ULSU Job Action Response and Collective Bargaining Info

Dear students, 

Thank you for your passionate input on the matter. Although we can not respond to every bit of correspondence, we are taking every point under advisement. We are trying to allocate as many of our resources to our job action response and communications. Please bear with us as we make these changes and updates, we thank you for your patience in advance.

The bargaining situation between the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors and the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association has come to an impasse. This impasse resulted in a ALRB certified strike vote which ran from February 2nd to February 4th. The outcome of the vote was 92% in favor and faculty membership participation rate of 87% of ULFA members voting. 

ULFA is on legal strike as of 11:00am on Thursday February 10th 2021. The Board of Governors removed it’s bad faith complaint that was meant to delay the strike deadline, with both parties citing that negotiations were progressing during the 72 hour notice period. The Board of Governors has applied for and served notice to ULFA that a lockout is slated to start on February 11th at 11:00am.

In response to this, the FAQ webpage page has changed to represent the ULSU’s whole advocacy effort about collective bargaining and job action. The newest update to this page is the button at the top that directs you to remediation strategies and contingency plans to support students during disruptive job action.

In response to this, the FAQ webpage page is changing to represent the ULSU’s whole advocacy effort about collective bargaining and job action. The first part of this webpage is a recent video from the ULSU Executive Council titled US to U: Job Action. The second half is a glossary of relevant labour terms. The last portion of this page is the FAQ that we’ve been updating since October. The EC answered questions submitted directly by students about this situation. We want to thank these students for submitting their questions as it has given us an understanding of what concerns need to be addressed by students. We hope you find that it is a useful and reassuring resource. 

This situation is rapidly evolving and the ULSU is updating the information on this page as frequently and efficiently as possible. Due to this, the ULSU might draw upon the first source of information we receive, but then retroactively edit and update the document to better reflect fact rather than subjective reports from any party. Please be patient with us as there are sometimes some lags between news breaking and any updated or outdated information will be noted where applicable. Please email su.communications@uleth.ca if you notice any errors or omissions.

If you feel any distress or anxiety from this situation or just need to speak to a professional please feel free to contact counselling to book an appointment. https://www.ulethbridge.ca/counselling/content/booking-appointment

Relevant ULSU Memos and Communications:

Click here to read the ULSU speech to the Board of Governors Open Session on December 9, 2021.

Click here to read the open letter inviting all parties to join together and advocate against the government's cuts posted on December 13, 2021.

Click here to read the email to U of L President Mike Mahon and ULFA President Dan O'Donnell on the morning of the cooldown ending on February 2, 2022.

Click here to read the official press release from the ULSU Executive Council in response to the strike which began on February 10, 2022 at 11:00am.

Click here to read the ULSU speech to the Board of Governors Open Session Sit-in on February 17, 2022.

Media Contact:

For media inquiries, please contact Max Bartlett at su.communications@uleth.ca

ULSU Official Position Statement: 

Voted unanimously by the ULSU General Assembly on January 21st, 2022

The Students’ Union recognizes the importance of the collective bargaining process in negotiating a collective agreement between the faculty union and the University. We further recognize our positionality in this process, being that the Students’ Union is formally unable to waver decisions to the benefit of either party. We strongly encourage both parties to actively and continuously consider how their decisions impact students and their quality of learning, especially when considering job action. We further recognize that students have already had to bear financial, mental and academic challenges this past semester, and urge both sides to consider how their decisions exacerbate student struggles.

Relevant developments as of February 8th:

Please know as of writing this, less than two days remain before the strike is set to take place. Both parties are in negotiations during the 72 hour period given before the strike. A potential resolution is still theoretically possible before the strike is set to commence on the 10th of February.

ULFA related updates: As of writing this on February 8th, ULFA has held a supervised strike vote from February 2nd to February 3rd. The results have been ratified by the ALRB for a positive strike vote. ULFA intends to strike lawfully and has given notice to the employer that a strike will occur on February 10th at 11:00 am. 

ULFA bargaining updates: https://www.ulfa.ca/taking-action/bargaining-updates/
ULFA has prepared a student-specific FAQ which also hosts information about picketing: https://www.ulfa.ca/faqs/

Board of Governors related updates: On February 8th the ULSU received an update that the Board of Governors had withdrawn its bad faith bargaining complaint. The Board of Governors has applied for a lockout under the ALRB. The application is still pending as of writing this in the evening of February 8th, 2022. We will keep you updated on whether or not it is approved. 

U of L Board bargaining updates: https://www.ulethbridge.ca/bargaining
U of L Bargaining FAQ for students: https://www.ulethbridge.ca/bargaining/student-faq

If you have any questions that we have not answered here or have input for the ULSU about these matters, please reach out to ULSU President, Holly Kletke, at su.president@uleth.ca



Collective Bargaining AKA Bargaining - The process defined by the Alberta labour relations code in setting up a collective agreement that defines terms of employment between an employer and employees represented by a labour union.

The Board AKA BOG, or U of L Board - When talking about collective bargaining, “the board” refers to the Board of Governors or more accurately, represents the employer in the collective agreement. The Board of Governors is represented at the bargaining table with their own negotiating team. 

*Note* in some contexts the board is also shorthand for the Alberta Labour Relations Board, we will do our best to clarify in long-form i.e. University of Lethbridge Board of Governors (U OF L BOG) VS Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB)

ULFA - University of Lethbridge Faculty Association, which represents all academic staff at the University of Lethbridge campuses (i.e. Lethbridge and Calgary campus) typically referred to as the employee in the collective agreement.

ALRB - Alberta Labour Relations Board; The Alberta Labour Relations Board is the independent and impartial tribunal responsible for the day-to-day application and interpretation of Alberta's labour laws. It processes applications and holds hearings. The Board actively encourages dispute resolution, employs officers for investigations and makes major policy decisions.

Mediation - External support to help both parties come to an agreement, in the case of collective bargaining this is applied for through and mediated by the Alberta Labour Relations Board. 

Negotiating Team - The team of members that engage with the other party at the bargaining table and represent their party’s interests. The employer and employee each have their own negotiating teams and decide the composition of them.

Board Polls & Strike Vote - These are supervised votes by the Alberta labour relations board that acts as a way to show willingness that a party is willing to take job action. A successful vote does not necessarily imply there will be a disruption to service.

Job Action - The generic term for disruption of employment or the refusal to work as a response to leverage a negotiating position.

Strike - Action on the part of the employee, wherein the duties usually undertaken by that employee, cease. In our case, a strike means professors and sessional lecturers would stop teaching classes and do any related duties to their teaching.

Lockout - Action on the part of the employer, wherein employees are restricted from accessing various aspects of their job, in our case, campus, email, moodle, etc.

Good Faith Bargaining - Good faith bargaining requires the employer (U of L Board) to recognize the union (ULFA) as a bargaining agent. There is also a further requirement for both parties to engage in a full and rational discussion of their bargaining differences.

Bad Faith Bargaining Complaint - The Alberta Labour Relations Code requires unions and employers with bargaining relationships to meet with each other and bargain in good faith. They must make every reasonable effort to enter into a collective agreement. Section 60 of the ALRB code states that one party serving notice on the other to commence collective bargaining triggers the duty to meet and bargain in good faith. If one party feels the other is failing to meet or failing to bargain in good faith, that party may file a complaint with the ALRB alleging a breach of the duty to bargain in good faith.

The U of L Board of Governors submitted one such complaint but has since withdrawn it from the ALRB.

Frequently Asked Questions (Updated as of February 9, 2022):

Why hasn't the ULSU picked a "side" yet?

The ULSU’s current stance is collective bargaining neutral to the parties, but it is evidently on the side of protecting student interests by avoiding disruptive job action. It’s the side of avoiding or minimizing a disruption because students are paying an all-time high on tuition, for online classes and in many cases self-directed learning. We do not want students to face any more impediments in their academic stability during an already tumultuous semester. The ULSU believes working conditions are learning conditions, this is undeniable, however, we are elected by students and mandated by the PSLA to serve the interest of the overall student body. Job action is not in the interest of students because it means students are paying good money to not learn. With a budget deficit that is currently not resolved for the U of L budget for 2023-2024, we do not think it is fair for the risk of burden to come to current and future students, in the form of exceptional tuition increases, future mandatory non-instructional fee increases, or reduction of services in terms of supports, (i.e. personal and career counselling, advising, etc.). This reality is what we want to avoid, whether a reduction in services or increases in the cost of education, ultimately reduces the overall quality of the student experience.

What should students be doing or made aware of right now as job action becomes more possible?

Academic Expectations:

  • In the event of job action, there are absolutely no academic expectations for students to keep up with their studies and try to direct their own learning. There is a potential for a strike to affect work-integrated learning such as coops and applied studies or even practicums, we will do our best to communicate that information to you when we have some more information on this.
  • For those interested in directing their own studies because they are willingly choosing so, here are some resources available to you by the ULSU:
    • Nimbus online study platform: http://groups.ulsu.ca/nimbus-learning
    • Student to student study groups: Keep an eye out for grad student tutoring and accountability sessions from the ULSU
    • If you are a grad student and wish to learn more about how this affects you especially with teaching and research assistant roles please go to www.ulga.ca
    • We will absolutely ensure workload is fair and accommodated for students via our communications with university administration, curriculum coordinating committee, as well as general faculties council. There is potential that this decision will be decided at the bargaining table rather than established processes through committees and governing bodies. We will keep you updated on this when we know more.
  • Please email su.president@uleth.ca & su.academic@uleth.ca if there are unreasonable expectations being placed on you as a student during job action. There are no expectations for students to direct their own learning. If there are penalties suffered to your academics because of this situation you can be sure the ULSU will stand with you ensuring fair assessment and recompense.

Online Access:

  • The administration has informed the community that they are not looking to disconnect students from their online resources such as moodle, email, etc. However, if faculty do go on strike they have made it clear faculty email accounts will be cut off and furthermore their resources for teaching and researching will likely be suspended e.g. services like Turnitin, or even access to labs.
  • There is no mandate to do so, and we encourage students to make the decision they are personally comfortable with, however, students can give ULFA their personal non-uleth email account by emailing their relevant professors and cc’ing eo@ulfa.ca within the next 48 hours.

Support and Solidarity:

  • We are honoured and proud that students want to get involved and be a part of the process to show solidarity with their faculty members.
  • Should disruptive job action become a reality and the parties are not meeting at the negotiating table you can contact these individuals to remind the parties to get back to work so you can get back to learning.
    • U of L President, Dr. Michael J. Mahon can be contacted at 403-329-2201 or president@uleth.ca
    • ULFA President and English Faculty Professor, Dr. Dan O’Donnel can be contacted at (403) 329-2377 or president@ULFA.ca
      • This number is a university number so it might be unreachable during job action
  • If you are a member of the Calgary campus please reach out to Calgary Campus Rep. Lionel Migrino at lionel.migrino@uleth.ca or VP External Ryan Lindblad at su.external@uleth.ca to put you in touch with any demonstrations happening in the Calgary area.
  • Read the letter to students from the Department of Geography HERE.

The ULSU is not opposed to organizing demonstrations of our own, urging both negotiating parties to come to a collective agreement as soon as possible so students can resume their studies in the event of a disruption. We will update you if, and when, this consideration becomes reality and should an in-person demonstration be organized by the ULSU we will do everything we can to also prevent the spread of COVID-19 at this event.

Dispelling misinformation:

  • There is a lot of fear and incorrect information out there. We want to remind students that if they feel overwhelmed counselling is available to them via this link: https://www.ulethbridge.ca/counselling
  • If you feel comfortable doing so when the topic is brought up, unmute in your zoom classrooms or talk to your peers and roommates about the situation and the facts. University students learn how to think critically and analyze information from sources that they must evaluate– the ULSU sees this as an opportunity to put that methodology into practice.
  • The ULSU has received accounts that students feel like their fear and vulnerability are being used against them. We think this is unacceptable considering how much students have been through these past two years. We do not condone or tolerate anyone weaponizing students' feelings to leverage their party’s position. This is concerning behaviour and we want to assure you that we are trying to actively combat this.
  • Continue to follow @ulethsu on Instagram and @uoflsu on Facebook to receive the neutral and unbiased updates we’ve been communicating thus far
  • The U of L bargaining page:https://www.ulethbridge.ca/bargaining
  • The U of L bargaining page now has resources for students: https://www.ulethbridge.ca/bargaining/student-faq
  • ULFA Bargaining updates: https://www.ulfa.ca/taking-action/bargaining-updates/
  • ULFA bargaining update to help students save the semester: https://www.ulfa.ca/bargaining_updates/save-the-semester-information-for-students/

Mediation has ceased. What does this mean?

ULFA and the Board entered mediation in fall 2021 as a means of reaching a compromise in the collective bargaining process and to ease negotiations as both parties were struggling to make headway on the agreement which expired on June 30th of 2020.

(Edited, as of February 3rd, 2022: This section has more neutral language now, stating that mediations simply ceased as the ULSU has not been made privy to an objective timeline of events from the bargaining table.)

Meditation ceased on January 17th. The board presented this letter of settlement to ULFA, which can be read here. In response to this letter of settlement by the board, ULFA prepared their own letter of settlement for the board to review, which can be read here. The mediator chose not to issue a recommendation on terms of settlement for the parties on what items should be agreed upon or rejected for each side. ULFA’s negotiating team believes the parties are too far apart on the present issues. The Board’s negotiating team feels they have proposed an Offer of Settlement that supports the collective well-being and sustainability of campus communities and is ready to re-engage with the ULFA team at the earliest possibility.

The result of the mediation coming to an end immediately initiates a 14-day cooling-off period, in which job action (i.e strike or lockout) cannot be taken. It is possible for job action to occur after, with or without further bargaining at this period. During this cooling-off period, ULFA is in talks with its membership gathering feedback and sharing information.

What happens after the 14-day cooling-off period?

As soon as the 14 day period has lapsed, the ULFA membership has the ability to request the ALRB for a supervised strike vote. The employer can also initiate a lockout poll, both of these potential job actions must be supervised through the ALRB. If a majority of votes are reached on a strike vote, for example, it means that membership has authorized its representatives to call a strike should further bargaining fail. So even if a strike vote is initiated, it does not always mean that there is a disruption to classes. This vote can be used as a means of leveraging in further negotiations. The results of a job action vote are considered current for 120 days. After that period a new vote must occur if a party wishes to pursue such action.

If a strike vote occurs, and the intent is to peacefully picket and protest at the U of L campus, then it must occur 72 hours after the moment notice is given to the employer stipulating, date, time, and the initial location at which the strike will commence.

If you’d like to see ULFA’s job action timeline please click here.

If you’d like to read more from the ALRB website about the regulation of strikes, lockouts, and picketing click here.

What will the ULSU do if there is job action?

In the event of a strike or lockout, the ULSU will communicate and update the student body about the situation as frequently as we can. The ULSU’s main goal will be to ensure that students are supported and that we resume learning as quickly as possible. We have representative seats on the councils that will be determining a new class schedule should job action necessitate a change in the academic schedule. We will organize and facilitate academic supports, such as tutoring and study spaces, to ensure that students don’t fall behind during a disruption to classes. Depending on the length and severity of job action, we will be pressuring the administration to consider all avenues of recourse for students and their learning; these measures must be proportional to the impacts of the job action.

Why are the U of L (Board of Governors) and the Academic Staff (ULFA) going through collective bargaining negotiations?

The Faculty Association is a labour union with a collective agreement, which dictates the employment parameters between employee and employer. When the previous collective agreement expires, there is a notice to bargain, and employee and employer assemble negotiation teams to bargain new terms on the collective agreement. The previous agreement will remain in effect while negotiations occur.

The collective agreement between the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association and the University of Lethbridge expired June 30, 2020, and employees and employers have been negotiating since then. As of October 28th, the Board negotiating team requested informal mediation precisely because it wants to work productively with the Faculty Association to reach an agreement that is mutually acceptable to the Board and ULFA and that enables the shared commitment of both parties to serve students, our communities, local and regional economies, and society as a whole. 

Informal mediation is an established, positive and constructive labour relations tool, which supports both parties in the collective bargaining process. Further, informal mediation allows the parties to retain control over the decision-making process and it assists the parties in amicably reaching mutually acceptable agreements.

(Edited, as of February 1, 2022: for clarity, Between November 24th, and Summer 2021 one article in the collective agreement had officially been agreed upon.)

Why is the post-secondary sector so underfunded at the moment? What impact does this have on the U of L? Why are faculty facing salary cuts?

Unprecedented cuts and reductions in funding from the provincial government have created in-year funding reductions in prior years and anticipated cuts for future years, The UofL is a publicly-funded institution and relies on operating grants from the Government of Alberta. By the end of 2022/23, the Government of Alberta’s annual operating support for the University will have been reduced by over 21 percent since 2019/20 (over $21 million) The ULSU has been advocating at the university and government level for the past two years to ensure that these cuts do not result in the loss of quality in education. This financial reality means funds now need to be found in the U of L’s operating budget to make up for these cuts from the provincial government– in short, this means reducing operational expenses and or increasing revenues. The university administration is pursuing a multitude of financial solutions to this issue. One impact you might’ve experienced as a budget solution would be rising tuition costs. Another solution would be the current faculty restructuring discussions and how we restructure faculty in the hopes of finding cost savings.

(Outdated, as of January 18th, 2022: A -4% wage rollback for faculty is another proposed solution. If approved, faculty will be required to pay 4% of their paychecks to the University retroactive to July 2020. To provide further context to faculty compensation, the U of L faculty are paid 10-15% less than faculty members at our comparator universities. Further cuts will pose serious challenges for the recruitment and retention of high-quality instructors. These cuts will hurt students. They will lead to larger class sizes, fewer student research opportunities, and fewer opportunities to get to know instructors or participate in experiential learning activities.)

There are many more proposed recommendations following a lengthy consultation process over the 2020/2021 academic year and we urge you to read them here: https://www.ulethbridge.ca/sites/default/files/2021/09/task_force_2022-23_pres_exec_budget_recommendations_sept_10-21_final.pdf

To see the UofL budget, including allocation of revenue such as salaries, visit this page: https://www.ulethbridge.ca/planning-and-reporting/budget

What is the difference between a strike and a rally? What is a lockout? Why was there a rally on campus?

A strike includes a cessation of work, a refusal to work, or a refusal to continue to work, by two or more employees for the purpose of compelling the employer to agree to terms or conditions of employment. 
Alberta Labour Relations Board

A lockout includes the closing of a place of employment by an employer, the suspension of work by an employer, or a refusal by an employer to continue to employ employees for the purpose of compelling employees to agree to terms of conditions of employment.
Alberta Labour Relations Board

Strikes and lockouts are legitimate and legal tools that negotiators, i.e. employer & employee, can exercise to put pressure on the other party to agree to the terms presented.

A rally is a mass meeting of people making a political protest or showing support for a cause. 

The University of Lethbridge Faculty Association held a peaceful rally on November 17 to raise awareness about the damaging cuts to post-secondary education, concerning issues currently under negotiation, and their negative impacts for the Lethbridge community.
University of Lethbridge Faculty Association

The ULSU has appointed seats on the Board of Governors, why aren’t they helping to negotiate?

The ULSU has two seats on the Board of Governors (President & VP Operations and Finance) as mandated by the Post Secondary Learning Act. However, the collective bargaining process happens through the parlay between the Board’s (employer) and ULFA’s (the labour union) negotiating teams. The ULSU is not permitted to interfere with official negotiation processes. The ULSU receives the same updates that the public receives about collective bargaining as this is a very private process in order to ensure good faith negotiations between both parties that are free from external/public influence.

What is the ULSU’s stance during the collective bargaining process?

(Edited, as of February 1, 2022: The ULSU has voted unanimously on an official stance on the current situation at our January 21st 2022 through a motion at our General Assembly meeting.The official position statement is located above this FAQ. This was the unofficial stance we were operating with as we were responding to the updates at the end of the fall semester.)

The ULSU recognizes the detrimental effects that large-scale changes such as faculty re-structuring or salary rollbacks have on the quality of education at the UofL. The ULSU also understands the Board needs to make financial decisions based on their fiduciary obligations to ensure the school is not operating in a deficit. Being mindful of both these points, we have been keeping an eye on this situation since the chatter about wage rollbacks in summer 2021, and we will continue to monitor the bargaining updates closely. We have been advocating tirelessly for the needs and priorities of students at the appropriate tables and will continue to do so. We urge both sides of the negotiating table to remember the silent third-party not present in the room; the students. 

For continued updates, we have listed resources below and encourage students to stay tuned as the situation progresses.

What will the ULSU do in the event of a strike initiated by the faculty, or a lockout declared by the board of governors?

The ULSU can not predict the likelihood of a strike or lockout, what we can anticipate is that this type of action would disrupt the learning of students to some extent. The ULSU is committed to ensuring that, in the event of a strike or lockout, student support services will remain accessible and that disruptions to learning are as minimal as possible. We want to reassure students, we will, as always, continue to advocate for their needs and whether this is in a strike scenario or during the collective bargaining process. In the event of a strike or lockout, we will be in talks with relevant decision-makers (U of L administration, the Government of Alberta, and ULFA) to ensure students get back into the classroom by any means necessary. If you have any input as to what services the ULSU could provide during a faculty strike or lockout by the board of governors, please email Rebecca Parkkari at su.academic@uleth.ca.

What can I do to be an active student citizen?

Collective bargaining between the U of L and ULFA is exacerbated because of the provincial budget cuts we are all facing. This is a multifaceted problem, directly stemming from the defunding of the post-secondary sector in Alberta. Here’s what you can do to be an active student at the U of L and, broken down by topic.

Collective Bargaining:
Board Updates: https://www.ulethbridge.ca/bargaining
ULFA Updates: https://www.ulfa.ca/

Faculty Restructuring: 

December 13th student town hall

December 6th student town hall

Tuition hikes and other issues within the post-secondary sector: 
CAUS Priorities, https://www.caus.net/priorities

Be engaged in the democratic process:

Get engaged with the ULSU:

  • Run in the general election for the ULSU in order to steer the advocacy efforts of the next General Assembly of the ULSU.
  • Attend General Assembly meetings as a guest. The next General Assembly meeting is at 3pm on February 11, 2021. Please reach out to su.president@uleth.ca for the Zoom link.
  • Keep an eye out on Facebook (@UofLSU) and Instagram (@ulethsu)
  • Run in the general election this spring for the ULSU to advocate for the needs of students in the upcoming academic year. Reach out to CRO Cheri Pokarney for more details.

Relevant resources: