TRUFA Executive Planning Retreat
The newly elected 2018-2019 TRUFA Executive Board held a strategy and planning retreat on June 10thand 11thin Salmon Arm. Sixteen members of the Executive attended along with the TRUFA Communications Officer, the TRUFA Communications Assistant, a member of the TRUFA Salary and Working Conditions Committee and our FPSE professional staff representative. In addition, to four planning and strategy sessions, the Executive also held its final formal meeting before the summer break. Here are the highlights of the agenda and discussion items.
BC Labour Code and TRUFA’s Status as a Certified Trade Union
FPSE staff rep, Weldon Cowan, presented an overview of the legal status of Canadian trade unions and provided important context for the responsibilities of elected Executive members. Canadian legal decisions have allowed unions to conduct their affairs with a certain amount of autonomy as long as they adhere to their Constitution and By-Laws and to the obligations for fair representation of members under the provincial Labour Code.
Structure of TRUFA and Executive Responsibilities
Members—particularly members new to the Executive Board—were briefed on the internal structure of TRUFA, including the composition of the Executive, standing committees, TRUFA representatives to FPSE committees and TRUFA Table Officers. The President reminded members of their obligations under both the Constitution / By-Laws and TRUFA’s Code of Conduct and emphasized the need for transparency and accountability in everything we do as the bargaining agent for all TRU faculty members.
TRUFA Harassment Policy and Appeals Tribunal
Having received legal advice that allegations of harassment by faculty members in the context of union activities must be investigated and adjudicated by the union, not by the employer, TRUFA drafted an internal harassment policy. For an internal union process to be initiated, the alleged harassment must occur at general meetings, committee meetings, elections, or discussion of union matters online or in person. To allow the employer to investigate these allegations runs the risk of violating Section 6 of the BC Labour Code, which forbids employers from interfering in the administration of a trade union. The Executive approved the draft TRUFA Harassment Policy at the formal Executive meeting held at the retreat. Last year, again with legal advice, TRUFA adopted the formation of an Appeals Tribunal, which allows TRUFA members to appeal any decisions of the TRUFA Executive.
TRUFA’s Role within TRU
The President reviewed the mechanisms by which TRUFA works with other bodies within the University context. Chief among these is the TRU/TRUFA Labour Management Consultative Committee, which is mandated by the BC Labour Code. The committee includes the TRUFA Table Officers and representatives of TRU administration, including the Provost, the AVP Academic, the Director of Human Resources and one Dean. The monthly meetings of this committee allows both sides to raise and discuss issues of mutual concern, and acts as a way to work on resolutions to issues outside of the normal grievance procedure or collective bargaining. A number of years ago, TRUFA initiated another union-management committee tasked with addressing very specific labour relations issues and, like the Consultative Committee, seeking resolution before formal grievance procedures. This committee, known as the Joint Contract Administration Committee, meets as need with the TRUFA chief steward and deputy steward working with the HR Director and the AVP Academic. Finally, the President spoke about TRUFA’s relationship with CUPE 4879, which represents TRU support staff, and with TRUSU. In both cases, TRUFA’s President and/or Table Officers meet regularly with both groups to discuss mutual concerns.
TRUFA and the Broader Labour and Academic Communities
Within the labour community, TRUFA has been a member of the Kamloops & District Labour Council and the North Central Labour Council since 2001. By virtue of our membership in FPSE, TRUFA also is an active participant in the BC Federation of Labour. On the national level, again through FPSE, TRUFA participates in the Canadian Labour Congress through its membership in the National Union of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (NUCAUT).
In the academic world, TRUFA maintains a good relationship with the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC (CUFA-BC), which is a lobbying group for faculty at Royal Roads, UVic, UBC, SFU and UNBC. The CUFA-BC President and Executive Director regularly attend FPSE meetings and I have been welcomed to CUFA-BC meetings to discuss issues that face the five faculty associations and TRUFA, all of whose institutions belong to the Research Universities Council of BC (RUCBC). Additionally, I attend bi-annual meetings of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) Council and represent TRU faculty interests nationally.
Strategic Planning for 2018-2019
Most of the planning retreat focused on the prime issue that will face TRUFA over the next year: bargaining. The current collective agreement expires on March 31, 2019. Two elements are essential to ensure successful bargaining: (1) comprehensive input from members in all disciplines and all employment categories while developing bargaining proposals, and (2) regular updates to members during bargaining, including e-mail, bargaining bulletins and general meetings.
(1) Lloyd Bennett, Chair of the Salary and Working Conditions Committee (SWCC) reviewed the bargaining preparation timelines, including the consultations with Faculties/Schools across campus, which began in the spring. In February, March and April, consultations were held with Law, FACT, Library, Trades and Williams Lake. Starting again in September, SWCC members will be meeting with the remaining Faculty/School groups to hear what their priorities for bargaining a new collective agreement may be. In addition, a bargaining survey will go out to all members in the first half of the fall semester. SWCC will begin to draft a bargaining package based on both one-on-one consultations with members and the survey. In the second half of the fall, the bargaining package will go the TRUFA Executive for endorsement and we will begin to plan for bargaining sessions with the employer. As is our normal custom, the evening before negotiations formally open, TRUFA will hold a general meeting and seek approval from the membership for the bargaining proposals.
(2) The TRUFA Communications Committee will be working on a communications strategy that will allow for regular updates to members. Because there is a need for confidential communication, TRUFA will be using members-only access to our trufa.ca website. You will be given full instructions on how to log in to the website in the fall.
Leading up to the May 2017 provincial election, TRUFA participated in the FPSE “Open the Doors” campaign, an effort to make post-secondary education a campaign issue. Since the election, TRUFA initiated its “Fair Funding for TRU” campaign, first, by gathering more than 1,000 support pledges, which were delivered to the two Kamloops MLA’s and the MLA in Cariboo-Chilcotin and, next, by urging on-line signing of a petition directly to the Minister of Advanced Education. The campaign’s goal is to have the Ministry initiate review of the provincial funding formula, which has remained unchanged since the late 1990s. In our view, any new funding formula must recognize that TRU’s legislative mandate changed in 2005, taking on responsibilities for research, for the delivery of graduate programs and for meeting the post-secondary educational needs of the entire region. While TRUFA will scale down this campaign to focus more closely on bargaining issues, FPSE will continue its lobbying of the provincial government on all post-secondary education issues.
If you would like further information about any of these issues, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org contact your representative on the TRUFA Executive. The names, responsibilities and contact information for each Executive member is on the trufa.ca website.
The TRUFA Welcome Back BBQ, held in the backyard of House #1, will be held on Friday, September 14thfrom 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. I hope to see you there.
On behalf of the TRUFA Executive, I want to wish you a productive summer with lots of time for recreation and relaxation.
Tom Friedman, TRUFA President