On February 25, Athabasca University (AU) professor Bob Barnetson posted some important information on the Friends of Post-Secondary Education website. The Athabasca University Faculty Association (AUFA) is currently conducting collective bargaining with their employee, Athabasca University.
Barnetson reported that on February 23, the AUFA Salary and Benefits bargaining team met with the AU Board of Governors’ bargaining team to exchange opening proposals. Wrote Barnetson:
“AUFA’s opening proposal included small cost-of-living increases over three years (2%, 2.5%, and 3%) plus a $500 increase to PD (professional development funding), a $125 increase to the discretionary benefit fund, and an additional vacation day. The Board failed to provide an opening position. Instead, the Board team made a presentation about AU’s strapped financial position and eventually suggested that layoffs are imminent, regardless of the outcomes of bargaining. Interim AU President Mackinnon briefly and unexpectedly appeared at the negotiations. He reinforced the Board’s desire for AUFA to help the Board make cuts.”
Barnetson continued on to say: “Bargaining is scheduled to continue on March 7. Absent a Board proposal, this meeting is unlikely to generate any results. Absent agreement by March 31, the matter will be referred to arbitration. Settlements across the province are relatively favorable, and our comparators should have us in somewhere around the 2% mark for the next two years.”
Barnetson suggested that the current state of bargaining reveals two things about AU:
“(1) The administration is so disorganized that they can’t even put together an opening proposal, thereby violating the union contract and the Post-Secondary Learning Act (PSLA), both of which require them to negotiate. (2) The university is apparently in so much financial trouble that layoffs are imminent regardless of what concessions workers might give.”
In conclusion, Barnetson addressed an important question to Alberta’s new Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Marlin Schmidt: “When will the government sack this Board and senior executive? There is just no way forward with these folks in charge. And that works an unfairness on our students.”