By Saima Asad, May 30 2017 —
The NDP government passed Bill 7: An Act to Enhance Post-Secondary Bargaining on May 4 amid ongoing negotiations between the University of Calgary and the U of C Faculty Association (TUCFA). The legislation came as a surprise to TUCFA.
“We’re pretty astonished that a so-called labour-friendly government would do this to us in the middle of our bargaining process and give all the cards to the management,” said TUCFA president Sandra Hoenle.
Bill 7 gives faculty associations, as well as graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, the right to strike, but also takes away compulsory arbitration for labour disputes. Hoenle claims the bill leaves TUCFA empty-handed at the negotiating table as a result.
“The immediate impact is very negative for us because we are in the middle of bargaining right now and the government has basically changed the rules on us,” Hoenle said. “It’s very problematic because we were [made] to believe there would be a transition period.”
Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt said the bill protects the rights of faculty association members.
“We engaged in really extensive consultations with all of our faculty stakeholders, students, administration and other people impacted by the changes that we were considering in Bill 7,” Schmidt said. “I’m quite pleased that the process resulted in legislation that I think gives faculty association members their fundamental human rights, but also strikes the right balance in transitioning people to the new labour relations model.”
Although the bill gives TUCFA the right to strike, Hoenle said they did not have the opportunity to develop a strike fund or any related protocols.
“We also do not have an essential services agreement, which is required before we bargain or before we go on strike,” she said.
She claims Bill 7 shifts negotiating power to U of C administration.
“The only way we can deal with an impasse at the bargaining table is if both sides agree to to go to arbitration but management has told us they will not do that, so right now we’re left with the management holding all the cards,” Hoenle said.
Schmidt said it is the responsibility of faculty associations to prepare themselves to defend the interests of their members.
“This legislation has been coming for a very long time and faculty associations had the responsibility to take appropriate actions to be in a position where they can defend the interests of the members they represent,” Schmidt said.
TUCFA will continue negotiating with the U of C amidst the revised labour laws.