OCUFA board discusses resistance to government cuts at 160th meeting

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On Saturday, February 8 and Sunday, February 9, OCUFA held its second Board of Directors meeting of the 2019-20 academic year. Over the weekend, board members discussed the organization’s current priorities – good jobs, university funding, and capacity building – with a focus on challenges to the postsecondary sector and to public education as a whole under the current government.

Review of current priorities

Throughout the meeting, board members discussed OCUFA’s priorities for the 2019-20 year and the challenges presented by the Ford government. Updates were presented on several important developments since the fall.

Good jobs

In January, OCUFA joined the Ontario Federation of Labour’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act. The legislation violates workers’ rights to free and fair collective bargaining; threatens pay equity and benefits for contract faculty and other marginalized workers; and will erode the foundations of Ontario’s important public services, including postsecondary education.

University funding

OCUFA has submitted its proposed recommendations for the 2020 Ontario Budget, which aim to preserve the accessibility and quality of postsecondary education in Ontario through stable, consistent, and adequate funding, as well as improved working conditions for university faculty.

The board also received an update on the Ford government’s newly implemented performance-based funding model and the final stages of the third round of Strategic Mandate Agreements the government is negotiating with Ontario’s universities.

Capacity building

In November, OCUFA held its annual Advocacy Day at Queen’s Park, an opportunity for faculty to meet with their local Members of Provincial Parliament and brief them about faculty priorities for Ontario’s universities. During dozens of meetings, faculty from across the province advocated for stronger public funding for postsecondary education, fairness for contract faculty, faculty renewal, and for the government to respect workers’ rights.

The board was also updated on the upcoming Social Media Day of Action in support of publicly funded education and better contract faculty working conditions. Each year OCUFA coordinates the day of action so that contract faculty and their allies can come together and raise awareness about the fact that half of the faculty in Ontario universities work on short-term precarious contracts, often without benefits or any job security.

Student Choice Initiative struck down

Board members were updated on the Ford government’s most recent legal defeat. In November, the Ford government’s controversial Student Choice Initiative (SCI) was ruled unlawful by the Ontario Divisional Court. The court found that Ford’s Cabinet and then Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities overstepped their authority in making democratically determined students’ union dues optional, that the SCI’s requirements were inconsistent with the laws governing Ontario’s universities and colleges, and that the SCI interfered with university autonomy and student democracy.

Education unions’ bargaining and striking under the Ford government

A special panel on Saturday afternoon featured Liz Stuart, President of the Ontario Elementary Catholic Teachers’ Association; Harvey Bischof, President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation; and Sam Hammond, President of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.

The union leaders received a warm welcome from OCUFA’s Board of Directors and proceeded to provide a brief update of the status of their bargaining efforts and strike actions under the Ford government. Following an overview of the government’s cuts to Ontario’s public education system, the panelists identified the impact the government’s actions have had and will have if they are left unchallenged. The panel participants thanked OCUFA members for their support of teachers and support workers in this round of bargaining. Following the panel, OCUFA board members reaffirmed their support for the education unions in a formal motion of solidarity.

Celebrating excellence in teaching and promoting equity

During a special lunchtime reception, board members and colleagues celebrated the winners of OCUFA’s 2019 Lorimer Award, Equity and Social Justice Committee Award of Distinction, and inaugural Award for Outstanding Contribution to Grievance/Arbitration. Collectively, these awards celebrate the extensive contributions faculty, academic librarians, and other professional academic staff have made to improving working conditions and advancing equity on Ontario campuses.

The Lorimer Award recognizes those individuals who have worked to protect and promote the interests of Ontario’s academic staff through collective bargaining. This year’s recipient is Geoffrey Hudson.

The Equity and Social Justice Committee Award of Distinction, sponsored by OCUFA’s Equity and Social Justice Committee, recognizes faculty whose work has improved the lives and working conditions of academics who are Indigenous, women, racialized, LGBTQ2S+, living with disabilities and/or belong to other historically marginalized groups. This year’s recipients are Kimberly Nugent, an Associate Teaching Professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and Andrea O’Reilly, a Professor at York University.

This is the inaugural year for the Award for Outstanding Contribution to Grievance/Arbitration, sponsored by OCUFA’s Grievance Committee, which recognizes individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the defence of collective agreements through the grievance/arbitration process. This year’s recipients are Christal Côté, the Director and Senior Grievance and Arbitration Officer for the Carleton University Academic Staff Association, and Sophie Quigley, a Professor at Ryerson University and Grievance Officer for the Ryerson Faculty Association.

The next OCUFA Board of Directors meeting will be held May 9-10, 2020.

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