CUEFA: Concordia University of Edmonton Faculty Association

December 3, 2021
For Immediate Release

Strong strike authorization vote from Concordia University of Edmonton Faculty Association

The Faculty and Academic Service Officers at Concordia University of Edmonton has voted overwhelmingly in favour of giving its union, the Concordia University of Edmonton Faculty Association (CUEFA, legally CUCAFA), a strong strike mandate. In a vote on December 1, 95% of members of the bargaining unit cast ballots, with 90% of those voters authorizing a strike mandate to support their bargaining team.

“This vote should send a clear message to the President and the Board of Governors at Concordia University of Edmonton that they need to work with the CUE Faculty and ASOs, not against us, for the best possible outcome for the entire CUE community.” said CUEFA President Glynis Price. “Our members are determined to get a fair and equitable agreement.”

After a good opening to negotiations, the Administration remain committed to a Workload article that is detrimental to the health of the CUE Faculty and to the ability of the University to recruit and retain Faculty. The current CUE Faculty Workload is a significant outlier in the post-secondary sector. It is virtually unheard of in this sector to combine a teaching load of 8 courses annually with research expectations. CUE’s administration has proposed a Workload of only 7 courses a year BUT has paired that modest reduction in teaching with increased research expectations. The net result is that overall workload is not eased; but simply shifted from one area to another.

Some substantial issues remain on the table:

  • a workload that is fair and in line with other post secondary institutions of a similar size
  • a stable number of full-time faculty to preserve Concordia University of Edmonton’s quality educational experience
  • job security by only being able to discipline members for just cause
  • a salary that keeps up with the cost of living

“A solid collective agreement will ensure good working conditions that allow us to keep and attract excellent faculty who in turn provide the best learning experience for our students,” said Price, “The CUE Faculty Association would like to avoid job action, but we are serious in that we need the Administration to engage in meaningful negotiation. A spurious bad faith bargaining complaint to the Labour Board because the Administration does not like that we are committed to a good workload for our Members is not a meaningful step.”

The Concordia University of Edmonton Faculty Association is the certified bargaining agent for 81 full-time professors, librarians, placement coordinators, and lab instructors at Concordia University of Edmonton. Follow us on Twitter (@CUEfacultyassoc) or see our website www.cuefa.ca for further information and updates. Contact: Glynis Price Spokesperson, and Acting President Concordia University of Edmonton Faculty Association glynis.price@concordia.ab.ca

RESULTS of the STRIKE VOTE:

(Confirmed by the Labour Board)

– 77/81 Members voted (just over 95%)
– 90% of Members voted in FAVOUR of strike action (YES)
– 10% of Members voted AGAINST strike action (NO)

A reminder that this does not mean we are on strike now, just that we have the option to choose to do so in the next 120 days. Our plan is to continue to bargain for the best possible deal for the membership.

Thank you all for your engagement in this process. We will share further plans and developments as they happen.

All CUEFA members:

If you have the opportunity to speak with your colleagues in-person, please remind them to send their personal email to cuefaculty@googlegroups.com

Message to Sessional Instructors from CUEFA:

November 26, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

It is likely that you will now have become aware of a letter that President Loreman sent to members of Concordia’s faculty and to students. While we disagree with President Loreman’s characterization of the progress that has been made in collective bargaining, we were particularly dismayed that students had been drawn into the disputes associated with the bargaining process. I’m sure that we all understand how stressful these last 18 months of the pandemic have been for students – and for ourselves. Indeed, we have collectively supported our students through transitions from in-person to online instruction twice now. It was important to us that we not air our disagreements publicly unless it became necessary, and certainly not before students had had a chance to finish this Fall semester. Unfortunately, because of this letter students have been raising questions and concerns with their instructors.

The basic state of affairs is that the Faculty Association has now been in collective bargaining with Concordia’s administration for several months. There are a number of relatively minor issues that have not been addressed or resolved, but most importantly there are a small number of key issues that remain unresolved, despite our having sought the help of a mediator; these key issues concern job security and workload.

It is true that the Association will be holding a strike vote; however, the fact of a vote does not mean that the members of the Association will necessarily vote to strike. If the members of the Association do vote to strike, that does not necessarily mean that there will be a strike; only that the Association will be in a legal position to do so. We very much hope that our unresolved issues can be resolved without escalating this further.

We understand that this puts you in a challenging situation and deeply regret that this is the case. If you have students asking you questions please refer them to a faculty member with a permanent appointment. If you feel unsure about who to direct them to you can have them contact one of Deb Hemmerling (Biology and Environmental Science) or Alison Kulak (Psychology). Our contact information is on CUE’s website.

If there is a positive strike vote followed by a decision to call a strike we understand that you will face some hard choices, and we appreciate that you will each need to make a decision based on your individual circumstances. We will be posting up-to-date information on the Association’s website (cuefa.ca) and you can contact us confidentially at cueassociation@gmail.com

Recent Questions:

Why is the Faculty Association going on strike?

The FA is holding a strike vote, which may potentially lead to a strike. We are seeing if there is support among the Faculty Association members for job action given where things sit in the collective bargaining process. A strike vote does not necessarily mean a strike is inevitable

Why would Faculty be at the point of holding a strike vote?

We have been bargaining with the University for a number of months. While we are making progress on a number of parts of the agreement, we stalled on Workload in August. We went to mediation, where we bring in a labour expert to work with both sides on the issue. There was no movement and despite asking, no response to revisiting the article beyond what was last offered.

What are the biggest issues?

Workload, as mentioned above, is the biggest issue for the Faculty. Currently the workload is significantly higher than at any other university in Canada. The bargaining team for the Association asked for a streamed approach, where some faculty would stay at the current teaching load (4 courses a term) but have no required research component and some faculty would have a lower teaching load (3 courses a term) and would have research requirements. We understand that having to fill those courses with instructors would cost money, and so said that we would be flexible on how many Faculty they could move to the lower teaching load. The University offered a 4-3 teaching load (so 4 courses one term, and 3 the other) but increased research for everyone. While there is less teaching involved here, there are increased research expectations meaning that workload itself does not improve, it is just moved around.

Language was also introduced into the Discipline article that allows the University to discipline members for no cause. Currently there must be just cause to initiate any disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal (or firing).

Generally when discussing a package, you want the whole picture. The university will not present any proposal or language on Salary and Benefits. The Faculty Association provided our proposal as a part of our initial proposal package back in June.

Why did we hear about a strike vote from the President?

The bargaining team made the decision to not tell the students about the impending strike vote. We do not know what the results of the strike vote may be so it is rather premature. As well, we know what an odd and stressful term this has already been for students and did not believe that the added anxiety that may be caused by this was needed at the end of term and before exams without even knowing what the results might be.

What happens if the Faculty vote YES?

Then the Faculty Association Executive has been given a mandate from the members that they are not happy with the current state of negotiations. We have continually kept the members updated on bargaining and the offers from the University. If we have a mandate, then we continue to bargain with the University, hoping that we can come to some middle ground that works for both sides. If the University will not continue to bargain with us or will not work with us on the articles that are of utmost importance to our members, then we have the right, under the Labour Code of Alberta, to go on strike. We would have to give 72 hours notice to the University. A strike notice can be cancelled right up until the moment that the strike starts. A strike can be cancelled whenever an agreement can be made between both sides.

What does this mean for students?

It is our goal to keep any disruption to students to a minimum. We understand the stress and anxiety that may come from this, but we still do not know the results of the strike vote. We are hoping for a productive bargaining process where we can come to agreements with the administration. We do not want to strike, but the current Workload offer from the University is detrimental to the well-being of our current Faculty and will cause severe issues with both retention of our faculty as well as recruitment of new faculty.

So, has bargaining stopped?

The Faculty Association is fully committed to continued bargaining with the University regardless of the outcome of the strike vote. We provided an initial proposal to the University outlining all changes we hoped to bargain in the Collective Agreement. The proposal we received in return from the University was a commentary on the intention to make changes but very little information on the specifics that they are asking for. The chart on the University website is very misleading as there has been language provided on every article that we have proposed changes for.

CUEFA officially represents the interests of all probationary and permanent faculty members, professional librarians, laboratory instructors, and field placement coordinators. Our principal responsibilities are to:

  • Negotiate the terms and conditions of employment, including salaries and benefits
  • Assist members of the association with problems arising with administration
  • Offer advice and guidance on issues related to annual evaluation, advancement in rank, and disciplinary matters
  • Advise the administration on the development of policies that affect members’ terms and conditions of employment

You can contact the CUEFA in confidence at: cueassociation@gmail.com