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Last week, the Athabasca University Faculty Association (AUFA) filed with the Labour Board for a proposal vote of the Athabasca University (AU) Board of Governors (BoG).
AUFA is asking the BoG to accept AUFA’s December 5 pattern-settlement offer of a two-year wage freeze, a three-year wage re-opener, and some small language improvements.
Alberta’s Labour Relations Code allows each side one opportunity to put a proposal directly to the other side. This mechanism is designed to address the situation of where a bargaining team rejects a proposal that their principal (e.g., the employer of the union membership) might accept.
Applying for a proposal vote reflects AUFA’s efforts to reach a new collective agreement without the necessity of a work stoppage. Bargaining is currently at impasse and AU is stalling the negotiating an Essential Services agreement. A proposal vote offers the BoG a way out of the mess their bargaining team has created.
An interesting wrinkle is that it is up to the BoG to decide whether the entire BoG will vote on this proposal or whether a subgroup or an individual will vote for the BoG. If AU had sought a proposal vote for AUFA, each AUFA member would get a vote.
It is unusual for a union to demand a proposal vote of an employer (it happens, but not often). AUFA's decision to ask for a proposal vote reflects, in part, our belief that the BoG is being kept in the dark about the state of bargaining by AU's administration and, at the end of the day, might prefer to avoid further reputational and financial damage.
If the BoG votes to accept AUFA’s offer then this whole unpleasant round of bargaining comes to a close and we have five years of labour peace. If the BoG does not accept this pattern offer, then we move closer to a damaging work stoppage that will negatively affect thousands of students.
-- Bob Barnetson