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Grievance Updates

This has been a very busy year for the Faculty Association. Currently the Association is working on about 100 open files which include the full gamut from simple questions to major investigations, and dismissals. In addition to these, the Faculty Association has been working through several policy grievances and a multitude of upcoming arbitrations with the University Administration. Policy grievances and arbitrations consume a considerable amount of time for the Association grievance officers and professional staff. The following is a briefing on some of the policy issues that the Association is currently dealing with.

The Collective Agreement Articles 12.8 and 12.9 outline how teaching duties can be assigned to academic staff in Spring and Summer sessions. Teaching in the Spring or Summer Session may be assigned as part of the regular workload for academic staff in the Instructor ranks. It is not permissible under the Collective Agreement for regular assigned duties to include teaching in both Spring and Summer sessions in one academic year (July 1 – June 30). If the teaching is voluntarily agreed to by the academic staff member in addition to regular assigned duties, the academic staff member is to receive extra compensation for this work as per the Collective Agreement, Schedule “A”. For academic staff in the Professorial ranks, teaching in the Spring or Summer sessions cannot be assigned as part of the regular workload (although academic staff members can voluntarily agree). And again, any teaching that is over and above the regular assigned duties would be subject to extra compensation. There was a practice in the Faculty of Nursing of assigning workload in both spring and summer. The Association filed a grievance on this which has been rejected so we are proceeding to arbitration. The Association sides person for this upcoming arbitration is Jim Turk, the former Executive Director of CAUT. This arbitration was to be proceeding this Spring. However, given the pandemic, it has been put on hold and has now been scheduled for March 24 to 26, 2021.

The Association filed a grievance against the use of the Universal Student Rating Instrument (USRI) as a summative assessment tool and the administration’s use of it as evidence of teaching effectiveness in hiring, tenure, promotion, and merit processes. Association representatives met with the Provost in September and she has since denied this grievance. The Association’s Board of Directors has voted to proceed to arbitration. Both sides have now appointed sides people and a chairperson has been assigned by the Alberta Labour Board. The arbitration is now scheduled for January 25 to 29 and February 26, 2021.

The Association has grieved the Academic Medicine and Health Service Program Agreement that the University has entered with Alberta Health Services (AHS). The grievance alleges that the Governors signed an agreement with Alberta Health that is in violation of our Collective Agreement. The Association did not ask for remedies that would harm our members; rather we are insisting that the Governors not sign any future agreements that affect the terms and conditions of employment without our agreement, given our rights as the exclusive bargaining agent of academic staff. The Provost rejected this grievance so it too will proceed to arbitration. Both sides have now appointed sides people and will be working to appoint a chair soon.

Before the 2019 round of merit assessments, the Association and Administration agreed to the form (Academic Performance Report) that would be used. Since the software company chosen by Administration to administer the APR was in the United States, the Association expressed concerns around the storage of APR and tenure and promotion information in the US as it would make that information subject to the United States Patriot Act. The Association was assured that the information would not be stored in the US. The Association was later informed that the information provided was incorrect. On this basis, the Association filed a grievance with the Deputy Provost. The Association has met with the Deputy Provost on this and she has denied the grievance. The Association has elevated this to the Provost and a meeting with the Provost has been held. The Provost has denied this grievance and this grievance will be proceeding to arbitration.

Within the Collective Agreement is a Letter of Understanding on Contracting Out. This agreement allows the Administration to contract with third parties in certain circumstances for teaching and other academic work. However, the Administration has been using this agreement to offer courses without providing any compensation to those teaching the course. Our problem is that with their interpretation, they could decimate the Faculty Association as they claim they can contract out without limit. We believe that there are limits. This is not just an aspect of contract law; the Canadian Revenue Agency, Employment Standards, and other bodies are actively dealing with issues about whether a person is an employee. This grievance was denied by the Provost and the Association’s Board of Directors has decided to proceed to arbitration.

Once the GFC Academic Staff Criteria & Processes Handbook was approved by GFC, the Association believes that the Faculties should have been freed to start making changes to the Faculty Guidelines related to tenure, promotion, assessment, and hiring criteria. However, we have been told by some Deans that the Provost’s office has directed them not to make any changes. Therefore, we filed a grievance against the Provost for denying the Faculty Councils their rights to make changes to Faculty Guidelines. We met with the Provost. In her reply, she agreed to let the Faculties update their Faculty Guidelines but only to the point to delete all the material that is now illegal, such as references to processes that now contradict the Collective Agreement. However, she did not say that the Faculty Councils can start making changes. Although her grievance response did not say this, we believe that the Administration wants to stop the Faculties from making any changes to the Guidelines until the Handbook committee finishes making changes to the Handbook. As a compromise, we agreed to delay proceeding with the grievance until the end of September.

The Association has recently filed two policy grievances related to sessional instructor contracts and the move online during the pandemic. The first one is for Winter 2020 Sessional instructors; the second is for Spring/Summer 2020 sessional instructors. We did try to get this included in the recent MOA on COVID-19 that we signed but the Administration steadfastly refused to consider extra compensation for sessional instructors.

The Association argues that sessional instructors are given a contract that specifies the workload, establishes a half-course equivalent for that work, and then provides payment for the specific work done. It is a fee for service model. If the Governors change the amount of work assigned, the HCE and the compensation must be adjusted accordingly. What is being argued is that having come to an agreement on what job is to be done, the HCE value of that work, and the corresponding compensation, the Governors have unilaterally changed the provisions of that contract by putting the course online in the middle of the term. Because this was done unilaterally, we are proposing to grieve the Governors for violating their contracts with sessional instructors and asking for an across the board increase in the HCE of 25%.

For Spring/Summer sessional instructors, the Association’s argument is somewhat different in that the courses hadn’t started at the time the grievance was filed. However, for some of the Spring/Summer sessional instructors, the contracts were already in before the Provost announced the courses would be on-line. During the discussions of the COVID-19 MOA, the Association pressed for sessional instructors to be permitted to reopen their agreements for Spring/Summer. The Administration refused. So this grievance is about those members where the Governors have changed the nature of the contract without negotiation with the affected member.

The first stage of the above two grievances (Winter 2020 sessionals and Spring/Summer 2020 sessionals) was heard by the Deputy Provost. She has denied the grievance stating that there is no evidence that there was any increase in workload as a result of the move to remote course delivery and that all academic staff were provided with additional resources to support the transition to remote delivery. The Association has informed the Provost that we intend to move to the next level in the grievance which is a meeting with the Provost. This meeting will likely happen in September. In the meantime, we would like to hear from sessional instructors to gather evidence. Do you agree with the Deputy Provost that there was no increase in workload as a result of the move mid-term to remote delivery? Please send us your stories or any other information you have detailing any increased workload you experienced due to the move to remote delivery. We would also like to hear whether sessional instructors had access to the resources that the Deputy Provost claims were available to all academic staff for the move to remote delivery. Please send this information to the Faculty Association office at Faculty.Association@tucfa.com. In using any of the information gathered, we will not divulge your name or other identifying information to the administration.

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