Arbitrator Rules That Google E-Mail System Does Not Violate Faculty Agreement at Canadian Campus

An arbitrator says Lakehead University, in Ontario, had the right to switch its campus e-mail service to a free program offered by Google and did not violate the collective agreement with the Lakehead University Faculty Association.

The union objected to the switch because it feared that e-mail messages could be opened by the FBI or CIA under the USA Patriot Act since Google is an American company, subject to that law. The arbitrator acknowledged in his ruling that “the likelihood of such incursions by U.S. authority into a private e-mail system (Lakehead’s own former system) was marginal compared to what might occur in the presence of the Google system.” However, he ruled in favor of the university because the wording of the collective agreement was not specific enough to ensure e-mail communication met the concerns of “absolute privacy to faculty members.”

The Canadian Association of University Teachers now intends to advise all Canadian faculty associations to review the protection of privacy wording in their contracts. –Karen Birchard

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