May 30th, 2024

Faculty Association moves into new headquarters as negotiations approach second year

By Lethbridge Herald on December 9, 2021.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Members of the ULFA stage an impromptu demonstration while passing signs to be stored at their new 4 Ave. location Thursday downtown.

Alejandra Pulido-Guzman – Lethbridge Herald

The University of Lethbridge Faculty Association has acquired a secondary headquarters location in the heart of downtown. 

The measure was taken as a proactive approach to the almost two years in negotiations regarding wage increases, academic freedom and collegial governance. They say in the case things do not go well are required to take action in the form of a strike or lockout, they will have a location to gather, organize and store their banners, signs and other materials used for picketing, as well as to use it as office space.  

“We hope we never come to this, but if there is a lock out, or a strike then we would use this as our headquarters for that action,” said Daniel O’Donnell, president of ULFA.

He said these are tough negotiations, because on the one hand the university has been facing cutbacks from the provincial government, but on the other hand its employees have been without wage increases for many years now. 

O’Donnell said that at the end of October, the administration of the university management asked for the intervention of a mediator. 

“I think is fair to say that there was movement of both sides and at the same time, we are nowhere close to an agreement yet,” said O’Donnell.

O’Donnell said that renting a remote headquarters is obvious evidence that things have not been going as well as one would hope at the negotiating table. 

“I think there has been some hope in the last few days of mediation that might change, but I think the bigger issue is that we all hope we would never actually have to use this for actually overseeing a job action, whether that is a lockdown or a strike,” said O’Donnell. 

The negotiations are between the ULFA and the board of governors of the university but O’Donnell said in Alberta that is always a little bit of a tricky thing, because the province has a mandate to the university, that says how much they are allowed to offer their employees. 

“It makes it really difficult because we are talking to the university, but the university, it’s been told what to say by the government and it just makes the negotiations extremely difficult.”  

ULFA is legislated into its role by the Alberta Post-Secondary Learning Act, and since 2017, the Alberta Labour Relations Code.

They say that by improving the working conditions of their members, they are also improving the quality of research and learning conditions of students at the University of Lethbridge, and thereby benefiting society as a whole.

“Being downtown, being visible right in the heart of the city, really drives home the message that what happens at the University of Lethbridge is important for the rest of the city as well, and we feel it’s really important to be central for that kind of thing,” said O’Donnell. 

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