Editorial—Bullet Dodged?

You might not know it, but things at AU came very close to grinding to a halt this year (those of you trying to connect with AU by phone recently might question that they haven’t, but bear with me.)  A recent post at the AU Faculty Association site talks about the battle with AU over de-designation—the university seeking to carve many of the members of AUFA away from the union by diktat.

And while the post notes that the AUFA seems to have won this round, as the university has backed down from automatic de-designation and has indicated it has no plans to follow through with directed de-designation, in the details is the statement by the AUFA president, Dave Powell, “This was our first round of bargaining under strike-lockout and, from the inside, I would say we came pretty close to a work stoppage.”  He’s talking about an earlier round of bargaining, one that he suggests prompted the de-designation idea.

Powell notes in the post that the success of fighting back de-designation was made possible by assistance from various other unions at the university, and that AUFA needs to stand ready to support those unions with similar shows of staff solidarity when their turn for bargaining comes forward.  Which, for students means that the bullet we dodged earlier may only have been the opening salvo.

As the other unions in AU begin their bargaining process, we need to remember that the current Alberta government is notoriously debt averse, and COVID-19 has forced it to take on far more debt than it ever wanted to even contemplate, and it’s done so with great reluctance.  Reluctance so great that some say it may even have a cost in lives.  It’s also a government that has already shown its indifference (if not outright hostility) toward post-secondary education with funding cuts and a drive toward “performance based funding” (that is funding based on what’s already happened, not on what needs to happen in future).  So exactly how much flexibility is such a government going to have when placed between the demands of organizations that it already is hostile to and the black and white of the deficit it needs to deal with in the budget.

Or in other words, if a university or two is forced to close up for a while and people can’t continue their educations, is that really something our current provincial government would see as that bad a thing?  This is why, if you’re a student in Alberta, you need to be paying attention.  I would go so far as to suggest making a two dollar donation to the UCP just to get their attention, and when they call to ask for more, express your concerns about their proposed post-secondary policies and cuts.  We dodged one bullet.  The magazine isn’t empty yet.

Meanwhile, this issue of the Voice is the penultimate issue of the year.  That’s right, next week’s issue is the last one for this year, so if you’ve got any suggestions as to what the best articles we’ve run this year are, please send them to me at voice@voicemagazine.org.  There may even be some swag in it for you if you do, plus it will help me start off next year (on January 8, 2021) with a great Best of 2020 (is that an oxymoron at this point?) issue.

Enjoy the read!