April 12, 2024

NAIT goes to Labour Board rather than agree on scheduling

Hello NASA members,

I am writing to update you all about a development in bargaining. We have learned today that rather than provide NASA with dates and times where your bargaining committee is available to negotiate, NAIT has instead applied to the Alberta Labour Relations Board with the aim of requiring NASA to bargain at times that will be costly, inconvenient, and likely a barrier to your representatives attending negotiations.

As you’re likely aware by now, NASA expanded representation for this round of negotiations to provide stronger connections for you and your co-workers to the bargaining table, with as many as 25 representatives who could participate directly in negotiations. This is not without precedent. The Olds College Faculty Association now has a bargaining team of 10 members for a union of 80-100 members. That would proportionally be a team of over 100 bargaining committee members relative to NASA’s 1,150 members at NAIT.

In my previous work with AUPE I had supported a bargaining committee representing hundreds of workers at Extendicare who send 24 representatives to the table. They have had success in their negotiations narrowing the gap in compensation between themselves and Alberta Health Services staff doing the same work. A strike vote was required to get the employer to change their position the last time I worked with them, but they have not had to walk a picket line since they changed to the 24 person bargaining team.

When NASA met with NAIT in January to discuss timing of the notice to bargain, we explained the impracticality of trying to schedule a large committee during the daytime, and offered times in the evenings and weekends to meet and negotiate. This is also something not without precedent, as faculty at Olds College, Red Deer Polytechnic, Keyano College and Lakeland College all held evening sessions for negotiations in the last round. While faculty unions at Concordia and the University of Lethbridge had to strike to get a deal in the last round, those other four institutes reached agreements without any picket lines going up.

NAIT has raised concerns around evening and weekend bargaining have included: wanting to protect their managers schedules from evening and weekend work, insisting that bargaining outside of daytime hours would prolong negotiations, and that NASA is being unreasonable to suggest a scheduling practice that was already used with four other Alberta post-secondary employers.

When NASA pressed NAIT for details on how they saw their preferred bargaining approach working, NASA learned that NAIT could not guarantee that committee members could attend daytime negotiations – class schedules could be a barrier there. Were negotiations to take place during the day, NAIT sees it as acceptable that NASA compensate NAIT for bargaining committee time off, even if those costs reach the equivalent of three times an annual salary or higher. This problem would not exist if negotiations were to happen outside daytime hours.

NASA’s preference was to begin negotiations without further delay. To that end a compromise proposal was presented by your Bargaining Committee to NAIT, where NASA would agree to bargain during the daytime May-August when the disruption to classes and scheduling would be minimized. The proposal also aimed to reduce costs for NASA members stipulating that no workload adjustment would be required for the instructors who did not need substitution. They would effectively volunteer their time to negotiate. NAIT did not seem willing to consider any aspect of this proposal and instead is getting the labour board involved. We intend to defend the reasonable approach your bargaining committee has taken at the Alberta Labour Relations Board. We believe these matters should not be dictated by an employer to the detriment of union negotiating teams.

We will work with the Alberta Labour Relations Board to expedite this process to minimize its impact on our ability to get negotiations started as soon as possible.

We will provide you with more news as this progresses, and once we have dates scheduled to negotiate we will send an invite out for those of you who wish to attend as observers.

We hope NAIT can drop their costly and inconvenient position and simply agree to take some time in the evenings to negotiate – where unlike NAIT’s management, NASA members will be doing so on a volunteer basis. That way we can begin the work of negotiating to improve working conditions for you and your co-workers.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Trevor Zimmerman,
Labour Relations Director