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Ontario professors say new postsecondary funding a drop in the bucket

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TORONTO, February 26, 2024 – The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations says today’s government announcement of nearly $1.3 billion for universities and colleges over the next three years is an inadequate investment in Ontario’s postsecondary institutions.

“The Minister of Colleges and Universities recognizes that we are facing a funding crisis, but the gap between what has been provided and what is needed is massive,” said Nigmendra Narain, President of OCUFA. “This is a one-time drop in the bucket.”

The announced funding is less than half of the amount recommended by the government-appointed Blue-Ribbon Panel. It is almost eight times less than OCUFA’s recommendation for university funding alone over five years to reach Canada’s funding national average, as laid out in its 2024 pre-budget submission.

“The deficits Ontario universities face are due to a manufactured crisis by the province due to chronic underfunding. And this new spending will keep Ontario’s universities dead last in per-student funding compared to every province in the country,” said Jenny Ahn, OCUFA Executive Director. “Ontario should—and must—do better than this to support universities during this time of crisis.”

OCUFA is pleased to see a commitment to freezing tuition fees for domestic students, but noted there is no commitment to more direct funding for universities to make up for the loss in revenue from that freeze.

OCUFA is also glad to see an increase to the Small, Northern and Rural Grant for colleges and Northern Ontario Grant for Universities and investments being made in mental health support for students.

However, OCUFA is alarmed by the province’s direct allocation of funds to private, third-party reviews of postsecondary institutions.

“We have serious concerns that this will function as a $15 million gift to private consulting firms who have no connection or investment in our public postsecondary system,” said Narain. “We need less private intervention and profiting off our public universities, and more provincial investment and direct consultation with faculty and the people who teach and work with students on campuses every day.”

The government’s proposals add unnecessary red tape, too. They will force universities to go through more administrative red tape to provide information to the government that is already available, such as audit data and proof of “efficiencies”—which remain undefined in the announcement. The Minister offered no new funding for universities to comply with another red tape measure.

“The solution to the chronic underfunding of Ontario’s universities is simple: political will to make a true investment in per-student funding to get us up to the Canadian average, not more red tape to measure ‘efficiencies’ when universities are already operating very efficiently,” said Narain. “Ontarians need transparency from the government about where our public money is going, especially in the wake of recent news about donations from private career colleges to the Minister of Colleges and Universities.”

In its 2024 pre-budget submission, OCUFA recommended annual compounded funding increases of 11.75 per cent for five years to reach the national average; changes to the provincial funding formula that incentivize domestic enrolment; reducing red tape; and increasing direct student grant assistance.

“OCUFA and the government’s own Blue-Ribbon Panel both recognize the urgent need for more funding in a sector under crisis. It’s disappointing that the government has ignored its own Blue-Ribbon Panel’s recommendations and OCUFA’s blueprint for a sustainable public university sector,” said Ahn. “Our public universities provide immense economic and cultural value to our communities.  We want them to thrive, and we can’t do that if we continue to be forced to do more with less.”

OCUFA and its members will present their vision for a successful and sustainable future for Ontario’s public universities at OCUFA’s annual Advocacy Day at Queen’s Park, scheduled for March 20.  

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 18,000 faculty, academic librarians, and academic professionals in 31 member organizations across Ontario. It is committed to enhancing the quality of higher education in Ontario and recognizing the outstanding contributions of its members towards creating a world-class university system. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca

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For more information, contact:
Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite, Communications Lead a
t media@ocufa.on.ca

University of Toronto Librarians negotiate historic changes to policies

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Librarian members of the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) recently concluded six years of negotiations with the university to update the Policies for Librarians (PFL) that define librarians’ working terms at the University of Toronto, replacing the previous PFL in place since 1978.

The PFL now contains language recognizing the integral role of librarians in advancing the University’s mission and in collegial processes. The three areas of responsibility of librarians (professional practice, research and scholarly contributions and creative professional activities, and service) have been defined and made consistent with workload and career progression policies and procedures. Enhanced procedures that ensure greater fairness, job security protections and professional development gains were also won.

Criteria and procedures for appointment, permanency, and promotion have been made consistent and now align with the three areas of librarian responsibilities. Librarian job postings will now be included on U of T’s main Careers page along with faculty and other staff postings. Enhanced procedural protections have been put in place for permanency and promotion reviews: candidates may request a delay in the review process based on the Human Rights Code; and the  denial of permanent status or promotion now requires written reasons to be provided to the candidate, to which they may respond before a final recommendation regarding permanency is made.

New language enshrines a commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion as guiding principles for recruitment, appointment, and promotion, with a new mechanism of conditional appointments introduced to support these goals.

Job security provisions have been strengthened, with the removal of the financial exigency clause allowing the Administration to terminate the appointment of a permanent status librarian for reasons of “financial exigency” or “fiscal stringency.” Termination with cause has been more clearly defined.

Contractually Limited Term Appointments (CLTAs) have  gained improvements to their terms and conditions of employment, including job security. These include:

  • clarification of normal rank and duration of appointment
  • a fixed timeline for notification of contract renewal
  • a clear definition of termination with cause
  • enhanced termination and severance pay where non-renewal occurs for reasons other than dismissal with cause

CLTAs are eligible to apply for permanent status stream postings, with CLTA service to be considered in applications, and if successfully appointed, in the timeline for their permanent status review.

In a change due since Scholars Portal first began posting positions funded by the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL) via the University of Toronto Libraries system in 2001, two new Letters of Understanding (LOU) address terms and conditions of employment for Scholars Portal librarians. Scholars Portal librarians on CLTAs have gained improvements to job security and terms and conditions that mirror those of other CLTAs, including the eligibility to apply for permanent status stream positions and to have CLTA service counted in applications and if appointed, in the timeline for permanent status review. In addition, Scholars Portal Librarian III and IVs on CLTAs with at least three years of continuous service at the University will automatically be granted a recurring term appointment (Scholars Portal Recurring Term Appointment Librarians or SPRTALs).

In a historic win, the right of full-time and part-time librarians to take Research or Study Leaves is now enshrined in the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between UTFA and the University of Toronto (that serves in lieu of a collective agreement). Under the five-year LOU, this will also apply to SPRTALs.

In another gain for professional development, a five-year LOU contains a commitment by the University to provide permanent status stream librarians with opportunities for secondments for up to 18 months. At the conclusion, the librarian shall normally return to their previous jobs. Secondments may be used to develop or contribute particular expertise for projects or to temporarily replace a librarian while, at the same time, providing an opportunity for career development. CLTA vacancies may also provide opportunities for secondments. Such opportunities shall be circulated to all UTL librarians.

New agreement at Renison University College

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The Renison Association of Academic Staff (RAAS) recently ratified a new three-year collective agreement containing significant monetary and non-monetary gains. The settlement was arrived at during mediation, following several months of negotiations that included strong member communication and engagement.

Significant on the monetary front was the negotiation of a Bill 124 re-opener increase based on the principle of salary parity with the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo. For the current agreement, members received annual salary scale increases of three per cent, three per cent, and 2.5 per cent in each year of the agreement, which will also be applied to progress through the ranks (PTR) increments. Stipends for Academic Unit Leads have also been increased. Other significant gains include job security improvements for Definite Term Lecturers, increased funds for teaching assistant support and professional development, and greater collegiality in the tenure and promotion process.

Effective April 30, 2023, members employed at Renison on or before May 1, 2021, received a two per cent increase to scale, plus $2,500, while members employed at Renison since May 1, 2021, received a one per cent increase to scale, plus $1,500. This increase is not part of the collective agreement, but of the Memorandum of Settlement, with the note that this resolved all claims related to Bill 124 compensation losses.

Definite Term Lecturers (DTLs) have seen major gains in job security and career progression. The six-year limit on consecutive contracts has been removed, a right of first refusal instituted, and the process for consecutive contracts streamlined.  DTLs may now be considered for a permanent position after five consecutive years. The 20 per cent cap on DTLs as a proportion of permanent faculty complement has been softened, with a process for over-riding the cap through negotiation with the faculty association executive.

On teaching supports, the budget for TA support has been increased. Academic Unit Leads can now manage a plan, with new criteria, for the distribution of these funds, and have the flexibility to top up an instructor’s funds under certain conditions. Support for online teaching has been increased, with major course redevelopment (and not just new course development) being eligible for a course release, and a half online course now being eligible for a full course stipend depending on the amount of work involved. Members retain the right to refuse to create or redevelop an online course.

Members have also seen improvements in professional support, with an increase in professional expense reimbursements (PER) as well as in the research grants fund. DTLs are now eligible for PER, and Continuing Lecturers are now eligible to apply for research grants.

Other notable changes in the new agreement include the introduction of a department-level tenure and promotion committee and clarification of the processes for review and termination of Academic Unit Leads.

Ontario university professors call Appeal Court ruling on Bill 124 a win for public sector workers

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TORONTO, February 12, 2024 – The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations said the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss the province’s appeal of the controversial and unconstitutional Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act—formerly Bill 124—is a win for workers.

“This is a clear victory for Ontario’s public sector workers that comes after years of fighting for our Charter rights to free and fair collective bargaining,” said Nigmendra Narain, OCUFA President. “We are pleased that the Court of Appeal recognized the constitutionality of collective bargaining rights and look forward to continuing to redress the wrongs brought on by this harmful legislation.”

A two-to-one majority of the Court decided the ruling, determining that Bill 124 substantially interfered with workers’ collective bargaining rights. OCUFA member organizations joined an Ontario Federation of Labour-led coalition of over 40 unions representing more than 250,000 public sector workers to bring a successful Charter challenge to the legislation in 2019.

The Coalition argued that the legislation interfered with the rights of workers to free and fair collective bargaining, threatened pay equity and benefits for contract faculty and other marginalized workers, and could erode the foundations of Ontario’s vital public services.

Since the law was declared unconstitutional in 2022 by Justice Markus Koehnen of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, affected workers have successfully bargained and won changes to their collective agreements to redress the wrongs of the law, including restrictions on wage increases during spiking inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The government wasted taxpayers’ money and time trying to attack workers with this appeal, when it should be focused on improving workers’ lives after years of pandemic struggles and inflation,” said Jenny Ahn, OCUFA Executive Director. “The government must stop appealing and turn their attention to adequately funding our public sector, including public universities, so that financial remedies can be made. This will also improve student learning conditions in our world-class universities.”

OCUFA encourages eligible faculty member organizations to revisit collective agreements negotiated under the legislation to redress the harms of the law, and will monitor the next steps in this process, including the unfortunate possibility of a government appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 18,000 faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals in 31 member organizations across Ontario. It is committed to enhancing the quality of higher education in Ontario and recognizing the outstanding contributions of its members towards creating a world-class university system. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.

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For more information, contact:
Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite, Communications Lead a
t media@ocufa.on.ca

Ontario professors offer a blueprint for revitalizing public universities

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TORONTO/SUDBURY, January 30, 2024 –The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations recommended four solutions for investing in Ontario’s publicly funded university system in its pre-budget submission, Empowering Tomorrow: The OCUFA Blueprint for Revitalizing Ontario’s Public Universities.

In the submission, released today, OCUFA outlined the problems created by provincial underfunding and offered its solutions for a thriving postsecondary sector:

  • RECOMMENDATION ONE: OCUFA calls for compounding annual total provincial university funding increases of 11.75 per cent for a period of five years to reach the national average.
  • RECOMMENDATION TWO: Instead of increasing domestic tuition, OCUFA echoes the call of student groups for government to enhance the student assistance budget and convert loans into grants.
  • RECOMMENDATION THREE: OCUFA calls for a review of Ontario’s provincial funding formula, including the corridor model, with an embedded goal of supporting domestic enrolment growth.
  • RECOMMENDATION FOUR: OCUFA calls for reversing the planned implementation of the performance-based funding scheme.

“For too long, faculty, staff, and students at Ontario universities have been forced to do much more with much less due to this underfunding,” said Nigmendra Narain, OCUFA President. “Our budget recommendations will ensure that our world-class publicly funded universities not just survive in the future but continue to thrive.”

Ontario has the lowest per-domestic student funding level for universities in Canada. The province provided $9,890 in total university funding per domestic full-time equivalent in 2021-22, the most recent year for which there is comprehensive data. This is a total far behind the national average of $15,807. Ontario is also the only province that imposes funding caps on domestic students—a disincentive for universities to enrol more domestic students.

The government of Ontario’s disinvestment has led universities to look elsewhere for revenue, including sky-high international student tuition fees. OCUFA noted the great benefits brought to our campuses by international students and warned that such a heavy reliance on their high tuition fee dollars is very risky. This number is now capped by the federal government, which underscores the urgent need for more robust, sustainable provincial funding for Ontario’s universities.

“The Ontario government’s blue-ribbon panel on postsecondary education recognized the need for more funding for our universities, and the government has not yet commented on these findings,” said Jenny Ahn, OCUFA Executive Director. “The current state of affairs for Ontario universities is unsustainable. Our recommendations for the provincial budget provide a path forward for investing in public education.”

OCUFA presented its recommendations to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs (SCFEA) in Sudbury today during Pre-Budget Consultations. OCUFA continues to monitor the Ontario government’s response to the recommendations set forth by the Blue-Ribbon Panel over the next month.

OCUFA’s full pre-budget submission is available here.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 18,000 faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals in 31 member organizations across Ontario. It is committed to enhancing the quality of higher education in Ontario and recognizing the outstanding contributions of its members towards creating a world-class university system. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.

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For more information, contact:
Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite, Communications Lead at media@ocufa.on.ca

Ontario government response to international student cap misses the mark, professors say

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TORONTO, January 26, 2024 – The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations said the Minister of Colleges and Universities’ response to a two-year proposed cap on international student visas won’t solve the real problems plaguing the province’s universities.

“The government’s proposals for oversight of our postsecondary institutions miss the mark and focus on a manufactured crisis,” said Nigmendra Narain, OCUFA President. “Ontario needs international students, but universities need more funding from the government to provide the support that international—and domestic—students need to succeed inside and outside the classroom. The Ministry has not provided any tools to do this with these proposals.”

Narain noted that the Ministry’s announcement provides no funding or plan to help universities to fulfill new requirements like their call for a guarantee for housing options. He also raised concerns that the proposals do not restrict partnerships between public universities and private institutions, despite reports of bad actors in similar partnerships in the college sector.

“Ontario universities sit last in per-student funding in the country, far below the Canadian average. Some of our public universities in need of resources are targeted by private corporations that are often not in alignment with the rigorous standards, governance structures, and educational missions of colleges and universities,” he said. “We have seen the worst-case scenario for this already and cannot go down the road of more privatization at our public universities.”

OCUFA also pointed out that the government ignored the fundamental mission of universities to develop critical research, teach problem-solving and critical thinking, and to prepare today’s students for the jobs of tomorrow.

“A university education is, and has been, versatile and adaptable to the labour market for decades,” said Narain. “The government must support the innovation and pursuit of excellence that universities provide to our province’s economy.”

“The government’s Blue-Ribbon panel on higher education acknowledged that Ontario universities need more funding. Months after receiving the panel’s report the government has yet to respond to the recommendations and commitments to our universities,” said Jenny Ahn, OCUFA Executive Director. “OCUFA is recommending an annual 11.75 per cent increase in funding for the next five years to bring us to the Canadian average.”

OCUFA will present its pre-budget submission recommendations to the government’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs this month to offer solutions for a stable, sustainable public postsecondary sector.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 18,000 faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals in 31 member organizations across Ontario. It is committed to enhancing the quality of higher education in Ontario and recognizing the outstanding contributions of its members towards creating a world-class university system. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.

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For more information, contact:
Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite, Communications Lead at media@ocufa.on.ca

STATEMENT: Professors say Ontario government must address funding gap from international student cap

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TORONTO, January 23, 2024 – The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations called on the provincial government to step up their investment in postsecondary education following a federal announcement capping the number of approved international student visas.

Ontario universities and colleges rely heavily on tuition fees from international students—which are significantly higher than domestic tuition fees—to offset gross underfunding from the provincial government.

“For too long, the Ontario government has cut off revenue streams and allowed bad actors in the postsecondary system to unfairly treat international students like ATMs,” said Nigmendra Narain, OCUFA President. “To address these bad actors and support our world-class education system, the way forward is for the provincial government to adequately fund our public system.”

OCUFA is calling on the province to increase annual funding for Ontario universities by 11.75 per cent over the next five years. The federal government estimated the reduction of international students in Ontario could be greater than 50 per cent of the current population.

“The change in policy means that robust, sustainable provincial government funding for postsecondary education is even more urgent to ensure the continued quality of our system,” said Narain. “The province must act now and increase university operating funding.”

“The Ford government’s own Blue-Ribbon panel on the future of higher education recognized the need for more government funding for our public institutions, and the province needs to pay attention,” said Jenny Ahn, OCUFA Executive Director. “We are still waiting for the government’s response to the panel’s final report, and it’s time to take important steps towards securing the future of our world-class university system.”

OCUFA will submit its pre-budget submission to the Ontario government’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs this month to offer solutions for a thriving public postsecondary sector.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 18,000 faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals in 31 member organizations across Ontario. It is committed to enhancing the quality of higher education in Ontario and recognizing the outstanding contributions of its members towards creating a world-class university system. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.

For more information, contact: media@ocufa.on.ca

Agreement ratified at Huron University College

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Early in November, members of the Huron University College Faculty Association (HUCFA) ratified a new four-year collective agreement containing significant gains on members’ priorities related to improved terms and conditions for Program Sessional (teaching intensive) members, job security for contract faculty, and protections in case of financial exigency or program restructuring.

On compensation, Tenure-stream/Limited-Term Appointment (LTA) and Per Course members received salary scale increases of two percent, 2.5 percent, 3.75 percent, and 3.25 percent over the four years of the agreement. Program Sessional members received significantly greater increases of 7.5 percent, 3.25, 4.5 percent, and five percent. Other monetary gains were made in the areas of health spending and professional development, and pensions.

In workload gains, pre-tenure or LTA members who fulfill the duty of Chair/Director/Coordinator will get extra course release, while pre-tenure members have gained service load protections for committee work. Coordinators will receive an enhanced faculty allowance in recognition of workload, and Chairs/Directors/Coordinators heading up an external review will receive additional administrative and clerical supports in the review year.

Contract faculty saw a significant enhancement of job security, with current practice now enshrined in the collective agreement. New Per Course contracts for which no member already holds Right of First Refusal will be filled from within the academic unit, or then the broader bargaining unit, before being posted externally. New Program Sessional contracts will follow a similar order. When a Program Sessional or LTA position is replaced by a Tenure-stream position, the Program Sessional or LTA member will be considered for a Direct Appointment. An improvement has also been made in how the research and service experience of Per Course members is counted toward their tenure and promotion requirements should they receive a tenure-stream position. The Collective Agreement includes language that outlines more advantageous counting of previous teaching, postdoctoral, or professional experience for the purposes of placement on members’ relevant salary grids.

Of particular note is the inclusion of two new articles on financial exigency and program restructuring. The articles include consultation obligations (both collegial consultation and with the union); recall rights for tenure-stream members who are laid off; severance pay entitlements; and a commitment to redeployment of tenure-stream members.

New agreement at Nipissing University

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In mid-November, members of the Nipissing University Faculty Association, Full-Time Academic Staff Bargaining Unit (FASBU) ratified a new four-year collective agreement. In addition to gains on compensation and benefits, and workload, the new collective agreement contains significant language toward Indigenization.

On compensation, members received Across-The-Board (ATB) increases of three percent, 2.25 percent, 2.25 percent and 2.75 percent over the four years, Progress-Through-the-Ranks (PTR) increases in each year, an increase to compensation for supervision at various levels in year one, and annual increases to the overload stipend.

Other monetary gains were made in the areas of health spending, professional development, and pensions. On workload, Librarian and Archivist workload may be adjusted to include research, scholarly, and creative activity. Faculty members who are Principal Investigators and meet certain criteria may receive an additional course release for each year of the grant.

Of particular note is the inclusion of Indigenization language in several areas of the agreement. In terms of rights and responsibilities of members, the teachings of Indigenous Elders and/or Traditional Knowledge Carriers/Keepers must be acknowledged through proper references and where possible, authorship. Indigenous members may demonstrate service through relationships and commitments to communities as well as through mentoring relationships (this latter also applies to members of equity-deserving groups). Indigenous members also now have greater protections in the areas of service and tenure and promotion. Indigenous Elder or Knowledge Carrier/Keepers, for example, may be an external referee for tenure and promotion. Any member can also be accompanied by a support person, who can be an Indigenous Elder and/or Traditional Knowledge Carrier/Keeper, at any stage of the grievance process.

Application Portal open for 2023-2024 OCUFA Awards of Distinction

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OCUFA is now accepting nominations and applications for the 2023-2024 OCUFA Awards of Distinction.

Nomination and application deadline: March 8, 2024
 
The following awards are open for nominations:

The following fellowships are open for applications:

 At OCUFA, we believe it is important to recognize the exceptional people whose work improves the lives of faculty, students, and everyone on campus. We encourage you to nominate colleagues in your faculty association who you believe deserve to be honoured and encourage you to share the calls for applications for our fellowships widely.
 
Read more about the purpose and guidelines for the OCUFA Awards of Distinction and past winners.

Funding solutions for Ontario universities top priority at conference

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TORONTO, December 7, 2023 – At a conference held last week in Toronto, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations brought together a diverse group of more than 80 high-profile stakeholders in postsecondary education to find funding solutions for Ontario’s public universities.

In his opening remarks for the Conference, titled “Funding our Future: Keeping Universities Public,” OCUFA President Nigmendra Narain emphasized the value of gathering in pursuit of a common goal: the sustainability and necessity of publicly funded universities.

“We have seen the impact chronic underfunding in our sector has had in the form of increased reliance on tuition fees—especially international fees—increased privatization, the rise of precarious employment in teaching, diminishing research funding, the proliferation of student debt, and the greater inaccessibility of higher education for all,” said Narain. “It is time to harness the minds of stakeholders to imagine ways to reverse the trend of underfunding and to imagine long-term funding solutions that allow our institutions to thrive.”

Throughout the day and a half, students, faculty, academic librarians, administrators, journalists, union representatives, and government representatives spoke to the value of universities for the province and the country’s economic, civic, and cultural health, and the dangers that can come from restricting funding to the sector.

Randy Robinson, director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Ontario, spoke to the Conference about the Centre’s latest research report, “Back From the Brink: Restoring public funding to Ontario’s universities.”

Other speakers and panelists included David Wai, Deputy Minister, Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities; Sarom Rho of Migrant Students United/Migrant Workers Alliance for Change; Max Blouw, President of the Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia; Martin Regg Cohn, journalist at the Toronto Star, and Senior Fellow at the University of Toronto and Toronto Metropolitan University; and Sheila Embleton, Interim President of Laurentian University. A keynote address was delivered Thursday evening by Steve Paikin, journalist, author, and host of The Agenda on TVO.

Wrapping up the Conference, OCUFA’s Board Chair and Past-President Sue Wurtele spoke to the necessity of continuing the important work of advocating for universities and the people who make them run.

“We have had an exceptional conference, sharing ideas and perspectives on the future of university funding, the challenges we face, but also looking at solutions for funding our public universities,” said Wurtele.

“This conference offered space for experts with a range of diverse experiences to bring their ideas and expertise to the table to ensure that Ontario’s world-class universities continue to thrive,” said Jenny Ahn, Executive Director of OCUFA. “We look forward to working with all the conference stakeholders to develop innovative long-term funding solutions for higher education in this province.

In the coming weeks, OCUFA will prepare and publish a position paper on the findings from the Conference, and continue working with government, university administrators, students, and stakeholders from across the postsecondary sector to advocate for robust, sustainable funding now and in the future.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals in 31 member organizations across Ontario. It is committed to enhancing the quality of higher education in Ontario and recognizing the outstanding contributions of its members towards creating a world-class university system. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.

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For more information, contact:
Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite, Communications Lead at media@ocufa.on.ca

New agreements for two member organizations

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Lakehead University

At the end of October, members of the Lakehead University Faculty Association (LUFA) ratified their new three-year collective agreement following an extended period of negotiations. Regular member communications and the hard work of the negotiating team resulted in gains on members’ top priorities of compensation, pension reform, benefits, contract lecturer equity, and university governance.

The agreement includes salary and benefit improvements for all members, as well as specific adjustments for Contract Lecturers. The salary increases are one and a half per cent for 2023, three per cent for 2024, and three per cent for 2025. These increases apply to salary scales, floors and ceilings, Career Development Increments, overload, distance education and off-campus teaching, and stipends for Chairs and Directors. In addition, Contract Lecturers will receive flat rate increases to their base salary in 2024.

The agreement contains increases to member pension contributions and other changes necessary to pension reform.

Benefits improvements include an expansion in paramedical services coverage to include audiologists and kinesiologists, new coverage for hearing aids, and an automatic entitlement to any benefit enhancements for retired members. Contract lecturers receive an increase in their benefit account, and some members who have held a limited-term appointment for one year are now eligible for maternity and parental leave.

The new agreement marks a significant advancement in university governance. It explicitly acknowledges the role of faculty and librarian participation in selection of senior academic administrators including the Deans and University Librarian. New policies also ensures that faculty and librarians have a clear majority over administrators in search and renewal/review committees, and that the LUFA members elect their own representatives to the committees.

A noteworthy feature of the agreement is its expanded and improved language on academic freedom for librarians.  

NOSM U

In early November, members of the NOSM University Faculty and Staff Association ratified a new three-year agreement, just hours before a strike deadline. Strong member support was reflected in a 100 per cent strike vote, as well as a successful letter-writing and communications campaign that garnered support from the local community and faculty associations across the country. With this backing, the negotiating team won solid wage and benefit increases, improvements to their working conditions and equity provisions, and avoid major concessions.

On compensation, members received a $1,250 increase to base salary from July 1, 2023, followed by a four per cent increase to scale, and scale increases of three per cent each in 2024 and 2025. The scale increases for each year will also apply to Progress Through the Ranks increments, as well as overload and overtime. 

Benefits improvements include the inclusion of psychotherapy coverage, an increase in paramedical coverage as well as major dental coverage. A fund to assist retirees in purchasing fringe benefits will receive an employer contribution of $5,000 per year. 

In gains for professional staff and librarians, the vacation for professional staff was increased to make it equal to that for faculty and librarians and the tuition reimbursement policy was updated to create equity across campuses for librarians and professional staff. A memorandum of agreement on alternative work arrangements for librarians and professional staff allows work off campus for librarians and professional staff, and a flexible work week for librarians (already available to professional staff). 

A noteworthy equity gain was made in the requirement for immediate supervisors to adjust workloads if members from equity-deserving groups are assigned governance and administrative duties. 

Ending gender-based violence on our campuses and in our communities

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By: Nigmendra Narain, OCUFA President

December 6: National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

December 6 marks 34 years since the deadly misogynistic massacre of 14 women engineering students at L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. December 6th is now known as National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, and every year we remember the 14 women killed in Montreal and recommit to ending gender-based violence on our campuses and in our communities.

In June 2023, we saw again just how urgent that mission is on our campuses. A person explicitly targeted a gender studies class on the campus of the University of Waterloo for a violent attack, wounding two students and a professor. The attack was shocking and deeply traumatizing for the victims, their families, their colleagues, and the entire Waterloo community. It resonated with so many across campuses and communities in Canada and beyond as well. Importantly, the incident was a sad reminder of the ongoing necessity to address misogyny, transphobia, and sexuality and gender-based violence in our campus communities.

Three decades after the L’Ecole Polytechnique massacre, more must be done to redress gender-based violence on campus and the increasing threats and harassment experienced by faculty, academic librarians, staff, and students who are marginalized, and who work in the areas of, but not limited to, gender, sexuality, race and racism, Indigenous, and Black studies.  

Following the horrific attack in June, the Women’s and Gender Studies et Recherches Féministes (WGSRF) published an open statement, as well as a follow-up set of recommendations for universities and colleges to ensure safety on campuses. Crucially, the group recommends that postsecondary institutions “work collaboratively with faculty, front-line staff, and student leaders, to create meaningful responses to the increasing threats of violence and harm on our campuses” using non-carceral, trauma-informed approaches.

OCUFA strongly supports these recommendations. Many faculty associations in Ontario have been working for years to improve safety measures and educate campus communities about gender-based violence and harassment. Faculty and staff associations and unions are key partners for universities in this pursuit, and university leadership should work with them in strong, meaningful, and collaborative ways to find solutions to these pressing and urgent challenges.

The provincial government has a role to play here as well. The government can and should do a great deal more to assist universities with expanding trauma-informed, non-carceral, and meaningful safety measures. More direct, per-student funding for our public universities is a necessary sustainable, robust method for addressing some of these concerns along with consultation of faculty associations, staff unions, and student groups for impactful and effective actions. The government’s current Campus Safety Grant provides only about $120,000 in funding per university or college in Ontario to develop these safety measures—but this is barely a drop in the bucket to help make campuses safer.

This December 6, we honour Genevieve Bergeron, Helene Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, Maryse Laganiere, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michele Richard, Annie St-Arneault and Annie Turcotte, by reaffirming our ongoing commitment to ending gender-based violence and harassment at Ontario universities.

After years of work, Ontario faculty say major victory achieved on protecting public universities

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TORONTO, November 21, 2023 –The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) welcomed news today from Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in the Fall Economic Statement that the Federal government is reforming harmful corporate bankruptcy legislation—a crucial move that will protect public universities from corporate-style restructuring policies.

The news comes almost three years after Laurentian University entered into bankruptcy protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) and Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA). The catastrophe was the first time a public institution utilized the CCAA and BIA processes, which are designed for private companies in financial distress. The move led to devastating cuts, job losses, and learning interruptions for students, faculty, and staff, and deeply impacted the University’s community of Sudbury, Ontario.

“OCUFA and its member organizations and allies have worked for years to secure this change to bankruptcy legislation through public campaigns and lobbying efforts,” said Nigmendra Narain, OCUFA President.

The 2023 Fall Economic Statement notes that the government will amend the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act and the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, to exclude public post-secondary educational institutions from becoming the subject of proceedings under either Act.

“Through the tireless efforts of OCUFA, our member organizations, and our allies, we are proud to see real change happen today to ensure that our public universities will no longer be vulnerable to the dangers of corporate restructuring,” said Narain. “What happened at Laurentian should never have happened, and now we can ensure that it will not happen again to another public university in Canada.”

“Canadians across the country know how valuable our world-class public university system is, and we know that these reforms will help protect our public universities and help them thrive,” he added.

In 2022, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk stated the CCAA/BIA process was an inappropriate method for dealing with the financial challenges of public institutions. Documents also released at that time showed that the Ford government knew of Laurentian’s financial situation and offered little meaningful assistance to Laurentian and its community during a time of crisis.

“OCUFA has worked for years to bring about this change and today’s announcement marks a critical step in the right direction for the financial health of our country’s public institutions,” said Jenny Ahn, Executive Director of OCUFA. “The Liberal government promised to reform these laws in 2021, and we are glad to see they have kept that promise to protect our world-class public universities. We are incredibly proud of the work OCUFA, in collaboration with its 31 member organizations, has accomplished in making the necessary changes to these laws.”

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals in 31 member organizations across Ontario. It is committed to enhancing the quality of higher education in Ontario and recognizing the outstanding contributions of its members towards creating a world-class university system. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.

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For more information, contact:
Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite, Communications Lead at media@ocufa.on.ca

Blue-Ribbon report recommendations not enough for Ontario universities to achieve excellence

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OCUFA calls for more provincial postsecondary funding

Toronto, ON, November 16, 2023 – The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) says the government’s Blue-Ribbon Panel’s recommendations fall far short of what is required to even adequately fund Ontario’s world-class public universities. 

“How can we continue to aim for world-class excellence when we are dead last in Canada in per capita student funding?” said Nigmendra Narain, President of OCUFA. “Even if fully implemented, the panel’s recommendations would still leave Ontario’s public universities with the lowest provincial funding and the near-highest tuition for students in the country, so they would not put universities and colleges on viable, much less sustainable, footing.”

In reviewing the panel’s report, OCUFA has found that, even with the proposed 10% increase in public postsecondary funding this year, Ontario’s universities would remain the lowest per-student funded institutions in the entire country. The panel has also recommended much more modest increases in subsequent years, but even if the province were to maintain an annual 10% increase, OCUFA estimates it would take 10 years just to reach the Canadian average. Indeed, universities will continue to get less but still expected to do more.

The panel has also proposed that students help “share the load” by increasing tuition, even though Ontario’s domestic students already pay approximately $1,100 more in annual tuition than the Canadian average. Along with dealing with the growing challenges of inflation and affordable housing, students could be left shouldering an even larger burden if the recommended tuition hikes are implemented. Indeed, students will pay more but still get less.

“We agree with the panel that much needs to be done to make universities financially sustainable and that the process must start with the provincial government,” says Narain. “But the Blue-Ribbon report fails to recognize how far behind Ontario has fallen. How can we tell domestic and international students we have world-class public universities if we can’t even meet the average level of funding in Canada?”

“OCUFA is optimistic that the report shared some of the concerns it expressed in its formal submission to the Blue-Ribbon panel, including universities’ overreliance on international student tuition and the impending increase in the number of domestic students,” said OCUFA Executive Director Jenny Ahn. “It also welcomes the panel’s acknowledgement that assertions around faculty being overcompensated are unwarranted.”

OCUFA looks forward to discussing the report with its faculty and academic librarian members, stakeholders and provincial officials at our Funding Our Future policy conference on November 30 and December 1, 2023, where the postsecondary community will collaborate to find positive outcomes and paths that serve university faculty, academic librarians, staff, and students as we strive for excellence in Ontario’s world-class public universities.

About OCUFA

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals in 31 member organizations across Ontario. It is committed to enhancing the quality of higher education in Ontario and recognizing the outstanding contributions of its members towards creating a world-class university system. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.

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For more information, contact:
Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite, Communications Lead at media@ocufa.on.ca or 416-306-6033