New agreement ratified for Western Librarians and Archivists

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The Librarian and Archivist unit of the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association ratified a new four-year collective agreement last month, making important gains related to compensation and benefits, career advancement and research support, workload and maintaining the professional status of librarian and archivist work. Each of these contributes to maintaining high-quality library services at Western University. The negotiations saw remarkable member engagement and community outreach, with a 100% vote in favour of a strike mandate.

The high level of member engagement was the result of the negotiating team’s effort to ensure complete transparency with members. Bargaining bulletins were sent to members after the end of each bargaining session. Tabled proposals were shared with members and the UWOFA leadership, with an open invitation to discuss with the negotiating team.

In terms of monetary gains, members received scale increases of 3 per cent in the first year and 2 per cent in each of the remaining three years of the agreement; a flat rate addition to base of $500 in the first year and $1,000 in the third year, adding an approximate 1.5 per cent to the scale increase over the four years; and a one-time amount of $2,000 in the first year. They also saw a new promotion bonus, an increase to the research support fund, and an increase to the stipend for library directors and heads. The new agreement contains improved vision care and mental health coverage, including an expanded list of mental health providers.

Members also made major gains on leaves, with education leave at 100 per cent of salary (up from 85 per cent), a new compassionate leave with pay, a new caregiving leave with SEIB top-up, salaries of members returning from LTD to incorporate increases negotiated during their leave, and improved SEIB eligibility for Pregnancy, Parental, and Adoption leave.

On retirement, improvements to the phased retirement scheme now allow members beyond their normal retirement date to phase their retirement, with group benefit coverage unchanged (except for LTD), and now provide a phased retirement supplement as a percentage (relative to the length of the phase) of base salary immediately before the commencement of the phased retirement.

With respect to equity gains, on the monetary front, members received a significant increase to the career trajectory fund which corrects salary anomalies, and the correction process will occur sooner in the life of the agreement. Improvements included an increase to the maximum anomaly adjustment per member, as well as an agreement to investigate the feasibility of reviewing anomalies based on other equity-oriented demographic parameters, including Indigeneity, disability, membership in a racialized group, sexual orientation, and gender identity. In a non-monetary gain, a new Letter of Understanding (LOU) contains an agreement to enlarge the Members with Disabilities Working Group (negotiated into the faculty collective agreement last year) to include a librarian or archivist, and to expand its mandate to include the librarian and archivist collective agreement and librarian and archivist working conditions.

In other non-monetary areas, members saw an increase in the period of Academic Activity Leave (i.e., sabbatical). Academic activity (i.e., research) may now involve “creative expression” and may be in whatever media are appropriate to the Member’s area of academic expertise, with the requirement removed for Academic Activity to be relevant to librarianship or archival practice. 

Several gains were made on workload including that it be consistent with Member’s qualifications and the responsibilities identified in their job description, and a new LOU was signed requiring the employer to create job descriptions and make them fully accessible to members. In the event of significant changes to their workload, members may work with their direct supervisor to adjust planned activities and contributions or agree upon an Alternative Workload. Permanent significant changes in a member’s role that is not in their job description will require a change in the job description. Vacancies will not increase members’ workload through the redistribution of work within and across units. By ensuring reasonable workloads for members, these changes will help librarians and archivists maintain high quality library services.

Gains were also made to improve the performance review process and better inculcate a culture of recognizing, rewarding and supporting career advancement. Under an important LOU on On-Call work, a Joint Committee will be struck to monitor on-call work and extended work outside of normal working hours. Members can take equivalent lieu time off if required to work on call or given duties beyond normal working hours. Senior leadership will cover Directors and Heads who take time off to compensate for on-call work.

To arrest creeping de-professionalization, a new LOU requires the University to strive to accurately distinguish and identify the roles of librarians and archivists relative to other library staff in relevant documents and public-facing communications. This will help raise visibility and awareness of librarians and archivists and the work they do, thereby highlighting their professional contributions to the academic work of the university.

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