U of L Strike Timeline

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This article was written by Rebecca Martin

Timeline of the Strike

February 27, 2020

  • The 2020 provincial budget was released and saw a 6.3% decrease in funding for postsecondary institutions from the previous year. 
  • The University Board of Governors voted to increase tuition by 7%.
  • The University cut 42 positions, laying off 19 employees across several different departments, and an added 23 confirmed retirements and resignations. 

April 8, 2020

  • 94% of ULFA members approved a bargaining mandate for the negotiating team at the Annual General Meeting. 

April 16, 2020

  • ULFA’s Negotiation Team and Executive gave notice to begin bargaining with the University’s Board of Governors

June 4, 2020

  • The two sides met to discuss and establish protocol and introduce negotiations. 

June 30, 2020

  • ULFA’s Collective Agreement from 2018 expired. 

July 24, 2020

  • ULFA met with the Board to discuss extending the previous 2018-2020 Collective Agreement for an additional year, meaning the agreement would expire on June 30th, 2021. This extension was proposed to accommodate the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

October 12, 2020

  • A meeting was held between the Board and ULFA to discuss the perimeters of negotiation. 

Meetings were held throughout November mainly to discuss the steps moving forward and lay out some language, perimeters, and further meeting plans.

November 27, 2020 

  • Both ULFA and the Board set forth a mutually agreed-upon path to move forwards in negotiation. 

December 8, 2020 (~6 Months Without a Contract)

  • Both parties met to discuss a new Essential Service Agreement (ESA).

According to the Province of Alberta, an ESA is “an agreement between the union and the employer that provides details about which essential service must be maintained during a strike or lockout.”

January 18, 2021

  • Exchange of full proposals occurred. 

February 8, 2021

  • A meeting occurred to discuss language and economic benefits. 

February 11, 2021

  • ULFA presented a draft ESA to the Board. 
  • According to ULFA, the drafted ESA was based on the signed agreement from December 2019 with some improvements from things learned from the COVID-19 shutdowns from the previous year. 

Additional meetings were held in February and March to discuss language and costing information further.

February 25, 2021

  • The 2021 provincial budget saw a 6.2% decrease in operating support for the University and a 5.8% reduction in program support-based grants.  

April 7, 2021

  • This meeting was a follow-up from the February 11th meeting. 
  • Both parties continued to negotiate on the ESA. 
  • According to ULFA, during this meeting, the Board proposed an agreement that rejected all the elements introduced in the draft on February 11th. 

April 8, 2021

  • This was the fifth bargaining session the groups held since the preliminary meeting on January 18th. 
  • According to ULFA, both parties had met about 30 times and were estimated to be about six weeks from reaching an agreement. 

April 12, 2021

  • This marked the sixth bargaining session since January 18th. 
  • According to an update posted on ULFA’s website, both parties had a different understanding of the ground rules that were agreed upon in the proposal packages on January 18th.
  • ULFA withdrew from the meeting before negotiations could take place. 

May 20, 2021 

  • Representatives from both parties met in this seventh negotiation session. 
  • The session saw the Board make a proposal that would seek to reduce union dues for inactive members by 75%. 

May 27, 2021

  • The University released a post discussing the possibility, implications, and logistics of a labour dispute. 

The Board and ULFA held their eighth and ninth bargaining sessions on May 31st and June 10th, respectively.

June 17, 2021 (~ 12 Months Without a Contract)

  • A tenth bargaining session between ULFA and the Board occurred. 
  • Outside of deciding when next to meet, both groups were unable to come to a mutual agreement. 

August 6, 2021

  • Due to staffing changes at the University, the Board’s negotiating team was required to get new members and shuffle existing members around; this led to the cancellation of both pre-agreed upon sessions supposed to be held in August. 
  • In response to this, ULFA proposed to extend the 2018-2020 Collective Agreement with an expiration date of June 30th, 2022. 

August 9, 2021

  • ULFA received notification from the Chair of the Board’s negotiation team that their request to extend the 2018-2020 Collective Agreement was denied. 

September 8, 2021

  • Both parties met again for another ESA meeting. 
  • In this meeting, the Board presented its proposal. According to ULFA, this proposal did not include any of the material proposed by the group at their last ESA meeting and, in fact, rescinded previously agreed upon provisions included in the 2019 document. 
  • Immediately after the meeting, ULFA agreed to sign the ESA presented by the Board on April 7th. According to ULFA, the Board did not accept the deal despite it being something they wrote and proposed. 
  • The Board also refused to agree on the appointment of an “umpire” or someone who would mediate ESA negotiation. 
  • ULFA filed a complaint with the Alberta Labour Relations Board regarding the University of Lethbridge’s Board of Governors’ attitude and actions towards negotiating and ESA. ULFA made similar complaints in the 2018 negotiations with the Board. 
  • A statement made by the University on September 20th claimed that it “will continue to negotiate in good faith to reach a mutually beneficial agreement; and will do so at the bargaining table and not in the media.

September 20, 2021

  • This marked the eleventh bargaining session since January 18th and the first session for the three new members of the Board’s negotiation team. 

September 27th, October 14th, and October 19th saw the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth negotiation sessions. Discussions included Article YY (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion), Article 28 (Intellectual Property), Article 9 (Personal Files), and Schedule A (Salary, Schedules, and Stipends).

October 26, 2021

  • The Board applies for formal mediation.

October 28, 2021

  • ULFA applies for formal mediation. 

November 1, 2021

  • Both parties signed the ESA. 

November 3, 2021

  • The joint filing of the ESA was submitted to the Alberta Labour Relations Board. 

November 17, 2021

  • ULFA held #WorthFightingFor information rally to raise awareness of cuts to postsecondary education. 

November 29, 2021

  • Day one of mediation was held between ULFA and the Board. 

November 30, 2021

  • Day two of mediation between the Board and ULFA.

December 17, 2021 (~ 18 Months Without a Contract)

  • The ESA was approved by the Essential Service commissioner of the Alberta Labour Relations Board. 
  • The approval of the ESA initiated formal mediation through the Alberta Labour Relations Board that was applied for on October 26th & 28th. Six informal mediation sessions had already been held on November 29th, 30th, and December 6th, 7th, 10th, and 16th.

January 17, 2022

  • Formal mediation between ULFA and the Board ended. 
  • Both parties entered a two-week “cooling-off” period. 
  • Before withdrawing from mediation, ULFA told the Board that “the sides were too far apart on key issues, and that an impasse was imminent.
  • The University released a statement detailing its offer to ULFA and that “our campus communities have endured great uncertainty due to the global pandemic and historic funding cuts. The Board team feels they have put forward an Offer of Settlement that supports the collective well-being and sustainability of our campus communities. The Board negotiating team is ready to re-engage with the ULFA team at the earliest possibility.

February 1, 2022

  • A meeting was held to review the status of items previously discussed during negotiations. 

February 2, 2022

  • The Alberta Labour Relations Board opened a strike vote for ULFA members.

February 3, 2022

  • University Administration filed a complaint with the Alberta Labour Relations Board against ULFA and their unwillingness to negotiate.
  • ULFA’s strike vote closed, with 92% of members voting in favour of strike.  

February 4, 2022

  • A meeting was held between the Board and ULFA to discuss “key mandate items.”

February 7, 2022

  • This was the first session since ULFA’s strike vote. Both parties discussed their priorities moving forward and the items they wanted to see added/rescinded from the proposals. 
  • This meeting also welcomed a new lead negotiator for the Board, making it the third change and fourth lead negotiator for this position since the negotiation started. 
  • The University sent an email to students informing them about a legal strike occurring at 11 a.m. Thursday, February 10.

February 8, 2022

  • The University Administration withdrew its complaint against ULFA with the Alberta Labour Relations Board. 
  • The Board filed an application to lock out faculty from their classrooms/campus. 

February 9, 2022

  • The negotiation session started late, with the Board taking two hours to review their proposal. According to a post made by ULFA, the document proposed was the same one proposed earlier. 

February 10, 2022 (Day of Strike)

  • The sixth negotiation session was held since the end of formal mediation on January 17, 2022.

February 12, 2022

  • ULFA sent a new proposal to the Board. 

February 24, 2020 

  • The Provincial Government tabled their yearly budget. This saw a 5.1% reduction in operating costs given to the University. This is a total of 21% since 2019. 

February 28, 2022

  • ULFA’s Executive filed an urgent Unfair Labour Practices complaint with the Alberta Labour Relations Board against the Board. This complaint came 18 days after the strike/lockout. According to a post on the ULFA website, the ULFA negotiating team repeatedly reached out to the Board three times (February 16th, 17th, and 23rd) to resume negotiations. 

March 1, 2022

  • Lawyer-to-lawyer conversation between both parties happened. This was to discuss the path moving forward towards enhanced mediation. Discussions continued until March 4th. 

March 5, 2022

  • The University released a statement saying that both parties had agreed to a second round of negotiations. 

March 8, 2022

  • The Alberta Labour Relations Board issued an order outlining the terms of a mutually agreed upon mediation process overseen by the Alberta Labour Relations Board.

March 15, 2022

  • Mediation between both parties begins.

March 18, 2022

  • Mediation concludes. 

March 19, 2022

  • The Board voted in favour of the new collective agreement. 

March 21, 2022

  • ULFA announced that 91% of votes cased were in favour of the new collective agreement. 

March 22, 2022

  • The faculty returned to work.

March 23, 2022

  • Students returned to class. 

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