Faculty raise red flag about UBC collective bargaining proposal

Faculty leaders are raising red flags over one of UBC’s opening proposals for an upcoming renegotiation of their collective agreement.

On the first day of bargaining for a new three-year agreement, UBC put forward proposals that would see the UBC Faculty Association (UBCFA) lose its right to represent faculty members on external matters.

Comparatively, the UBCFA’s first-day proposals contained measures like giving sessional lecturers priority in hiring for lecturer positions.

According to the UBC’s list of proposals, the university wants to eliminate Article 16.01 of the existing agreement, calling it "incompatible with collegial governance.”

This article currently allows the UBCFA to represent the faculty members “beyond the matters to which the collective agreement relates” and losing it would mean the association wouldn’t be able to represent their members in “external” scenarios like the departure of former UBC President Arvind Gupta.

Former UBCFA President Dr. Mark Mac Lean says he was stunned the cut was even proposed.

“I am shocked that the administration would put this proposal on the table,” he said. He thinks cutting the article would “undermine the collective voice of the faculty” and deprive the university of the “critical role [that UBCFA plays] in ensuring that the processes of governance of the university are carried out as intended.”

Mac Lean also worries it would cut the UBCFA out of the university's internal governance.

“[The association] has played a critical role in ensuring that the processes of governance of the university are carried out as intended … [as] we saw during the governance crisis that followed the resignation of President Arvind Gupta,” said MacLean.

Dr. Nassif Ghoussoub, faculty representative on the Board of Governors and a public supporter of Gupta when he was forced out of the university, was equally concerned.

“[This policy] allowed the faculty body to voice its concerns about important legal aspects surrounding the departure of President Gupta.” he said.

Ghoussoub believes the policy “needs to be strengthened and not abolished.”

The sessional question

Another significant issue raised in the proposals was that of sessional lecturers. UBCFA has its own set of demands concerning sessional lecturers.

Sessional lecturers are contract faculty that are hired on a term-by-term basis. Many say the precarity of their work — and comparatively low pay — makes paying the bills challenging.

Apart from asking for a single minimum salary scale for sessional lecturers, the proposal demands Sessional Lecturers be “given priority over external applicants for newly created Lecturer positions.”

If the UBCFA's proposal is implemented, some meritorious external lecturers could be put at a disadvantage.

“It is important to recognize the tremendous contributions [that the] contract faculty makes to UBC,” Mac Lean said.

“I hope both parties are able to come to [an] agreement on ways to reduce the precarious nature of these contract appointments.”

UBC Managing Director of Faculty Relations Allison Matacheskie wrote in a statement to The Ubyssey that the university will continue to work to find resolutions for these disagreements..

“We understand the importance of the negotiation process and our team is focused on reaching a meaningful resolution at the bargaining table,” Matacheskie said.

Both the university and UBCFA declined a request for comment about specific proposals ahead of the bargaining sessions.

A new collective agreement is expected to be signed this summer.