President's Report An ongoing pandemic, provincial budget cuts, Alberta 2030 consultations, Growth Through Focus congresses,…
Paul Rogers, President
With my term as Association President expiring on 30th June, this is my final message to you. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve in this role over the last two years, though I firmly wish that the last few months had not been as “interesting” as they have been. With you, the Association, and the University having to deal with significant challenges on a number of fronts these are very difficult times and my only comfort is the great confidence I have in both incoming Association President, David Stewart, and the staff of the Association, led by the redoubtable Sheila Miller (Executive Director), as they strive to promote and protect the interests of academic staff. I thank all of you, and especially those members who have served on the Department Representatives group, the members of the Association’s Board of Directors, and the members of the Association’s Executive Committee for all the wisdom and support that I have been offered during my term as President, and I encourage everyone to continue to provide the same to David Stewart during his term.
The Government of Alberta and Post-Secondary Education
You are surely well aware of the significant cuts the Government of Alberta has made to the funding it provides to both the University of Calgary and the wider post-secondary education (PSE) system in the Province (as reported in the Government’s budgets for 2019-20 and 2020-21). The damage that these cuts will cause is as yet unclear, as University Administration has revealed little detail of its plans for dealing with the cuts. The damage is sure to be very significant, and likely to be more so with additional Government funding cuts expected for the next two or three fiscal years at least.
There are additional troubling signs for post-secondary education in Alberta relating to the “Alberta 2030: Transforming Post-Secondary Education” initiative that has been announced by the Government, with the consulting firm McKinsey being awarded a $3.7M contract to develop a new strategy for the entire tertiary education system in the Province. Based on the limited information available so far on this initiative the Association has concerns relating to:
The Association will be making it clear to the Government that as the representative of more than 2,300 academic staff, we expect to be invited to participate in this initiative.
University Administration’s “Growth Through Focus” Plan
After a positive beginning to his term as President during which President McCauley visited all Faculty Councils to listen to the concerns of academic staff across the University, the Association has been disappointed that very little has been shared with the University on what was learned during this “listening tour” and how the President intends to act on what was learned. It is only in the last few weeks via a short presentation at General Faculties Council on 11th June and an online Town Hall on 24th June that any information has been shared relating to what will be the University’s vision and plan following the imminent demise of “Eyes High” a couple of years from now.
The Association is very troubled by some of the content in the GFC presentation and Town Hall which raises the following concerns:
I expect that you will be hearing much more on this topic from incoming Association President David Stewart.
Academic Staff Member Concerns with Remote Instruction for Fall Semester 2020
The Association continues to hear from a number of members on a range of concerns relating to remote instruction in Fall 2020. The main concerns we are hearing are common across a wide range of faculties and include the following:
The Association and Administration have signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) relating to remote teaching in Fall 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This MoA includes the following two new elements:
I should note that academic staff members have concerns over and above anything mentioned above, especially relating to how merit and promotion processes will be adjusted in the light of disruptions to teaching and research activities relating to COVID-19. Please be aware that it has already been agreed that these important concerns will be dealt with through negotiations between the Association and Administration in the Fall.
Several members have raised concerns around the additional expenses incurred as a result of the transition to working remotely. For example, some members did not have webcams or a suitable laptop for working at home, some members have had to purchase home office equipment for improved ergonomics, and some have seen their utility costs increase significantly. The Faculty Association continues to raise these concerns with the Administration. As was noted in the past, the Association was able to negotiate early access to the 20/21 Professional Expense Reimbursement (PER) amount, so members have been able to utilize those funds since April 1. PER or funding from other sources (such as research grants) may provide some relief where the expenses are appropriate under those rules. However, where there is not a source of funding, some members have asked whether they will be able to get a T2200 form to allow for deductions from taxes for these expenses. In the past the Administration has refused to provide such forms; however, they are currently investigating whether the situation related to the ‘stay at home’ order may change this. The Faculty Association is also pursuing this further with CAUT. As this question is still up in the air, it is recommended that members keep good records of these additional expenses including any relevant receipts in case they may become useful at a later date.
You may have read in the media that AIMCo, the investment manager for significant pension plans and other assets in Alberta, has incurred a substantial loss relating to an unwise investment strategy that it has been pursuing. The Chief Executive Officer of AIMCo, Kevin Uebelein, issued a public statement on 30th May (see https://www.aimco.ca/insights/a-message-from-the-ceo) in which the scale of the loss was estimated at around $2.1B on an investment portfolio of around $118.8B. This loss is on top of the “regular” fall in investment portfolios experienced by institutional investors worldwide, associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. AIMCo’s Board of Directors followed up with a public statement on 14th May (see https://www.aimco.ca/insights/a-message-from-the-board) announcing that it is undertaking a “comprehensive review” of the failed strategy to identify lessons learned and enhancements to AIMCo’s investment and risk management processes.
The “regular” and failed strategy losses will clearly have some impact on the UAPP, but the scale of this will not be known until the “shape” of the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic becomes more clear. The UAPP Board of Trustees has posted publicly its Annual Report for calendar 2019 (see http://uapp.ca/media/1281/2019-annual-report-final.pdf) which includes an “update” page focusing on changes in plan assets since the year-end (as page 5) and also a “subsequent event” note to the financial statement (on page 65).
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.
Recently the Faculty Association alerted Academic Relations to issues with the form associated with Reduced Duties Leading to Retirement (RDLTR). The previous form was inconsistent with the Articles of the Collective Agreement. The Association’s concerns have mostly* been addressed and a new form should be available to academic staff. If you have previously requested a form, we advise you to contact Human Resources again to ensure you have the most up to date document.
Under the Collective Agreement, RDLTR allows an eligible academic staff member to apply for a reduced assignment of duties (i.e. leave without pay (LWOP) from a portion of duties) immediately preceding a specified retirement date as named by the academic staff member. There are three specific options for RDLTR plus an option for alternative arrangements to be considered. RDLTR is approved by the Provost on the recommendation of the Dean (or Dean-equivalent) and such approval cannot be unreasonably withheld. The Collective Agreement language can be found in Schedule ‘A’, Article 2.22. A copy of the Collective Agreement is available online here.
One benefit of the RDLTR arrangement is that the employer pays the full employer’s share of required premium contributions for benefit plans (as listed in Article 2.22.3) as if the staff member were on full pay. Further, subject to the provisions of the Universities Academic Pension Plan, the staff member may elect to establish the LWOP period as pensionable service under that Plan, in which case the Governors contributes both the required employer’s share and the employee’s share applicable to the LWOP period.
*One outstanding issue with the form where the Association does not agree with the Administration relates to the rare case where an academic staff member requests that the RDLTR arrangement be rescinded. A RDLTR arrangement can only be rescinded with the agreement of both Parties to the Collective Agreement, i.e. the Faculty Association and the Governors. On the form, academic staff members will see a note outlining the possible re-payment of employer pension and benefit amounts if a RDLTR arrangement is rescinded. The Administration has asserted they have the option to require an academic staff member to reimburse the employee-portion of the pension contributions and the group benefits paid on their behalf by the University during the RDLTR period. The Association disagrees that this is permissible under the Collective Agreement and has told the Administration that once they require this reimbursement by an academic staff member, it would likely become the subject of a formal grievance. We ask that any academic staff member considering a request to rescind their RDLTR arrangement contact the Faculty Association for an initial discussion.
The Faculty Association would like to remind its members about the right to representation under the Collective Agreement. One of the key purposes of the Faculty Association is to protect academic staff interests through its work to resolve conflicts between members and the administration. From time to time academic staff members may contact the Association for confidential advice. Many conflicts can be resolved informally at an early stage by the academic staff member with the advice of the Association and do not require Faculty Association representation. However, when there are situations that escalate which have the potential to lead to discipline, the administration is required to advise you of your right to have a Faculty Association representative attend with you. In other situations, such as resolving conflicts, a Faculty Association advisor may also be useful. Please be aware of your rights for advice/representation. At any meeting with an Administrator where you are concerned that you need advice or representation – especially where the administrator indicates that the results of such a discussion might lead to discipline — you can ask for a recess in the proceedings to allow you to have time to contact the Faculty Association for assistance.
As with most of our members, the Faculty Association Staff continue to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. New and often unexpected challenges arise for our members as the pandemic and University budget constraints unfold, and we continue to do our best to help members to navigate these issues. The best way to reach us is by emailing Faculty.Association@tucfa.com with your concerns and, if possible, how you would like us to help. However, we continue to monitor our phone line for voicemail messages, so feel free to also leave message at (403) 220-5722.
The Faculty Association provides Member Emergency Funding to help individual members under emergency circumstances due to a sudden loss or decline in remuneration from the University. Member Emergency Funding is not intended to be used in cases where normal remuneration is inadequate for an individual’s expenses. Rather, this funding is available when there is an unexpected drop in remuneration, or when a personal emergency arises. This funding is not intended to replace the normal assistance available from the government or other agencies.
In addition to current members, individuals who have held sessional, limited term or contingent term appointments which have recently terminated are eligible to apply. Relief may be provided as a grant, an interest-free loan, or as a combination grant/loan.
For more information on Member Emergency Funding, please contact Faculty Association Executive Director Sheila Miller, by phone, (403) 220-5722 or by email, Faculty.Association@tucfa.com .
In the last edition of this newsletter (May 2020), we stated that in the case of promotion/transfer to the ranks of full Professor or Teaching Professor, the case would go to the Promotion Review Committee. That was incorrect in reference to transfer between the streams (e.g. from the Teaching Professor to Professor, or from Professor to Teaching Professor). The Collective Agreement states that applications for transfer will be “processed per the Dean’s decision, subject only to an appeal to the Promotion Review Committee”. In other words, unlike promotions, transfers to the rank of Professor or Teaching Professor do not go to the Promotion Review Committee except in the case of appeal. We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience that our inaccurate information may have caused.