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Dear CUPE 3911 Members,
This communication is to inform you of an issue that concerns our local and our status as CUPE 3911 members. The essence of the issue is that the Athabasca University Faculty Association (AUFA) approached us this summer and informed us that they want to make all CUPE 3911 members (yourselves) into members of AUFA. This would end the existence of CUPE 3911. AUFA plans to do this by requesting that the AU Board of Governors declare us all “designated academics” rather than our current status as “non-designated academics”. Under the Post-Secondary Learning Act (PSLA), this change in designation would automatically put us all into AUFA. The current difference in our designation is the main reason we exist as a separate union local to AUFA because as non-designated academics we are governed by the Public Service Employees Relations Act (PSERA).
AUFA has decided to make this move as a result of the Bill 7 changes that were summed up in a recent issue of our newsletter and available on our website at www.cupe3911.com. A legal opinion states: “Bill 7 does leave intact the ability to “designate” academics to the institutions (always was there and we could be under AUFA with the stroke of the Board of Governor’s pen) ... What has changed is that the new legislation provides an ability to challenge the designation (or non-designation) under the Code by going to the Alberta Labour Relations Board.”
According to our information from AUFA, several factors influenced their decision to try to make us part of their membership, including the fact that we can all now legally strike, the publication of the Third Party Report about AU, and the overall “shaky” situation at AU over the past several years. Our members should be aware that historically, our members actually asked AUFA if they could join them back in the late 1980s but AUFA refused.
If AUFA went ahead with their plan, the process could start with AUFA asking the Board of Governors (BoG) to re-designate us. We are not sure if or when they plan to do this. The next BoG meeting is September 15 and representatives from your Executive will attend as usual. Should the BoG agree to re-designate us, then our Local, CUPE 3911, could lodge a challenge/appeal to the BoG’s decision. If the BoG turned down AUFA’s request, then AUFA could appeal to the Alberta Labour Relations Board (LRB) to overrule the BoG. Again, if the LRB sided with AUFA then we would be able to appeal/challenge that decision to the ALRB. In other words, the final decision in all of this lies with the LRB. CUPE Alberta and CUPE National have clearly stated that they would back us to the hilt and use their considerable resources should we need to launch any challenges
Due to the seriousness and complexity of the issue, your Executive has spent some time considering what would be in the best interests of our members (i.e., the pros and cons of staying as a CUPE local vs the pros and cons of becoming members of AUFA). After due consideration, including several meetings with both CUPE Alberta and the AUFA Executive, as well as with representatives from the Alberta Federation of Labour, your Executive met on Friday September 8 to discuss the issue at hand. At that time, we passed a unanimous resolution stating that we request AUFA not proceed with their application to designate our members. We all agree that it is in our best interest to remain what we are - CUPE local 3911 – and will be communicating this to AUFA.
Some of the main reasons we came to this decision include:
We would need to participate in creating a whole new collective agreement and there is no guarantee that any of the gains made in our current agreement would be retained, let alone improved upon. There is the risk that we may come out worse off.
AUFA proposed that we would enter as part-time lecturers. This would make our jobs more precarious as we would be term-to-term hires.
There is no guarantee that we would retain any of our seniority in the move.
We represent a different “community of interest” than AUFA and so should be separate. This has been seen in many things where we have not had AUFA’s backing on issues – eg the Call Centre.
We would avoid the fact that if we were part of AUFA, the AUFA members would be able to outvote us due to sheer numbers.
We are an appropriate bargaining unit with our own interests to fight for, some of which are different from AUFA’s, e.g., full-time vs part-time interests; our issues could get “swamped” by full-time issues.
AUFA members supervise us; this may cause problems being in the same bargaining unit.
Staying with CUPE means we would keep our access to CUPE support and resources (largest union in Canada).
We would also keep our local autonomy.
Note also, that we held a workshop at our August 2016 Coalition of Contingent Academic Labour (COCAL) conference at University of Alberta about the very issue of joint versus separate bargaining units for full-time and sessional faculty. We had participants from universities and colleges across Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. and the consensus in that discussion group was that joint bargaining units virtually always favour the interests of full-time members. Some of our members who also teach, for example, at University of Alberta, have direct experience with this.
As your executive, we have been elected to represent you. We have worked hard to do our due diligence by looking at what impact an AUFA takeover could have on our members and have decided it is in their best interest to resist such a takeover. We would encourage you to attend our next general monthly membership meeting on September 23rd at 9:30 AM via teleconference or in person to discuss this further. Our next Annual General Meeting is October 28th and you can of course present your opinions there also (note: details of the AGM will be sent out soon.).
Keep in mind that in no way are we trying to make AUFA an enemy. Our talks with their Executive have been cordial. Both CUPE 3911 and AUFA are unions that fight for the interests of their members. We are also both members of the Alberta Federation of Labour and there are many issues that we work together on in dealing with the AU administration not each other. So our goal is that once this matter has been resolved we will carry on our fight for the interests of our CUPE members and continue to try to work together with AUFA and AUPE, the third union at AU, to improve our situation at AU in a way that benefits all of us who work there.
CUPE 3911 Co-chairs: