(Sudbury – Feb. 6, 2019)
As most of you may have heard, LUFA recently received an arbitration decision regarding the employment contracts and leave for the former President, Dominic Giroux. As LUFA previously reported, we received questions 18 months ago regarding a rumour that Mr. Giroux had been granted a special leave and had not resigned from the university despite public statements that suggested the contrary.
Despite repeated requests during the summer and fall of 2017, the administration provided no response to the questions regarding the status of Mr. Giroux‘s relationship with the University. Consequently, LUFA became concerned that there was a secret deal that had been negotiated. We proceeded with a grievance in December 2017. The first day of the hearing was scheduled for May 2018.
The parties flew to Toronto and on the morning of the hearing the administration indicated that they could not proceed because they had not provided the required notice to Mr. Giroux and others. In their view Mr. Giroux and other parties were entitled to attend the hearing. As a result, the hearing was adjourned at a significant financial cost to LUFA.
The administration also requested that LUFA seek the information through the Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation instead of the Collective Agreement. Although LUFA had negotiated language for the expeditious exchange of information, we agreed to follow the FOI process, which is lengthier, on a without prejudice and without precedent basis. This would allow the parties to resolve the legal dispute regarding the need to make these requests through the CA rather than through provincial legislation.
LUFA filed a freedom of information request for access to Mr. Giroux’s employment contract. While the administration disclosed the standard contracts they did not disclose the documents that outlined the terms of Mr. Giroux’s leave. In the summer of 2018, LUFA received copies of these contracts. In December 2018, LUFA was informed by the employer that the former president was on an unpaid leave of indeterminate length with the right to return as a full professor in the bargaining unit and upon return would be entitled to a one year paid administrative leave. While the administration provided LUFA with these details they refused to disclose any documents which outlined these terms and conditions.
The arbitration proceeded on December 13 and Arbitrator Larry Steinberg rendered his decision on January 11 (attached). The administration argued that, since they have provided some of the terms to LUFA, the issue was now moot (a legal argument that can be made by either party, which alleges that there is no labour relations purpose to proceed given that the remedy was provided). LUFA argued that the matter was not moot because the parties still had a policy dispute as to whether the information could be accessed through the Collective Agreement instead of an FOI request. The arbitrator chose not to answer the question and decided that the matter was in fact moot. LUFA will have to resubmit a request through the CA and have the matter re-litigated in the future or dealt with through bargaining. Essentially the administration delayed the argument to another day, adding more cost to the process.
LUFA is dismayed with the lack of transparency that has resulted in lengthy and costly legal procedures to access what should be public information. In addition, the administration has refused to share the correspondence outlining the terms and conditions of the former president’s possible return to Laurentian University.
The special deal for Mr. Giroux is disappointing given the administration’s comments on austerity and the need to cut services and staff complement. LUFA is also concerned about the negative impact on the Faculty of Management’s complement given that a tenured position must be held for him. LUFA intends to file a grievance challenging what we view as the improper granting of this leave.
We are urging the Board of Governors to disclose the terms and conditions of Mr. Giroux’s leave as well as to develop a more transparent model of the appointment process, including terms and conditions, for Senior Academic Administrators. LUFA is in the process of reviewing the contracts of Mr. Giroux and other Senior Administrators, who appear to have been given special deals inconsistent with LU policies and the Collective Agreement. LUFA has filed several grievances with respect to the lack of collegiality and transparency. Despite some recent gains (see the attached decision from Arbitrator Burkett) we must continue to grieve to ensure compliance.