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 second in a series of blog posts to discuss both the matters that have been agreed to and those that are still in dispute.
Currently, under Part 3, Article 1.03 of the Collective Agreement, when a pre-tenured member takes a maternity, parental or adoptive leave their pre-tenure appointment is extended by one year (thus extending the “tenure clock”). In the 2012-2014 bargaining round UBC made a proposal that if the leaves were less than 15 weeks in length there would be no extension of the tenure clock, but if they took a leave of 15 or more weeks there would be a one year extension. That proposal made no sense to us then, and we did not accept it. In this round the University made exactly the same proposal (UBC proposal #7). Again it made no sense to us but this time the University’s bargaining team did a better job of explaining their problem and we were able to identify for them why the specific proposal that they made was problematic for us.
The problem, in a nutshell, is that in our Collective Agreement parental and maternity leaves (Part 3 Article 6) are tied to members applying for, and receiving, Employment Insurance (EI) maternity or parental leave payments. The length of leaves members were taking is thus heavily influenced by the EI eligibility rules. In particular while both parents may apply for EI parental benefits, they have to share them. In total, there are 35 weeks of parental benefits available to eligible parents of a newborn or newly adopted child and the parents decide how to split those benefits up. For example if the biological mother wants to take 25 weeks of parental leave, the other spouse can only take the remaining 10 weeks of benefits. Consequently the length of parental leave taken by a member is heavily determined by household decisions about how to split up the EI benefits. Those decisions are heavily determined by the employment status of the spouse and his or her employer’s provisions for parental leave. The existing provision was highly restrictive in the first place (as a member must apply for some EI to be eligible for the tenure clock extension) and the University’s original proposal would have made things worse. Realistically, the tenure clock extension should be tied to the arrival of a child in the household, not to taking EI benefits.
As a result of our discussions on this matter the Parties agreed to a provision that when an untenured faculty member on a pre-tenure appointment becomes a parent by birth or adoption he or she will be granted an automatic extension of the tenure clock for one year upon request. There’s a little more to it, but that’s the gist. There is no longer a requirement to claim EI to receive the extension.