AUFA member Bob Barnetson’s misleading article posted on his blog and reposted on FaceBook by AUFA’s Executive Director, concerns the CUPE 3911 drive to finally bring our out of province tutors and academic experts into our local. It contains several misunderstandings of the issue at hand. He is correct that CUPE 3911has bargained for many years to have out of province tutors join our bargaining unit. PSERA does not exclude out of province members but it does require permission from the employer for membership. In the last round of bargaining the Board of Governors gave permission for CUPE 3911 to organize the out of province tutors on the proviso that the out of province tutors show that they want to join this bargaining unit. Since the out of province tutors and academic experts do exactly the same job as the in-province members of CUPE 3911, as even AUFA admits, it obviously makes more sense to have them in the same bargaining unit.
If the out of province members are taken into AUFA there is no guarantee that they will retain the same working conditions that they presently enjoy. Among other things, part-time AUFA members (like sessionals at most universities) do not enjoy the permanent status that is a feature of the CUPE 3911 collective agreement. Athabasca University is presently following the collective agreement for CUPE 3911 for out of province tutors, although they do not have exactly the same rights and benefits because they are not represented by any union. The statement that CUPE 3911 supported AUFA’s proposal to organize the out of province tutors is an exaggeration. CUPE 3911 has always said that its first choice is to have the OOPs in the CUPE bargaining unit or, if that is impossible, organized by some other labour group.
The statement that CUPE 3911 did not have the support of any out of province tutors and academic experts before agreeing to represent them is simply wrong. CUPE 3911 has been dealing with issues for OOPs as often as they have come up in the past, and many of the OOPs were previous CUPE 3911 members who moved away from Alberta. Any organization done by CUPE will respect the will of those being organized.
Mr. Barnetson, on what grounds do you think that AU is attempting to circumvent AUFA in agreeing to allow the out of province tutors to join CUPE 3911? The okay for out of province tutors and academic experts to join CUPE 3911, subject to the approval of these out of province tutors and academic experts, is recognition that these people will be represented by a labour organization made up of workers who do the same job. Further, stating that CUPE 3911 is a less militant union than AUFA is your personal opinion, perhaps based on the fact that CUPE did not wish to give up their hard-won rights under their own collective agreement when AUFA recently tried to pull them into AUFA, an anti-worker activity commonly known in the labour movement as “raiding”. CUPE 3911 recognizes that the interests of AUFA and those of tutors and academic experts are not always the same, and CUPE 3911 is unwilling to change its status as an independent local, although CUPE 3911 tries to work together with AUFA whenever possible. The attempted take-over of representation of tutors and academic experts, whether inside or outside Alberta, clearly demonstrates that AUFA does not respect the rights of (other) employees to organize as they choose.