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More permanent layoffs possible at University of Lethbridge this fall

This past May, the University of Lethbridge president and Local 053 of the Alberta Union of Public Employees signed a letter of understanding that set the parameters of definite layoff for unionized university support staff.

The letter has an expiration date of 1 November 2020.

A major part of the LOU was modifying section 31.3 (which the LOU refers to as 31.03) in the AUPE collective agreement, which incidentally expired a month later.

Here is what 31.3 of the collective agreement states:

A lay-off is a separation from employment of more than ten (10) work days, and may result from technological change, automation, contracting out, merger or dissolution of departments, financial restraints, or any other reason. Lay-off may be of a definite nature with an anticipated future recall for a period of time not to exceed four (4) months in duration; or, of an indefinite nature with no anticipated future recall.

One change in the LOU was that separation of employment was amended to also include a “temporary reduction of full-time equivalent”.

Another change was that the recall date was changed from 4 months to 6 months.

The letter was distributed to AUPE members with the understanding that the definite layoff period would be for just two months, starting on 15 June and ending on 17 August 2020.

Earlier this week, I received a copy of the following letter from a source who wished to be anonymous but who’s not a university employee.

The letter, dated 10 August, was signed by Wim Chalet, the director of facilities operations and maintenance at the University of Lethbridge. He oversees staff working in the following departments: mechanical, electrical, operations, caretaking, building maintenance, and grounds. This letter was intended for staff in those areas.

What this letter indicates is that for at least the intended unionized staff, their definite layoff period was extended past 17 August. In fact, it would be extended to the entire allowed allotment of 6 months, ending on 1 November.

Beyond that, there isn’t much in this update for AUPE staff, at least in these departments. There’s no indication—in this update or in the original LOU—regarding what constructive steps the university will take if the pandemic situation doesn’t change significantly by the end of October.

There is some possibly concerning language in this update letter, however:

If circumstances change, we will be proactive to make adjustments in an attempt to minimize the impact to employees as much as possible.

This wording seems odd if the intent is to hire these unionized workers back after 1 November. After all, if they’re returning to work in November, what impact would there be that would need to be minimized?

Can we expect to see another round of permanent layoffs come 1 November? Will AUPE workers at the university have a new collective bargaining agreement in place before 1 November, to replace the one that expired in June?

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By Kim Siever

I live in Lethbridge with my spouse and 5 of our 6 children. I’m a writer, focusing on political news, social issues, and the occasional poem. My politics are radically left. I recently finished writing a book debunking several capitalism myths. My newest book writing project is on the labour history of Lethbridge.

I’m also dichotomally Mormon. And I’m a functional vegetarian: I have a blog post about that somewhere around here. My pronouns are he/him, and I’m queer.

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