The Sixties

If the fifties represented a time of stability, the next decade was one of rapid change and developments that affected the entire world.

Starting in 1959, the University went through a ten-year period of expansion that redefined labour relations on campus. In 1960, the University opened new buildings and facilities on campus, but the number of janitorial staff remained constant, because, as university documents report, "Administration and Personnel plan to use the present staff more efficiently." Similar circumstances were happening elsewhere on campus. In response, special Reps meetings were held in 1961 by Branch 22 to address issues of "work conditions being changed without consultation, and disregard for work agreements."

In 1963, the University of Calgary support staff -- historically part of Branch 22 until the U of C was established as an independent body -- opted to affiliate with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (eventually affiliating with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees the successor to the CSA). Efforts to create a more meaningful role for Branch 22 and more effective representation for its members was impeded by both the ambiguity of the Branch's legal status and by actions of unhappy members.

Frustration was evident in a 1963 letter from Charles Saunter -- then President of Branch 22 -- to University Personnel Officer, Murray Cooke. Saunter voiced concern over attempts by groups of university support staff who were seeking to establish union affiliation with national or provincial labour organizations. (The Canadian economy's rapid expansion in the sixties also brought on a parallel growth of unions as employees sought ways to better their working conditions in the new times.) Saunter warned of the existence of recruiting drives on campus from a number of these labour organizations. He suggested that support staff were interested in alternatives because of "disappointment and frustration over the useless and ineffective role that Branch 22 has been permitted to play on the University of Alberta campus."

Early in the 1960s, support staff -- individually and in small groups -- did, in fact, express their growing discontent with the status quo by seeking various solutions. Some staff wanted to apply to become sub-branches of Branch 22, while still others were intent on following the lead of the former members at the U of C by developing new affiliations with bigger provincial or national unions or associations. These strategies were impeded by Provincial labour legislation that discouraged union activity.

Those who decided to work to change the political structure and effectiveness of the Branch from within found their efforts blocked by the By-laws and the CSA Constitution. (There were even unsuccessful efforts by a few to gerrymander votes to take over the Branch.)

Facing the increasing breakdown of the traditional image of a university community as a "family", and divided over which direction to take, support staff found themselves working against each other to achieve largely the same goals: better representation.

It was Phil Arnold, a technician by trade who worked in the university's mechanical engineering department, who emerged in the mid-sixties as someone who through his drive -- some might say "forceful" personality -- was able to temporarily unite the disparate efforts of dissatisfied University of Alberta staff. Born and raised in Britain, Arnold witnessed first-hand that country's labour movement. He used that experience to organize Branch members into a cohesive force to seek an independent organization. (He was also to eventually become the first paid full-time manager of the association.)

The push for independence had its most direct external pressure from the University's Board of Governors who continued to seek ways to resist employee demands. The Board had decided that they were only prepared to negotiate with a local campus-based group, and not the CSA. The CSA was, for all practical purposes, out of the picture and actually admitted they could not really bargain for the University support staff. This added further impetus to see a break with the CSA.

Arnold did not believe they were in a position to challenge Provincial legislation that bound them to the CSA. However, he concluded they could initiate others steps that could result in eventual independence from the parent body.

First came changes in the CSA Constitution to alter the relationship between Branch 22 and the CSA. Opposition from within the Provincial Executive of the CSA delayed this process but only temporarily. A new association with a new name was created, with a local leadership that was formed, in part, from its battles with the CSA leadership. Finally, in 1969, a motion allowing Branch 22 to become an affiliate rather than a branch was passed at the CSA convention. And Branch 22 became NASA. Within two years, NASA dropped affiliation with the CSA and became an independent association.

In some ways, it could be said that Branch 22 represented only the first step of the transformation of the employer-influenced civil service association. Within a matter of years the CSA membership chose to form the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) which came to represent most provincial government employees.