EDMONTON - Bill 17 represents yet another attack on Alberta postsecondary institutions by permanently removing the right of faculty and graduate students to choose their own bargaining agents in the collective bargaining process.
Under the legislation, the UCP indefinitely provides exclusive bargaining rights to faculty, postdoctoral, and graduate student associations. This decision prevents academics from choosing their own bargaining agent, severely limiting their autonomy in the process. Even more insulting, the UCP undertook this action without consulting any of the associations affected by this decision.
“Bill 17 is yet another decision that shows the UCP’s continued paternalistic attitude towards universities, colleges, and polytechnics,” Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, says. “Without any consultation, the UCP decided to indefinitely legislate away the right of academics to choose their own bargaining agents. Instead, the government has unilaterally decided they know what works best for some of Alberta’s brightest minds.”
Faculty, postgraduate, and graduate student associations temporarily received exclusive bargaining rights in 2017 for five years, when postsecondary labour relations were under a process of immense change. After decades of successive conservative governments refusing to recognize the right of faculty and graduate students to strike, the Supreme Court of Canada forced the Alberta government to change their labour relations system. As postsecondary associations entered a new system of labour relations, the Alberta government gave exclusive bargaining rights to postsecondary associations to provide short-term stability during this transition.
However, Bill 17 makes these changes permanent, preventing today’s labour leaders in academia from deciding what form of association works best for them and their members. Most damagingly, these changes limit the ability of faculty and graduate students to decide whether they wish to join larger unions or come together as a larger association to oppose the UCP’s repeated attacks on postsecondary education.
“Over the past three and a half years, professors and graduate students endured constant funding cuts to their postsecondary intuitions,” McGowan says. “As a result, tuition has skyrocketed, the quality of postsecondary education has fallen, and universities have laid off thousands of staff members. At a minimum, academics deserve the autonomy to decide what bargaining agent will
best protect their interests under these challenging circumstances.”
Director of Communications, AFL