After 15 meetings, the University of Lethbridge board of governors and its faculty association remain at an impasse when it comes to a new collective bargaining agreement and are now moving to mediation to solve their differences.
Both sides have been negotiating since January, before the board’s negotiating team informed the faculty association it has filed a request with the Alberta Relations Labour Board for informal mediation.
An update on the school’s website reads, in part: “Informal mediation is an established, positive and constructive labour relations tool, which supports both parties in the collective bargaining process.
“Informal mediation allows the parties to retain control over the decision-making process and it assists the parties in amicably reaching mutually acceptable agreements.”
The ULFA is now asking for a formal mediation process.
Faculty association president Dan O’Donnell says the union feels that method will lead to a more direct resolution.
“The only difference is that you must do formal mediation,” O’Donnell said. “If you start with informal mediation, basically you’re using up money and time that the university and the union could use for better things. Our feeling is given that we’re almost 500 days since our collective agreement expired, we should just get into the process that will lead us to a conclusion.”
O’Donnell also calls mediation a “positive step,” but says the ULFA is disappointed in how it was announced.
“It’s an indication that negotiations haven’t been going as well as in previous years, but it’s a good idea that both sides are looking at mediation,” O’Donnell said.
“The request for mediation was made by administration without even alerting us to the fact, then two days later they told us they had applied for mediation… that’s unfortunate.”
“Our goal is to continue to bargain in good faith with ULFA and to arrive at an agreement that is mutually acceptable to the board and ULFA,” the statement from the board’s negotiating team continues.
“The board negotiation team believes the assistance of a neutral and objective third-party mediator is necessary to make more meaningful progress.”
According to O’Donnell, the main sticking points include academic freedom and a retroactive four per cent rollback to faculty pay.