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The crisis plaguing post-secondary bargaining

AUPE members working in the education sector are beginning to bargain, but the government is interfering with the entire process.

Apr 29, 2024

By Alexander Delorme, Communications Staff

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AUPE members across Alberta are experiencing the most important round of collective bargaining ever. Members are standing up, wearing red, strengthening solidarity, preparing to do what is necessary to win the wages and working conditions we deserve. 

But what if the collective bargaining process did not really matter? What if you were not bargaining with your employer—not really—but someone else pulling their strings from behind the scenes? That is the reality facing AUPE members who work for post-secondary institutions. 

The Government of Alberta wants to control bargaining all the way. Post-secondary employers are not free to negotiate with AUPE members; instead, the government has given the employers marching orders and even created a government office to enforce these orders. 

“AUPE members must be ready to fight for our ambitious bargaining goals,” says AUPE Vice-President Bobby-Joe Borodey, who is a member from Olds College. “We’re not just going up against our employers, we’re also going up against the government. But we won’t back down from the challenge.” 

"But we won’t face the coming year alone. AUPE members have each other's backs, and there’s nothing we can’t do when all 95,000 of us band together.” 
Bobby-Joe Borodey 2023

Bobby-Joe Borodey, Vice-President

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The government created the Provincial Bargaining and Compensation Office, or PBCO, to enforce the government's plans at over 250 post-secondary bargaining tables. 

In practice, the PBCO wants to cripple our negotiating teams’ ability to engage in real, honest bargaining. The PBCO even stops us from fighting for decent wage increases! By inserting itself into our negotiations and pressuring our employers, the PBCO threatens the whole point of bargaining and unions itself. 

“We aren't just given fair agreements from our employers,” says Borodey. “We have to fight for those. But we will never know what our post-secondary employers really think because the PBCO forces them to propose what the government wants instead of what they want.” 

AUPE members are not backing down. In fact, an engaged group of post-secondary activists have created a petition for those who support their right to fair collective bargaining. All members and allies are encouraged to sign the petition, not just post-secondary workers. 

“AUPE members must be ready to fight for our ambitious bargaining goals. We’re not just going up against our employers, we’re also going up against the government.” 
Bobby-Joe Borodey 2023

Bobby Joe Borodey, Vice-President

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These members are organizing regular meetings well in advance of bargaining. While groups like members at the University of Calgary have already started, most post-secondary members will not begin bargaining until later this year, some even after the union’s countless bargaining town halls this June. 

"It’s never too early to prepare for bargaining,” says Borodey. “Our strength comes from our solidarity and willingness to fight for what we deserve. We can win better wages and working conditions, but only if our employers, and the government, are pressured into giving in to our demands.” 

Few know post-secondary struggles better than Borodey, and she says the key to success is all 95,000 members supporting each other. 

“AUPE members working in the education sector face many unique challenges,” she says. “But we won’t face the coming year alone. AUPE members have each other's backs, and there’s nothing we can’t do when all 95,000 of us band together.” 

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