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. Please note that any items agreed to at the bargaining table will not be implemented until the interest arbitration is complete. This is the fifth in a series of blog posts to discuss both the matters that have been agreed to and those that are still in dispute.
The Association had two proposals dealing, in one way or another, with transparency. The first (UBCFA Proposal #21) sought assurance that members would have the right to representation during investigation processes. Investigations currently can be far from transparent, with members sometimes not even knowing when they are under investigation, sometimes being told that meetings are off the record, and being discouraged from seeking representation by the Association. Often the reason given to members for this behaviour is that involving the Association would complicate matters. The University has, on occasion, called members into meetings with Heads and/or Deans to discuss performance-related issues, and then offered a termination agreement without allowing the individual to consult with the Association.
The Association wants to ensure that members have meaningful protection throughout any investigation they may face. This would include pre-investigation notice and disclosure.
Most of the other unionized employee groups at UBC have these rights, as do Faculty Associations at many of our comparator institutions nationally. In the past the University has always insisted that the Association does not have representational rights in the Collective Agreement and it is therefore not legally bound to contact the Association, or advise members of their right to assistance and representation by the Faculty Association when they are under investigation.
In negotiating this particular proposal, we didn’t get everything we wanted, but we did get the University to agree that when it requires members to attend a meeting where it is known in advance by the University that it may result in discipline, the University must inform the faculty member in advance of his/her right to advice and representation from the Faculty Association and, importantly, that the Faculty Association must be notified. It’s a start.
Our second issue on transparency pertained to various university policy development committees on which our members were being asked to serve. Obviously we encourage our members to fullfil their governance responsibilities. However sometimes policy development committees can veer into areas that touch on the terms and conditions of employment and we wanted to make sure that the University understood that individual members on such committees cannot be seen to speak for the entire membership. Our proposal (UBCFA Proposal #22) was to require formal UBCFA representation on policy development committees. The University pointed out that this was impractical, and we accepted that point. Instead we asked for and received a letter from Lisa Castle, Vice President of Human Resources, which confirms the University’s understanding that faculty members on these committees do not speak for the Faculty Association and their views do not imply agreement by the Association. As that letter adequately dealt with our concerns, we dropped our proposal.