Based on input from the Postdoctoral Associations of Alberta, including the Postdoctoral Association of the University of Calgary (PDAC), the University of Alberta Postdoctoral Fellow Association, and the University of Lethbridge Postdoctoral Fellows Association (ULPA), the Alberta Government included some major changes in postdoctoral policy in recent provincial legislation.

On the afternoon of May 4th, 2017 the Alberta Government officially passed Bill 7, An Act to Enhance Post-secondary Academic Bargaining.

The passing of Bill 7 is a major step forward in terms of labour relations for postdocs in Alberta, as the bill officially recognizes Alberta’s postdocs as employees and grants their associations collective bargaining rights! The question remains whether these changes will apply to all postdocs at Alberta’s three major research universities, as source of funding may play a role in determining eligibility, as it has in all labour relations decisions related to postdoctoral unionization in other provinces.

Nevertheless, this is a milestone in Canadian history, as postdocs have never before been granted such recognition and rights by any provincial government in the absence of a labour relations board ruling or court order to that effect. While the impact of this legislation has yet to be realized, at this point it is clear that a portion of Alberta’s postdocs will have guaranteed access to Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan, a voice in their own labour relations, and a real opportunity to bargain for improved working conditions and benefits in the very near future.

At present the Postdoctoral Associations (PDAC, the UofA PDFA, and ULPA) are working diligently with representatives from Alberta Advanced Education to transition their associations into incorporated bargaining units in order to move forward with the bargaining of their first collective agreements. CAPS/ACSP will provide updates to the postdoc community as this process unfolds.

The CAPS/ACSP Executive Council is proud to have played a supporting role in bringing about these important changes in provincial policy, which we hope will trigger more improvements in postdoctoral labour relations across Canada in the near future.

To read more about the advocacy efforts that led to these important changes for Alberta postdocs see our previous post entitled Alberta Postdoctoral Associations Advocate for Employee Status and Uniform Provincial Policies.

Additional links of interest:
CBC news, April 6, 2017: “New bill gives academic staff the right to strike” – quotes from the Chair of CAPS/ACSP

UPDATE (AUGUST 3, 2017):

The Postdoctoral Associations of Alberta released an official update today regarding the impending changes brought about by the implementation of Bill 7. The letter describes the processes going on behind the scenes as Alberta’s three largest research universities move towards adopting employee status for their postdocs and institutional postdoc associations transition into collective bargaining units. It also addresses some of the more common questions and concerns raised by postdocs and  faculty members.

To download a copy of the letter, please follow this link:
Update on Employee Status and Collective Bargaining for Alberta Postdocs

UPDATE (OCTOBER 17, 2017):

According to administrators at the University of Calgary, University of Alberta, and the University of Lethbridge, all three institutions will be implementing employee status for all internally funded postdocs as of November 1st, 2017.

This means that postdocs paid off of supervisor’s grants or awards funded by the universities will automatically have Employment Insurance (EI) and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions deducted from their pay from that date forward.

This change does not apply to postdocs who hold their own fellowships from external funding agencies (e.g., CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC, Alberta Innovates) at the present time, but that decision will undoubtedly be challenged at some point in the future.