July 12th, 2024

University cites losses in face of ULFA demands

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on March 1, 2022.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Faculty members walk the picket line in front of the University of Lethbridge on Monday morning as the strike continues by University of Lethbridge Faculty Association.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

The University of Lethbridge says it’s concerned about the impacts of the ongoing strike by its faculty.
In a weekend statement, the university said since 2019-20 its provincial grant has been cut my more than 20 per cent and as a result the U of L has lost $20 million in annual funding from the province.
The statement said in the past decade faculty have gotten 34 per cent raises through their collective agreement with the U of L.
Median salaries range between $108,000 and $178,000 per year for assistant, associate and full professors, says the U of L, with nearly 30 per cent of faculty earning between $140,000-$160,000 annually.
“During mediation in January, the university offered ULFA members more: 3.25 per cent raises in addition to other raises faculty already receive for career progressions and merit. As a result, the university and ULFA were within a one per cent salary gap,” says the university.
The statement said the faculty association’s demands “convey a misunderstanding of the institution’s financial situation and improper regard for students, other employees and the university’s long-term sustainability.
“Despite contrary claims, ULFA has refused repeated invitations to meet since Feb. 15 to discuss more reasonable salary demands. We continue to welcome ULFA to meet at the collective bargaining table for serious negotiations in the hopes of ending the ULFA strike and welcoming students back to class,” said the statement.
The university also says the ULFA used mediation as a pretext to strike, promising members that a strike wasn’t a certainty or would be short.
“The university cautioned a strike would be lengthy because of its inability to fund raises beyond 3.25 per cent,” said the statement.
The chief negotiator for Mount Royal University’s faculty association said in a letter to The Herald on Saturday that the terms of the agreement reached there were misrepresented on the U of L’s website.
Kirk Niergarth included a letter he wrote to U of L president Mike Mahon which said a Feb. 24 bargaining update was inaccurate.
“The mediator’s report referenced in the update includes not only full-time salary increases (3.25 per cent) but also a reorganization of our contract faculty salary grid, effective 1 May of this year that will result in immediate increases (ranging from 0.7-3.7 per cent) for all contract faculty (approximately 50 per cent of the membership). The report also includes a change to our benefits package effective upon ratification (with a value of up to $823/annum for 93 per cent of full-time members and 45 per cent of contract members). I think, however, that these specifics are less significant than the overall process that led us to an agreement,” said Niergarth in his letter.
“This was a difficult round, negotiated under unprecedented circumstances. We were able to reach agreement because both sides were willing to have rational, interest-based conversations with an eye to mutually-acceptable solutions.
“The more than 50 points of agreement achieved in our settlement – covering many areas including benefits, sabbaticals, workload, job security, equity, and, ultimately, compensation – required hundreds of hours of forthright, persistent bargaining in good faith. Crucially, this bargaining process involved engaging in a dialogue at the table in which both parties acknowledged and engaged with the other’s perspectives and arguments,” Niergarth wrote.

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Dear Al Beeber, Please check every statement that you report on. The administration made several that the ULFA challenge, and your report suggests that only the Mount Royal comparison has issues. There are many more.