2019 ACIFA Conference report
April 27th Kerry, Cheryl, Mike and I travelled to Lake Louise to represent you at the ACIFA Spring conference.
April 28th we met in three major committees from 8am to approximately 4pm. I attended Presidents Council. Our day began with a report from Brendan Bruce, the executive director of CAFA, which is the university level equivalent of ACIFA. This is significant because Brendan was hired based on his history in Ontario where he worked with labor unions preparing for and managing strike or lockout actions. His experience in that area sparked much conversation around how prepared we in Alberta Post-secondary would be should such a situation arise. Brendan also provided some reports on current issues with their group including communications with the minister, bargaining and code of conduct issues. I was surprised to hear the issues are pretty much the same as we face as an association.
Our next guest was Warren White who represents the Saskatchewan Polytecniques. Warren presented us with a completely different perspective, his organization is very young compared to Alberta’s post-secondary but has operated under the labor relations act since its inception. They are a single unit with a multitude of separate facilities who all have specific concerns.
Later in the day we had a visit from George Davidson from FPSE – The federation of Post secondary educators of BC. The federation is structured much like ACIFA and represents over 10000 faculty and staff in BC. Where many of the issues were the same, I found Georges comments to be pertinent in light of the structure that is similar to our current structure in ACIFA.
Our discussions moved to the future of the association. When Post-secondary in Alberta was mandated by the federal government to move away from the post-secondary Learning act (PSLA) to the Labor Relations Act (LRA) it came with a legislated adjustment period that ends in 2022. Up until that time associations such as LCFA represent members as the bargaining agent as before, after that date the association must operate as other unions in the province. The most important factor is that we are then open to “raiding”, a practice where another union could convince 2/3 of the membership to vote to move and take over all the assets of the existing union. ACIFA feels this would not serve the best interests of it’s members.
The first step for ACIFA is to approach the minister and ask for an extension to that date. The association then has to decide what direction they will move in the future. Should we remain as a federation, providing a unified voice for all the smaller unions within the federation like the BC model or try to provide one strong union leadership model like the Saskatchewan model? After much discussion there was the realization that we need to do much more research into the options that exist and we need some input from the members. ACIFA has developed a booklet which we hope to begin to distribute at the AGM which outlines where the money you invest in ACIFA goes and what it does for you.
The meeting continued with discussion around the Code of Conduct, our institution seems to be one of the most advanced in that area, my impression is we have come to an uneasy truce while many other institutions are going through significant difficulties.
There was significant discussion around the “precarious professor” in post-secondary across Canada today, the growing trend toward casual or contract instructors and professors. The growth and treatment of these people is quite alarming. ACIFA president’s council agreed to provide a donation of $5000 toward the development of a documentary outlining the problem and highlighting the impact on the people involved.
The next topic was Intellectual Property which has become a large issue across the sector. Paul Jones from CAUT spoke to us by telephone and provided a lot of information around the issue. Among the very interesting background Paul provided was the idea that “inventions of the mind” generally belong to the creator, unless they are created under employment in which case ownership generally goes to the employer. In common law education was the exception, where ownership of IP tends to promote Academic freedom and the development and exchange of ideas. However a 1999 report on the commercialization of academic research determined that faculty be stripped of intellectual property and the ownership be transferred to administration. The research being done based on outside funding also impacts the ownership and commercialization of intellectual property. At this point there are no clear conclusions, I have been asked to bring specific questions back to ACIFA so please contact me if you have questions or concerns. Within our own institution I have been invited to participate in a subcommittee of Academic council to review academic policies.
The ACIFA defence fund, established last year is moving forward. ACIFA earmarked $100000 out of reserves for the fund and contributions were assessed this year. President’s council established a committee to oversee management of the fund. One member of president’s council will chair the committee while 3 members at large will be appointed. If you are interested please let me know.
Tuesday April 3oth the AGM was held. The executive provide reports, which I can provide for anyone interested. The finance report indicated that ACIFA is doing well financially showing a small surplus. The big news is that with Janice Kirchner stepping down, Cheryl Meheden will be stepping in as the new VP of finance and records – congratulations Cheryl! The Bylaws were separated into a constitution and Bylaws, similar to the work being done by our own committee. There were motions to approve a change to the calculation of the contribution to the defense fund, essentially each institution pays into the fund based on declared FTE instructors with the understanding that should you need to draw from the fund, any compensation provided would be based on those same numbers. Policies on accounting procedures, donations, travel expenses and purchasing cards were presented and approved.