Guest Blog: Equity for All

Categories: Bargaining Updates 2012, Equity

FA Note: During this round of bargaining, we will be posting a limited number of guest blogs written by our members and selected by the bargaining committee to represent important bargaining concerns.

The University of British Columbia Faculty Association, echoing the Canadian Association of University Teachers, recognizes the importance of securing equity for all members of our bargaining group. The Faculty Association aspires to take a leadership role in realizing equity by negotiating a full equity provision in the Collective Agreement. The goal of a commitment to equity is the achievement of an inclusive and fair workplace in which all are accorded equal recognition and respect.  This issue is, of course, key for members of marginalized groups disproportionately excluded from full participation in the academy.  Such marginalized groups include but are not limited to Aboriginal peoples, women, visible/racialized minorities, persons with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, and two-spirited persons.  Systemic discrimination manifests itself in a variety of ways—more specifically in barriers to access to employment and advancement, governance, inclusion, respect, and acceptance.  Equity is both an individual and collective responsibility.

Article 4 of the current Collective Agreement between the University of British Columbia and the UBC Faculty Association states that relevant parties to the Agreement will not discriminate regarding any term or condition of employment. The clause sets out prohibited grounds of discrimination, a commitment to “fostering a positive working climate of mutual respect”, and stated agreement on the “principle of employment equity for all groups”.

The vast majority of faculty collective agreements at Canadian universities feature such “No Discrimination” clauses.  However, the content of the clauses varies significantly. A comparison of UBC’s “No Discrimination” clause against those of other universities, in addition to the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ Model Clause on Non-Discrimination, reveals a number of shortcomings in the current UBC clause.  Simply put, Article 4 is less comprehensive than ideal.   

The UBCFA is thus proposing a more expansive Equity, Diversity, and Anti-Discrimination clause to replace the existing Article 4 in our Collective Agreement.  The proposed clause begins by stating the University’s commitment to a community that recognizes and values the inherent worth and dignity of every person; fosters tolerance, sensitivity, understanding, and mutual respect among its members; and encourages each individual to strive to reach her or his own potential. The proposal expands the specification of employment circumstances in which discrimination is prohibited as well as provides a fuller list of prohibited grounds.  The proposed provision also commits both the University and the Faculty Association to the principle of employment equity and to the elimination of systemic barriers to full and equal participation.  A key paragraph in the proposed clause reads that:

The parties are committed to an equitable workplace, recognizing that achieving equity demands a proactive approach and institutional accountability.    The goal of equity is inclusivity at all levels.  Equity is achieved through a variety of measures, including recognition, respect, numerical representation, and protection against discrimination, including accommodation and valuing of difference.

It is well accepted by both the Faculty Association and the UBC Administration that equality and diversity are important goals and guarantees.  As Chair of the Faculty Association’s Status of Women’s Committee, I think it makes simply sense to articulate these shared values in the Collective Agreement as an expression of mutual aspiration and commitment.  Such an expression is neither novel nor radical.  It simply would capture what both parties to the Agreement have already endorsed in a variety of other statements and documents as the minimal conditions of a fair, vibrant, and effective work environment.

Margot Young
Chair, Status of Women Committee
Associate Professor, Faculty of Law
University of British Columbia