hoodfar is aiming to make some good out of what she had to endure by arguing for the need for international agreement on what she is calling “transnational academic freedom.” In Canada, academic freedom protections are enshrined in collective agreements. These provisions may not, however, offer sufficient protection to academics as they travel abroad. CAUT intends to pursue Homa’s initiative in this regard further next Fall when it hears from former CAUT Executive Director Don Savage, who helped to draft the 1997 UNESCO “Recommendation Concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel.” Academic freedom must accompany scholars as they travel across borders.

Possible Censure of Carleton University

Finally, I wish to note that the vote at CAUT Council as to whether CAUT should postpone censure of Carleton University for various practices of its Board of Governors that are not consistent with the principles of transparency and democracy essential to the operation of Boards at Canada’s public universities was very close. Censure has been postponed, and it is hoped that Carleton will satisfactorily resolve the issues before CAUT Council’s next meeting in the Fall. As Executive Director David Robinson’s correspondence with Carleton University notes, CAUT objects to:

1) The restrictive and secretive nature of board meetings. The vast majority of universities that CAUT has reviewed require that board meetings be open to the public, with only narrow exceptions when confidential matters are being discussed.

2) Board solidarity requirements. Carleton University goes further than most other institutions in requiring Governors to support all decisions of the Board, even when they dissent or are in the minority.

3) Removal of Board Members. At Carleton, the process to remove a member of the Board begins and is completed by way of an ordinary resolution. This contrasts with the standard practice in which an investigation and recommendation to the Board must take place before removal or another sanction is proposed.

4) Broad conflict of interest requirements. Carleton’s requirements imply that a faculty Board member simply advocating for the interests of academic staff would be potentially in a conflict of interest.

You can read a fuller account of CAUT’s concerns here.

It is vital to the role of Boards at Canada’s public universities that they hold themselves scrupulously to the highest standards of democratic debate and decision-making. This is essential to the work of Canada’s public universities in the public interest.

If you have any questions about any of the above, please be in touch with me at sale@ualberta.ca.

Yours for a more democratic, more effective, member-run Association,

Carolyn

Carolyn Sale
AASUA President

Copyright © 2013 AASUA
Website Design & Development by James Vanderwekken