Introducing The Elephant in the Institution

To help keep MacEwan University Sessional Faculty (MUSF) informed, we members of the MacEwan University Sessionals’ Steering Committee (MUSSC) will be sending out regular bulletins from now on. We’ve named the bulletin The Elephant in the Institution since we think this name is an appropriate variation of the expression “the elephant in the room” in relation to the way MUSF are frequently treated by those in power. Too often, the important contributions of MUSF are minimized or overlooked altogether. We MUSSC members are working for the rightful recognition and just treatment of MUSF. This first bulletin is to let you know what MUSSC has done since April 2017. Subsequent bulletins will identify what MUSSC is currently working on and issues all MUSF need to be aware of. Some bulletins will be ALERT bulletins, highlighting matters for MUSF to pay special attention to and identifying actions for MUSF to seriously consider.

What MUSSC Has Done

General

We formed MUSSC in April 2017. Marco Katz Montiel set up a website (macewansessionals.com) and an email (macewansessionals@gmail.com ) for MUSF. We strongly encourage MUSF to continue to check the website and to reach out via the email.

Red-circling

MUSSC members attended the Grant MacEwan University Faculty Association (GMUFA) General Meetings in May 2017 and June 2017. They subsequently communicated by email, in person, and in formal correspondence with members of the GMUFA Executive and of the Faculty Association Negotiating Committee (FANC) regarding the unjust treatment of Sessional Faculty in the negotiation of, the lack of transparency about, terms of, and ratification of the new 2017-2019 Collective Agreement. GMUFA President Chris Hancock informed MUSSC that he would “red-circle” the top-tier Sessional Faculty in all constituent groups subject to cuts in pay, and work on their behalf on the Joint Committee for the Management of the Agreement (JCMA). He sent MUSSC on a “search and rescue” mission to find the members of MUSF subject to pay cuts. Some of these members did send MUSSC member Gloria Olchowy their name, credentials, and years of employment at MacEwan University, after which she wrote to Chris Hancock with the information. Gloria, a short time later, found out that the GMUFA Board receives a list of faculty and their constituent groups three times a year from the university. She then pointed out to Chris Hancock that he should be able to secure the names of all MUSF members subject to pay cuts from this list. He said the list was inaccurate. Gloria will be sending another letter to Chris this week to argue that the list, at the very least, is a good starting point. She will also ask about the current status of the “red-circling” on JCMA.

Meetings with government representatives

MUSSC members met with MLA David Shepherd in July and Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt in August. Both said there was no law prohibiting year-round membership for Sessional Faculty in their faculty associations. Both also advised MUSSC to request a hearing with the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB).

Advice from lawyers

A number of lawyers MUSSC has consulted with have also stipulated that no law prohibits year-round membership for Sessional Faculty.

Request for ALRB hearing

MUSSC submitted a request for a hearing with the ALRB. An ALRB Labour Relations Officer asked for additional particulars. Upon receiving this response, MUSSC met with a reputable labour lawyer about the matter. This lawyer said the case would be a challenging one, because Collective Bargaining is not covered by the Duty of Fair Representation in the Labour Relations Code (LRC). However, he also said that due to the egregious nature of what transpired, securing a hearing and a win might be possible. He estimated that the legal fees for this work would be in the range of $20,000. This cost is prohibitive for MUSSC without a concerted fund-raising effort. Please feel free to let MUSSC know what you think in relation to this legal matter.

Meeting with ACIFA

MUSSC met with members of the Alberta Colleges & Institutes Faculties Association (ACIFA) to discuss MUSSC’s two Extraordinary Resolutions and the troubling aspects of the negotiation of, lack of transparency about, terms of, and ratification of the new 2017-2019 Collective Agreement. The Acting Labour Relations Officer with ACIFA said the fundamental charge of what transpired in relation to the 2017-2019 Collective Agreement is “gerrymandering” — the carefully orchestrated exclusion of those who had the most to lose from the vote. He also gave us some excellent tips regarding getting out the vote for our two Extraordinary Resolutions. Sessional representation on GMUFA Board MUSSC selected, rallied the vote for, and successfully elected the two Sessional Representatives to serve on the GMUFA Board. Extraordinary resolutions As Marco Katz Montiel highlighted in the end-of-year letter he sent to all faculty at MacEwan University, MUSSC composed and submitted two Extraordinary Resolutions to the GMUFA to change the GMUFA Constitution in two ways:
  1. to enable equitable representation for MUSF on the GMUFA Board, and
  2. to re-institute year-round membership for MUSF.
To pass, these resolutions required two-thirds of quorum at a Special Meeting called a month after their submission. The first resolution passed with 107 votes out of 147, and the second with 104 out of 152. MUSSC members and others worked very hard to get out the vote, and succeeded despite attempts by the GMUFA Executive to foil their efforts. For example, a member of the Executive told two MUSSC members that the secret ballots at the Special Meeting could be cast up until 4:00 p.m., but the vote was shut down at 3:00 p.m. This shut-down electorally disenfranchised the Sessional Faculty members who arrived after 3:00 p.m. and whose votes assuredly would have made the numbers for passing the resolutions higher.

Fair Employment Week

MUSSC made posters and fact sheets concerning the status of MUSF for Fair Employment Week — an initiative by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) — and distributed them around campus. MUSSC solicited the help of the GMUFA Executive regarding setting up a table, but were informed that the GMUFA had never done anything for Fair Employment Week and that if we wanted a table, we would have to make arrangements ourselves. We tried but were not able to get a table. The GMUFA did make copies of the CAUT pamphlet on Fair Employment Week for us, which we distributed around campus, along with our posters and fact sheets.

Change to MUSF membership

MUSSC asked the GMUFA Executive for the date of the meeting at which the membership for MUSF was changed from year-round membership to on-contract-only membership. We searched several hours through the large binders of materials they gave us. We found that the change occurred at the May 6, 2015, GMUFA Annual General Meeting.

Ratification of previous Collective Agreements

After compiling information regarding signing dates (typically within a month after the ratification vote) and ratification percentages for previous Collective Agreements, we reached out to GMUFA Executive Director Jasmine French for the pieces of information we were missing. She said that she did not have the information and could not even verify the information we did have, since once a Collective Agreement is ratified, everything is destroyed. We said we had documentation for the information we did have. She then invited us to again search through the large binders. We were unable to find anything in them. If anyone can fill in the blanks below, please let MUSSC know via the MUSF email. Thank you. Important to note is that all the Collective Agreements, but the last, were signed long after the previous agreement had expired. Also worth highlighting is that the lowest ratification percentage for the ones we have available is the one for the most recent Collective Agreement, even though most MUSF were not allowed to vote on it. Collective Agreement July 01, 2004 – June 30, 2008 Signed: November 23, 2005 Ratification Percentage ____ Collective Agreement July 01, 2008 – June 30, 2011 Signed: October 30, 2008 Ratification Percentage 73% Collective Agreement July 01, 2011 – June 30, 2014 Signed: April 19, 2012 Ratification Percentage ____ Collective Agreement July 01, 2014 – June 30, 2017 Signed: February 12, 2015 Ratification Percentage 93% Collective Agreement July 01, 2017 – June 30, 2019 Signed: August 02, 2017 Ratification Percentage 65% MUSSC Bulletin 1
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