UOITFA’s two-week strike achieves big gains on workload, equity, and benefits

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After months of negotiations, escalating pressure on the Ontario Tech administration, and a strike, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Faculty Association (UOITFA) has ratified a new three-year collective agreement that makes big gains on the faculty association’s workload, equity, and benefits priorities. This represents a hard-fought and well-deserved victory for the UOITFA.

The settlement follows months of action by the UOITFA and its allies. In the lead-up to the deal, the faculty association leveraged the strengths of its membership to demonstrate their collective resolve to holding the university administration accountable for supporting faculty and students. Multiple social media days of action, an email writing campaign that saw over 4,000 messages sent to Ontario Tech’s leadership, and the ongoing mobilization of members and supporters culminated in a two-week strike that confirmed the faculty association’s determination. Faculty were joined on the picket lines by students, labour allies, and even NDP Leader Andrea Horwath—all of whom called on the university administration to come back to the table with a fair deal that addressed faculty priorities.

Workload was a key priority for the UOITFA. In response, an LOU was signed with a “sunlight” clause on course load assignment, which will ensure that each faculty member and the faculty association receive a detailed course load report annually, including variations from maximum course load assignment, course releases, course enrolment, and average course load for all faculty. A working group will meet at least annually to discuss the results. Further, collegially elected faculty-level committees will be able make recommendations on credit for student supervision within each faculty.

With regards to equity, another priority for the UOITFA, hiring, tenure, and promotion processes now include “careful consideration of candidates from equity-seeking groups” and the definition of research in tenure-stream faculty responsibilities now includes “developing reciprocal relationships with historically marginalized communities.” An existing LOU on Employment Equity has been strengthened and renamed to include “Employment Equity and Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Indigenization and Decolonization.” The LOU identifies employment equity as a strategic priority for the university and commits to eliminating or modifying policies and practices that result in discrimination. It sets out more equitable evaluation processes and provides faculty members from equity-seeking groups with access to additional resources and supports. Finally, the salary anomaly LOU from the previous agreement was renewed as an MOU with a commitment to a more timely implementation.

On compensation, the settlement provides one per cent increase for salaries, salary floors, stipends, and overload rates for all faculty in each year of the agreement. In addition, in each year of the agreement, tenured and tenure-stream faculty will receive a $3,600 Career Development Increment (CDI). Teaching faculty will receive a CDI of $2,700, $2,850, and $3,050 in each year of the agreement. CDI ceilings for both appointment types have been increased by one per cent. There is a $125 Professional Development Allowance increase each year for teaching-stream, tenure-track, and tenured faculty. A Bill 124 salary reopener was also agreed to under an LOU.

Benefits coverage has been extended to limited-term faculty members. Limited-term faculty with less than two years of employment or who opt out of benefit coverage will receive an HSA of $1,980 in the first year, $2,725 in the second year, and $2,775 in the third year of the agreement. The list of eligible mental health practitioners has been expanded to include psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers, clinical counselors, and marriage and family therapists. The pooled coverage for mental health practitioners is now 80 per cent of $3,600 in year one, $3,650 in year two, and $5,600 in year three of the agreement.

Finally, the agreement contains a new retirement incentive package under which beneficiaries will receive a lump sum payment of four weeks salary for each full year of service to a maximum of 52 weeks. This payment can be spread over two years.

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