Category: Bargaining Updates 2014

Decoding University Budget Matters

As members who have had the time annually to peruse the University’s audited financial statements will already know, UBC had another very profitable year in Fiscal 2015, with a budgetary surplus of $49 million, of which $31 million was the surplus on operations.

Arbitration Award

On March 31, 2016 we received the arbitration award which decides the July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2016 Collective Agreement between the University and the Faculty Association.

A link to the arbitration award has been posted on our site.

Interpreting the Recent Interest Arbitration Award

The Faculty Association and the University were in interest arbitration in the middle of February, because the parties had not been able to reach agreement on an appropriate salary increase for the period 2014-2016. The Association relied on Article 11.02e of the Collective Agreement to argue that a general wage increase (GWI) of 3% and 3% was in order. The University relied on the provincial government’s Public Sector Employer Council (PSEC) mandate to make its arguments for its position of a GWI of 0% and 0.9%.

Arbitration Rescheduled

Arbitration dates had originally been set for October 20-22. No fewer than 8 written submissions (four each side) have now been exchanged between the parties. Unfortunately in the process of this exchange of submissions, evidentiary issues arose that could not be resolved in time to meet the originally scheduled dates, and the arbitration has had to be rescheduled. The new dates are February 16-18, 2016.

Arbitration Update

On the first day of bargaining the Faculty Association and the University agreed that, should there be outstanding issues after collective bargaining finished, they would meet to exchange the proposals they would be taking to arbitration before writing their submissions for the Arbitration Board. This was intended to make it easier for each side to prepare its written submissions, the first of which is due August 31. We were expecting to do an exchange with the University on Tuesday, July 21 of the Parties’ final proposals (i.e., the ones that the Parties are taking to arbitration), but there remains some disagreement about what the Parties can put forward to the arbitrator. We’ll update you when the exchange takes place.

A Reasonable Balance

In the forthcoming arbitration a great deal of ink will be devoted in the Parties’ briefs to the meaning of “reasonable balance” as each party lays out its arguments for the salary increases it proposes. There is a reason for this. Normally in an interest arbitration an Arbitration Board would take into account the employer’s “ability to pay” an award. However with respect to the public sector this concept has proven tricky. As Arbitrator Getz put it in the 1989 UBCFA vs UBC award:

Changes in Composition of the Bargaining Unit, 2006-2015

While some issues, like obtaining a reasonable general wage increase, are constants in bargaining, others evolve over time in response to changes in management practice or in the composition of the bargaining unit. For example, the kinds of workload complaints we hear now include issues that were largely absent in 2006.

One of the things that has changed over the past 9 years, and has changed the focus of our bargaining proposals, is the composition of the bargaining unit.

What Happens Now?

In the previous two rounds of bargaining, the parties continued to meet, even after the arbitration was scheduled, and in the 2010 round those meetings actually led to a settlement, which eliminated the need for an arbitration hearing. In this round the Association did suggest, in a phone conversation to the University, that we were prepared to meet further if they thought it would be fruitful but the University’s position seems to be that further meetings would be pointless. Thus, it looks like no further bargaining will take place. What happens now?

History Behind Annual “Lump-sum Payment,” Part II

In our previous blog we discussed how contingent productivity payments instituted in the 2004/06 bargaining round disappeared in the 2010/12 bargaining round. There were two such payments, one predicated on fundraising, which was converted into the annual lump-sum payment, and one predicated on Tri-Council research grants. The question remains, what happened to the contingent “research grant” productivity payments? These were payments, equal to 1% of “regular salary” that would be made in a lump sum at the end of the contract year, contingent on Tri-Council grant funding exceeding the preceding year’s by a certain amount.

History Behind Annual “Lump-sum Payment,” Part I

Members who have joined UBC within the past ten years may wonder about Part 2, Article 5 (Lump Sum Payment) of the Collective Agreement, which states that on June 30 of each year all members will be paid a lump-sum amount equal to 1% of their “regular salary.” In other words, a small percentage of our annual salary compensation is “held back” from our bi-monthly paycheques and paid out in a lump sum at the end of the contract year. How did we come to such an unusual arrangement?

Part-time Sessional Benefit and Pension Issues

This blog pertains to a proposal that the University has made in at least the past three rounds. It concerns Part 4 Article 2.03(f)(ii) which reads: “The following benefits are available to members of the bargaining unit with appointments of at least 1 year and 50% workloads and to Sessional Lecturers with appointments of at least 4 months and 50% workloads.” The problem with this provision is threefold.


The Association has been seeking, since 2010, to modify Part 5, Conditions of Appointment for Librarians, for two reasons:

  1. to ensure workload is collegially assigned in a fair and equitable manner; and
  2. to create Heads language for the Library that is essentially parallel to Heads language for faculty (i.e., term appointments, stipend, administrative leave).
Tenured Assistant Professors

This blog pertains to a proposal that the University has made in at least the past three rounds of bargaining. It concerns Part 4 Article 2.03(f)(ii) which reads: “if an appointee is not granted a tenured appointment pursuant to (i) above, then in the seventh year of service a recommendation either to grant a tenured appointment at the rank of Assistant Professor or otherwise, or not to renew the appointment, must be made.” The University’s proposal is to modify that clause so that it would no longer be possible to grant tenure at the rank of Assistant Professor.

Vision Care

In every bargaining round the benefit issue on which we get the second most comments from members in person and in our survey (after the Professional Development Fund) is vision care. Our vision care provision covers glasses (but not prescription sunglasses) and contact lenses to a maximum of $250 in any 24 month period, with two exceptions. Sessional Lecturers with less than a 50% appointment have to pay out of pocket for this benefit and faculty over the age of 71 get no vision care benefit at all. This has fallen behind industry standards, and is even behind the benefit level for other UBC employee groups.

Professional Development Funds

In every bargaining round the benefit issue on which we get the most comments from members in person and in our survey is the Professional Development Fund. No wonder. Our PD is the lowest in British Columbia, and among the lowest in Canada.

Tuition Fee Waiver Proposals

We have two proposals for the tuition fee waiver benefit in Article 7.08 of Part 2 of the Collective Agreement: allowing spouses to qualify for the waiver and protecting the waiver for faculty member dependents enrolled at the University should the parent die during the student’s enrollment.

Promotion and Tenure Procedures

We have a number of specific issues pertaining to promotion and tenure procedures, some of which are technical and not contentious, but two are quite substantive, and we have not yet been able to reach agreement on any changes to the current language. This has been disappointing.

Why Workload Matters

Prior to the 2010 Bargaining Round the Association conducted its usual survey of its members. In that round, responding to many comments we had been receiving from members, we inserted a special section in the survey on workload. What we found was significant dissatisfaction with the transparency and equity of workload assignments, as well as a concern that many members were suffering from unhealthy workloads and difficult work-life balance challenges. At that time we developed a proposal to the University on faculty workload that aimed to make sure that our members would experience a healthy and productive work environment, with workloads assigned collegially, fairly and equitably. We based our proposal on workload language at other universities like the University of Toronto, Western and Queens, but particularly focussed on the University of Toronto.

Lecturer Appointments and Reappointments

The Association has several proposals that relate to Lecturers but some pertain to workloads which will be covered in different blogs. In this blog we are focussing on their appointments and reappointments.

Sessionals: Appointments and Salaries

The Association has a number of proposals that relate to Sessionals but many pertain to benefits or workloads, which will be covered in different blogs. In this blog we are focussing on two other issues: right to accrue work and salary.

Benefit Cuts for Members Past Age 71

Members who continue to work past the age of 71 lose health and welfare benefits provided by the University, as well as the 10 percent equivalent of their salary that the University contributes into the Faculty Pension Plan. These conditions result in a significant drop in the total compensation members receive from the University once they turn 71.

General Wage Increase (GWI) Proposal Explained

Price Inflation

The purpose of the general wage increase (GWI), as Arbitrator Taylor put it, is “to keep pace with inflation and the general state of salaries elsewhere.” [2013 arbitration decision, UBC vs UBCFA, paragraph 111, page 51]. The Collective Agreement Part 1, Article 11.02eii)actually refers to two different price inflation rates: changes in the Vancouver and Canadian Consumer Price Indices. However for purposes of analysis and prediction it is sufficient to look only at a single index. We explain our proposed general increase below.

UPDATE: University Proposes to Implement PTR Increases

In our bargaining blog this week, we discussed our proposal to remove the contract-specific dates on which PTR increases (CPI, Merit, and PSA) are implemented so that faculty members would receive anticipated annual salary increases even when we have not finished negotiating the next collective agreement. While the University has not agreed to this proposal, President Gupta has assured the Faculty Association that interest accrued on our delayed salary increases has nothing to do with the University’s position on this issue. We accept unequivocally his assurances.

Progress Through the Ranks (PTR)

Salary increases to individual members fall into two categories: General Wage Increases (GWI), and Progress Through the Ranks (PTR). GWIs are intended to protect members against inflation and maintain salary comparability with faculty at other universities of comparable academic quality and size. PTR is intended to reward individuals’ career advancement. The provisions of Progress Through the Ranks are contained in Part 2, Sections 2.02 through 2.05 of the Collective Agreement.

Article 17: Preservation of Past Rights and Practices

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.”

President’s Right to Consult re: Tenure and Promotion

The University proposed (UBC Proposal #6c) that the President should have the right to consult with the Provosts or Deputy Vice Chancellor regarding tenure and/or promotion decisions. (To explain, members should know that UBC has two different positions called “Provost”, one for each campus, and one position called “Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal” in the Okanagan).

Titles and Ranks, Appendix A and Other Issues

Inevitably over the period in which a Collective Agreement is in force, either the Association or the University finds minor, technical matters that need addressing. This blog outlines some of those issues.

Transparency and the University

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.

Equity and the Evaluation of Scholarship

In 2012, the Bargaining Committee asked the UBCFA Status of Women’s Committee for recommendations on ways the Collective Agreement could improve the University’s treatment of members of “designated groups” (i.e. groups with personal attributes that the law generally forbids as grounds for discrimination.) They made recommendations in two areas. 

Procedures for Appointment, Reappointment, Tenure and Promotion

Article 5 in Part 4 of the Collective Agreement, concerning procedures for appointment, reappointment, tenure and promotion, requires that all departmental recommendations are to be made by standing committees of eligible members. However the members eligible to serve on these standing committees, and the procedures used, depend on which type of recommendation is being made.

Maternity, Parental or Adoptive Leave and Tenure Clock Extension

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.

Educational Leadership Stream

In the round of negotiations leading to the 2010-2012 Collective Agreement the University made a proposal to transform the Instructor classification into a full three-rank Educational Leadership classification. At the time the instructor classification had no ranks (Senior Instructor was simply the name given to post-probationary instructors, no actual promotion procedures were involved), the classification was regarded (and described in the Agreement) as a “teaching stream,” and several articles in the Collective Agreement implied that Senior Instructors were analogous to a rank below Assistant Professors. The University proposed to change all of that during that round.

Bargaining Ends with Some Agreements

The first phase of bargaining between UBC and UBCFA has ended. During this phase, the parties attempt to reach a final agreement on all matters, in which case the agreement is then put to the members for a ratification vote. However, if this phase ends with some matters unresolved, then “the matters in dispute shall be submitted to arbitration” (Part I, Article 9.04(b) of the Collective Agreement (see page 8). This phase concluded on Friday, January 30, 2015 when 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. We will be providing more details on the agreements reached in future blog posts.

A Most Peculiar Proposal

As part of its general wage increase offer the University has made what must be described as a most peculiar proposal. Their proposal is that on May 1, 2016, in addition to the general wage increase they have proposed, our salaries will also be increased by 50% of the amount by which the Economic Forecast Council forecast underestimates real (inflation adjusted) GDP growth in 2014.  They also proposed similar forecast error increases on May 1, 2017, May 1, 2018, and May 1, 2019. This will take some explaining.

UBC Proposes 0% for 2014/2015. The Association Declines.

On June 5 the Faculty Association and UBC exchanged proposals for a general wage increase (GWI). The University has proposed a five-year agreement with a GWI of 0% in 2014/15, 0.9% in 2015/2016, 1.4% in 2016/17, 1.4% in 2017/2018, and 1.5% in 2018/19. The Association has proposed a two-year agreement with a GWI of 3% in 2014/15 and 3%.

Our Pension Proposals

Two of our proposals pertain to pensions. First, we propose that the university provide pension plan contribution for all sessional lecturers. Currently the university only pays full compensation (salary plus pension plan contributions) to sessional lecturers with at least 50% workloads. Second, we propose to work out a way for members’ full compensation not to be reduced at age 71, which would happen if the university stopped paying the pension plan contributions at that age.

To understand why we feel so strongly about these proposals it is first necessary to understand how our pension plan works.

An External Analysis of the University’s Budget Model

In preparing for the 2012-2014 arbitration, the Faculty Association commissioned a report from Professors Cameron Morrill and Janet Morrill, accounting professors in the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba. The Morrills have considerable experience in examining University budgets for Faculty Associations in Canada. While we did not use this report in the actual arbitration, it did help us to understand a variety of issues related to the University’s ability to pay appropriate salaries to faculty members.

Some of the highlights of their report include the following observations:

The University’s Destructive Budget Model

By far and away the largest single complaint we received from members while we prepared for bargaining concerned UBC’s budget model. Members are justifiably unhappy about a budget model in which the departments and Faculties are not treated as central to the core mission of the University. The comment “I am particularly concerned about the apparent over-allocation of University funds to administrative positions/costs, and a concomitant reduction of funds available to support scholarly activity and investment in hiring faculty” sums up the comments of many, many members.

Bargaining Themes: Three Big Issues Emerge

When the bargaining preparation committee analysed the input we got from members in face-to-face meetings, from emails, and from the survey, particularly the comments sections of the survey, three major issues emerged, in addition to widespread concern about salaries. Members can see that most of our non-salary proposals deal with these issues in one way or another.

First, we are increasingly observing what can only be described as symptoms of burnout.

Bargaining Begins for 2014-2016

Negotiations between UBC and UBCFA to renew the Collective Agreement that expires on June 30, 2014 began formally on April 7 – 8, although the parties did engage in some preliminary discussions in the preceding months.

Bargaining: Preparation for Next Round Begins

Although the 2012-2014 Collective Agreement was only finalized in late 2013, it will soon expire, on June 30, 2014. Consequently it is already time to begin preparations for the next round of negotiations, tentatively set to begin in mid-March. Once negotiations begin it is expected that they will proceed fairly intensively until either a new Collective Agreement, or impasse, is reached. Our expectation is that if the University is willing and able to negotiate a Collective Agreement without recourse to an Arbitrator, it will be done by mid-June.

What the Arbitrator Ruled in Bargaining 2012, and Why

On July 25, 2013, the Faculty Association and the University sent out a joint memorandum describing the details of the arbitration award for the years 2012 – 2014. We also linked to the actual award so that members could read it in its entirety. However many members have found the entire award a bit much to internalize and have asked us for a short, non-technical, explanation of the reasoning behind the salary settlement. Here it is.