On Friday, January 30, 2015 the parties signed a Memorandum of Agreement that itemizes the proposals on which agreement has been reached, the proposals the parties have mutually agreed to withdraw, and those “matters still in dispute” that the parties may submit to arbitration. This is the eighth in a series of blog posts to discuss both the matters that have been agreed and those that are still in dispute.
As long as anybody on the bargaining team can remember, UBC has been proposing to eliminate or suspend Article 17 in Part 1 of the Collective Agreement. Article 17 is entitled “Preservation of Past Rights and Practices” and it reads, in its entirety, “Subject to this Agreement or any amendments thereto or to any Collective Agreement the University agrees not to change rights of or practices relating to Faculty Members or members of the bargaining unit that traditionally have been the subject of consultation and discussion without appropriate consultation and discussion at the Departmental, Faculty or University level.”
This article is obviously very important to the Association as it is the University’s obligation to abide by the longstanding traditions of shared academic governance in the academy and not to make unilateral changes to matters that have traditionally been the subject of consultation. We have never really understood why the University brings this proposal back each year. The University has always responded that it wants to be able to discuss an issue with us (i.e. the Union) without committing itself to future consultations. This never made any sense to us. First, the article clearly encompasses more than discussions with the Faculty Association. Why get rid of the consultation at the Departmental, Faculty or University level if the problem is consultation at the Faculty Association level? Second, UBCFA is always entitled to make any proposal pertaining to the working conditions of its members at the bargaining table and the University is obliged to negotiate these matters in good faith. If we want to talk about something, we can always bring it to the table (admittedly only during bargaining rounds, not during the period of the Collective Agreement.)
Nonetheless, the matter was clearly very important to the University and, in the spirit of attempting to come to an agreement with the University, the Association agreed, not to eliminate or change the existing article, but to add a second paragraph making it clear that, for the period of the Collective Agreement, the University can discuss matters with the Association without obligating themselves to further consultation. We hope this added paragraph will indeed lead to even greater consultation between the Parties about matters that affect the employment conditions of our members.