OCUFA board meeting discusses unprecedented proceedings at Laurentian University

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On February 20, OCUFA held its second Board of Directors Meeting of the 2020-21 academic year. The virtual meeting focused on the challenges facing the Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA) following Laurentian University’s surprise filing of court protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), due to financial challenges it is facing as a result of reckless administrative decisions and the erosion of public university funding.

The meeting included a legal presentation on the CCAA proceedings by law firm Koskie Minsky and a discussion about the different ways OCUFA and its member associations have been supporting LUFA, including an advocacy week of meetings with MPPs, regional organizing work, a letter-writing campaign, among other actions.

In addition to the alarming events at Laurentian, throughout the meeting, board members also discussed OCUFA’s priorities for the 2020-21 academic year and the challenges presented by the Ford government. The 2020-21 priorities, as identified by the OCUFA Board, are good jobs, university funding and capacity building.

Taking action and showing solidarity

Inspired by the incredible work of the Black Lives Matter movement and #scholarstrikecanada, the OCUFA Board of Directors adopted a policy on campus policing, following the Board’s decision to strike a working group to examine policing on Ontario campuses at its previous October meeting. The policy supports moving to anti-carceral safety measures on and off campus; supporting community movements and organizations working to change policing systems and increase racial justice and equity; increasing mental health supports and funding on campus (both individual counselling services and increased training for all areas of campus including residences, faculty, support staff etc.); moving away from private security firms hired to monitor spaces; and supporting Black, Indigenou and racialized faculty and student initiatives for safe spaces on and off campus, and in exploring alternatives to policing including restorative justice models and Indigenous models of truth telling and harm reparations.

The Board of Directors passed a motion endorsing the principles of the Decent Work and Health Network for paid sick days, which are:

  • Universal: Available to all workers regardless of workplace size, type of work, or immigration status. Legislated, with no exemptions.
  • Paid: Fully paid to ensure workers are not financially penalized for following public health advice.
  • Adequate: At least seven (7) paid sick days provided on a permanent basis, with an additional 14 paid sick days during public health emergencies.
  • Permanent: Available during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
  • Accessible No barriers to access. Prohibit employers from requiring sick notes; ensure no disruption of income or unnecessary applications; and provide sufficiently flexible leave that reflects the reality of workers’ lives, healthcare needs, and caregiving responsibilities.

The motion also opposed further public subsidies for corporations like Amazon, Walmart, and Loblaws that are profiting from the pandemic, and that should be implementing employer-paid sick days and higher wages.

The Board of Directors also passed a motion supporting colleagues at LUFA-APPUL and collectively offering their support and solidarity during this difficult period.

Celebrating excellence in teaching

During lunch, meeting participants were treated to a special video celebrating the recipients of this year’s Lorimer Award and Equity and Social Justice Committee Award of Distinction.

Queen’s University Professor Elizabeth Hanson was the recipient of the 2020 Lorimer Award, which recognizes individuals who have worked to protect and promote the interests of Ontario’s academic staff through collective bargaining.

Min Sook Lee, an Assistant Professor at the Ontario College of Art & Design University, and Dr. Ciann Wilson, an Assistant Professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, won the 2020 Equity and Social Justice Committee Award of Distinction. The award 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.

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