We are beginning a new fall term unlike anything any of us have experienced before and one which will bring challenges that none of us anticipated. The personal has become professional in ways that have taken us all by surprise and many of us are dealing with family demands that we were not expecting. The responsibilities and anxieties created by this situation have obviously affected all dimensions of our lives. Nonetheless, the response of academic staff members to the COVID-19 situation has been phenomenal and we all should take pride in how we have addressed the challenge. The Administration continues to state how much they value our contributions in these circumstances, and we look forward to more tangible expressions of their gratitude. The situation is certainly very different from what I was expecting when I put my name forward to run for President. It is a great honour to have been chosen to represent you in this capacity and while I cannot promise to not make mistakes, I can promise to do my best on your behalf. We are currently involved in several grievances with the university. These include an unprecedented number of policy grievances, several investigations and numerous grievances reaching the arbitration level. I will be providing more information on this later in the fall.
I want to thank Paul Rogers for his years of service as President and for working to ensure as smooth a transition as possible under the circumstances. Similarly, I wish to thank Executive Director Sheila Miller and the TUCFA staff for their extraordinary work this spring and summer. The first meetings of our new executive, board and departmental representatives are scheduled for later this month and I look forward to working with the members you have selected as your representatives on these bodies.
With limited access to campus, opportunities for face to face interactions and meetings are limited. However, there are a couple of initiatives that I wish to move forward on as quickly as possible. First, given the changed nature of the work environment, we will be sending out a survey asking people about their experiences and how these have changed and how we might proceed with the assessment process in these circumstances. Responses to this survey will inform how we approach our discussions with the Administration in this area so please complete the survey. Marie-Andrée Bergeron, Nigel Caulkett, Hamid Habibi, and Melanee Thomas are taking the lead on this project and we all appreciate your co-operation on this important issue.
The second initiative is one that I highlighted in my campaign, namely improving membership engagement. I will be asking the Executive to appoint a Task Force on membership engagement to get views from the membership on your needs and expectations and to identify ways in which we can improve communication and representation. You are likely to be approached for your opinions on this as well, either through a survey, as part of a discussion group or both.
I was very pleased that the wage re-opener not only resulted in a wage increase, which the Provost indicates will take effect in October and be retroactive but also accepted the arguments we made and rejected most of the points the Administration raised in support of their argument for a salary cut. I want to express our appreciation to those who worked so hard to build and present our case on this issue. Our Collective Agreement expired on June 30, 2020 and we will be sitting down at the bargaining table on this soon; in the meantime, we will also be looking at bargaining for the following year. Obviously, the situation with both the Administration and Government will be difficult.
We have worked out an understanding to co-operate with the Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations in the consultations with respect to the government’s Alberta 2030 post-secondary plans and Sheila Miller and I had a meeting with the Minister of Advanced Education to identify some of the concerns we have going forward. In this environment, it is critical to both build alliances and get access to decision makers.
I have replaced Paul Rogers on a variety of committees including the Academic Crisis Management Team (ACMT) and the committee recommending changes to GFC on the Handbook (the former GFC and APT Manuals relating to appointment, tenure, promotion and merit). Our interests and those of the Administration diverge on these issues and I am working to present our views as forcefully as possible. We are committed to collegial self governance and to ensuring that academic staff members play a major role in identifying vacancies, making appointments and establishing the standards for tenure, promotion and merit. I am grateful to be working with Associate Director Don Kozak on some of these issues and making sure that the Administration is aware of our concerns. With the ACMT we were able to achieve modifications in the technology statement to students as well as the return to work protocol but these involved compromises and the membership on this committee is determined solely by the Administration.
Although face to face meetings with the membership are not possible in these circumstances, I hope to set up regular townhall meetings through Zoom where I can respond to questions and hear concerns you wish to raise. Again, more communication on this front will be forthcoming.
Once again, let me say that is a great honour to represent you as President and I look forward to working with the Executive, Board, and departmental representatives in advancing our issues in the next two years.