President's Message

President’s Message, Welcome 2020

President Curtis Larson

Happy New Year to all of you and I hope you were able to have some down time over the break and recharge as we head into another year!

In January our treasurer Garett Federko was successful in obtaining another position on campus but unfortunately it is an exempt position so he has had to step down from the executive. We will miss Garett’s expertise with our finances and his insight into all the items we discussed as an executive as he brought a valuable point of view to ASPA. I want to thank Garett for all of his work with us and wish him the best in his new position!

Before leaving us Garett was good enough to ask Colin Liu if he would be willing to join the executive in his place and Colin graciously accepted. At the January executive meeting we appointed Colin to the executive and as treasurer and we want to welcome him and we look forward to working with Colin.

I know April seems a long way away but in less than 3 months our ASPA AGM will be upon us and we are looking for members to join the executive. We will have 6 positions up for election because we have 3 executive members leaving that have been on the executive for 6 years continuously, 2 positions that were appointed during this year when an executive member left, and 1 position for renewal. I encourage all of you to consider this opportunity to not only serve your fellow members but to gain valuable new experience that will serve you well no matter where your career takes you.

Earlier in January we received the decision for an arbitration hearing regarding layoffs that occurred in 2018 and the ruling was in favour of our ASPA members. We are currently in the process of working with the employer and our members on how to implement the ruling from the arbitrator. Indeed, this was great news for our members affected by the layoffs.

The ASPA Executive and staff have been keeping busy over the last couple of months supporting our members as they face a variety of issues. In my last report I spoke of the layoffs we were dealing with and unfortunately, we have had more layoffs of our members since then. We continue to support our members as much as possible in these situations but we can’t stop the layoffs no matter how unfair we may think they are. I continue to question the need for many of the layoffs. We have recently seen that the employer continues to create new positions and hire people from outside in the same areas that we just laid people off. They give them different titles and rearrange the responsibilities in the job profile.  Often the positions look very similar to the one the person that was just laid off was in. When we see this happening, we are questioning the employer and filing grievances as needed but why do they need to do the layoff in the first place? How does the university save money when we actually are not reducing the number of employees? To me, not only does this devastate our members who are laid off, which is the most important aspect of layoffs, but it creates an atmosphere of mistrust, a lot of unnecessary work for all sides and costs a lot of money.  If we are truly looking to save money you think the employer would look to having fewer grievance hearings, arbitrations that cost tens of thousands of dollars and labour relations board hearings that cost even more, to avoid these costs.   Both ASPA and the employer incur these costs.  In some cases, it seems that eliminating a position is easier than dealing with a perceived performance issue. We have a process in place in our collective agreement that we are happy to work through with our member and the employer but it would seem that they would rather simply eliminating the position because the discipline process takes time and work.  A discipline process requires the employer to provide our member with concrete evidence of the issue and give them a chance to improve. ASPA knows that times change and the workplace evolves and so if the employer is going to restructure a unit, we want to work with the employer so that our members have the chance to take on new roles and responsibilities and grow with the university like their Career Engagement model suggests that they should be able to do. Our members are all highly skilled and educated, and they are quite capable of learning new skills and taking on new duties given the chance.  We have encouraged the employer to engage with us. To date however, we are not normally consulted on any of these processes until everything is decided. For whatever reasons undivulged to us, such as they feel we will always just say no or be against change, and yes, we will always work to support our members when they want to for example down grade positions to a lower pay level but there are ways to deal with those situations without simply eliminating positions.  It starts with communication, seeking to understand and building trust.

On January 20, 2020 the USFA, CUPE 1975, and ASPA met with the employer to discuss concerns around what we perceived as a lack of process for all employees on campus experiencing discrimination and /or harassment. It has been many months since the university has had a specific person associated with this policy to deal with discrimination and harassment cases.  We were looking for an update on where things were at and to discuss what each of the unions felt were best practices for dealing with discrimination and harassment cases. I think it was a good meeting as far as the unions voicing their concerns but we will see where this goes over the next few months as the employer looks to change how they deal with these cases in the future.

ASPA will be hosting our annual post-holiday social February 6th and although I won’t be able to attend, I want to pass on my best wishes to all of you for the coming year.

Curt Larson, ASPA President curt@aspasask.ca