CUFA BC Calls on UNBC Board to Act on Labour Relations Crisis

Created 30 April 2018 10:04

VANCOUVER, April 27 – The University of Northern British Columbia Faculty Association (UNBC FA) released a letter today to the Chair of the Board of Governors (BOG). The message to Board Chair Tracy Wolsey outlines serious concerns faculty have with rapidly deteriorating labour relations at UNBC. The letter is the product of a unanimous vote of faculty at an unprecedented emergency meeting held April 18. Though labour relations have been challenging for the past several years, the issue came to a head with the arbitrary use of the emergency powers provisions in the collective agreement.

“The emergency powers of a university president are reserved for the most egregious cases in which there is a danger to people or property. In our view, the use of emergency powers at UNBC is just the latest in a series of aggressive and confrontational tactics,” argued CUFA BC President Jim Johnson. “From our perspective labour relations at UNBC are a curious mix of malevolence and incompetence, and we have now reached a breaking point.”

In the past 18 months emergency powers have been invoked five times and in each case the member has been relieved of all duties under the provision. Prior to the recent spate of suspensions, the provision had never been used at UNBC.

“No other research university in the province behaves in this manner. We call on the Board Chair to intervene and direct the President to resolve issues informally and restore collegial governance at UNBC,” said Johnson. “When faculty lose trust in the fairness and professionalism of university administrators, tenure and academic freedom are imperilled. As is clear from the UNBC FA letter the adversarial regime of labour relations at UNBC is a direct attack on the hallmarks of a research university — tenure and academic freedom.”

The President of UNBC reports to the Board of Governors (BOG), still largely appointees of the previous Liberal government despite two current vacancies. During the last provincial election President Weeks inappropriately commented on the Liberal platform on post-secondary education — leaving the impression he was endorsing the Liberals. His comments were a sharp departure from the practice at other institutions where senior administrators do not comment on election platforms during a campaign. CUFA BC has repeatedly raised concerns with the government about our ongoing concerns about governance at UNBC. CAUT is now taking an active role in this dispute after a unanimous motion at the recent Council to approve funding and legal assistance.

“The stakes in this dispute are high. We have been very disappointed that the new NDP government has not taken action to reform Boards of Governors in the province and we now find ourselves in a crisis situation. The UNBC BOG role in ramming through the appointment of provincial Liberal ally James Moore as Chancellor was an embarrassment, and this latest episode is bringing unwanted national and provincial attention to UNBC. CUFA BC members stand in solidarity with our colleagues at UNBC FA and we will continue to work with the Canadian Association of University Teachers to fight this unprecedented attack on faculty” concluded Johnson.

CUFA BC represents over 5500 university professors, instructors, academic librarians and other academic staff at the province’s five research universities: SFU (Burnaby, Vancouver and Surrey campuses), UBC (Vancouver and Kelowna campuses), UNBC (Prince George, Terrace, Fort St. John and Quesnel campuses), UVic and Royal Roads University. For further information, please contact Michael Conlon, Executive Director of CUFA BC, at 778-994-2616.