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UOITFA first union in Ontario to win consolidation of bargaining units under new labour relations act

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On August 7th, the Ontario Labour Relations Board agreed to consolidate the three bargaining units represented by the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Faculty Association (UOITFA) into a single unit, covered by one collective agreement.

The UOITFA is the first union in Ontario to apply for and win a consolidation of units under the new labour relations provisions enacted in 2017 by the Liberal provincial government. In early April, the UOITFA filed a certification application for a group of full-time limited-term faculty, and were certified to represent the new unit later that month. The union applied for consolidation immediately after certification.

For the UOITFA, one consolidated unit means less time devoted to bargaining, and less effort devoted to fighting for the same rights three times over. As the UOITFA enters bargaining with the employer for a consolidated agreement in the weeks ahead, all its resources can be dedicated to getting industry competitive terms and conditions of employment for all its members.

This historic win results from several decades of advocacy by OCUFA in partnership with our member associations to re-instate bargaining unit consolidation as part of the Ontario Labour Relations Act. These powers were removed by the Progressive Conservative government in the mid-1990s. Since that time, many Ontario faculty associations have organized new units of contract and teaching stream faculty, temporary and limited term faculty, and librarians, despite the additional effort and resources required to administer multiple units and collective agreements.

In its decision, the Ontario Labour Relations Board articulated a clear path forward for other faculty associations wishing to pursue consolidations. The Board set a low bar for granting consolidation. It determined that it need only consider whether consolidation would result in an effective collective bargaining relationship. The existing relationship between the association and the employer did not need to be proven ineffective to justify change from the status quo.

The Board also found that the strong similarities in the types of work our members do was more important in creating a community of interest than the differences in tenure of employment or time spent on research.

Finally, the Board considered the fact that the union was the applicant, noting that the wishes of the employees for consolidation pointed in the same direction as the development of an effective collective bargaining relationship.

OCUFA congratulates the UOITFA on this path-breaking win, and thanks the association for its leadership in improving the collective bargaining environment in the university sector.

New collective agreement for University of Toronto Faculty Association

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The University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) and the administration at the University of Toronto have reached a two-year agreement. The agreement includes competitive wage increases and extensive benefit improvements in areas such as vision, dental, hearing aids, paramedical, and mental health benefits. In addition, UTFA’s agreement includes improvements in maternity, parental, and adoption leave EI top ups, as well as paid gender affirmation leave for members engaged in treatments and procedures related to gender affirmation. Finally, UTFA achieved increases in Days for Librarians to be used per existing practice.

After four years, Canadian Military Colleges Faculty Association reaches collective agreement

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The Canadian Military Colleges Faculty Association (CMCFA) has reached an agreement with the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada. The faculty association had been without an agreement since 2014. During the intervening years, their employer continuously stalled and threatened not to honour a previously agreed to memoranda of understanding. This resulted in an Unfair Labour Practice complaint from the faculty association.

After assurances that the employer would honour the memoranda of understanding for the life of the agreement, the parties were able to come to an agreement. The agreement contains across-the-board salary increases competitive with other faculty associations and an understanding that the faculty association will participate in the Employee Wellness Support Program to negotiate new employee wellness provisions into the collective agreement.

OCUFA plans Queen’s Park Advocacy Day for November

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In an effort to build stronger relationships with new and re-elected MPPs, OCUFA will be holding its annual Advocacy Day in the fall rather than the spring this year. On November 13, professors and academic librarians from across Ontario will converge on Queen’s Park to share their priorities for the province’s universities.

Over the next few months, the government, and Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in particular, are expected to formalize their plans for the universities and colleges sector. Aside from passing legislation to end the York University strike and an election campaign declaration that university funding should be tied to freedom of speech, the Progressive Conservative government has not revealed any additional details of its agenda for postsecondary education.

Ontario faculty will use Advocacy Day as an opportunity to make the case for renewed investment in public university funding, addressing precarity in the university system, and new full-time faculty hiring, in order to improve the quality of education for university students.

More details about the event will be made available in the coming months.

New collective agreements reached by faculty associations across Ontario

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Carleton University Academic Staff Association

The Carleton University Academic Staff Association (CUASA) has reached a four-year agreement with their university administration. CUASA achieved across-the-board salary and career development increases competitive with other faculty associations, along with a lump sum payment upon ratifying the agreement. A territorial acknowledgment will also be placed at the front of the new collective agreement, recognizing the Carleton campus’s location on the traditional land of the Algonquin people.

CUASA negotiated significant positive changes to the tenure and promotion process by making the dual-track process clearer and more transparent. Progress was made alleviating workload concerns by increasing research days for professional librarians, clarifying course credit values for instructors, expanding the definition of service, and formally recognizing the supervision of graduate and undergraduate students, directed studies, and tutorials as part of workload.

CUASA was also able to negotiate the constitution of committees to examine the use of teaching dossiers to determine teaching effectiveness, to examine and make recommendations on the Instructor rank, and to make recommendations on digitally-based courses. Further, an independent expert will be brought in to study the pay equity situation at Carleton and make a report to the university president in one year. From there, the president will have six months to provide the university’s plan to address any gender pay inequities that are found. CUASA will also be continuing their pension discussions with the Carleton administration.

Finally, CUASA negotiated improvements to its benefits plan in areas including dental care, vision care, orthotics benefits, and massage therapy, as well as achieving increases in compassionate leave days and changes to parental leave in line with current legislation.

Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa

The Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa (APUO) has reached a three-year agreement with their employer. The faculty association achieved across-the-board salary increases competitive with other faculty associations. The agreement also contains provisions for improving the Extended Health Plan by capping the annual out-of-pocket maximum payments for drugs covered under the plan.

APUO also improved equity language within the agreement, introduced changes to parental leave provisions in line with current legislation, and secured professional leave for Continuing Special Appointment Professors. Most importantly, the faculty association successfully protected minimum faculty complement numbers.

Northern Ontario School of Medicine Academic & Professional Staff Union

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine Academic & Professional Staff Union (Unit 1, OPSEU 677/NOSMFSA) has reached a four-year agreement with their employer. The faculty union achieved across-the-board salary increases competitive with other faculty unions and associations, salary parity adjustment provisions for years 3 and 4, as well as PTR improvements for faculty, librarians, and professional staff.

The agreement contains an anomaly fund to address salary gaps and benefits improvements for vision and dental coverage. The union also achieved increases to bereavement leave, improved harassment and equity language, and changes to pregnancy, parental, and compassionate leave in line with current legislation, along with other improvements.

St. Jerome’s University Academic Staff Association

Full-time members of the St. Jerome’s University Academic Staff Association (SJUASA) have reached a five-year agreement with their university administration. The faculty association achieved across-the-board salary increases competitive with other faculty associations, as well as an $850 increase to each member’s base salary to maintain parity with University of Waterloo faculty.

Among other achievements, the agreement counters the growing trend towards precarity within the academy by waiving the right of first refusal on overload courses, ensuring the increased availability of positions for contract faculty. Furthermore, good headway was made to improve conditions for Lecturers: The salary floor was raised, course load was reduced, and a Teaching Renewal Term was created wherein every six years Lecturers qualify for two consecutive terms free from teaching. The faculty association also successfully improved conditions for librarians by creating the ranks of Assistant Librarian, Associate Librarian, and Librarian, while identifying the qualifications necessary for promotion.

OCUFA statement on back-to-work legislation tabled by Ontario Government

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The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) strongly condemns the tabling of back-to-work legislation by the new Ontario government aimed at the striking members of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3903 (CUPE 3903). We firmly support the rights of all academic workers to fair negotiations and good-faith collective bargaining, and are concerned with any attempts by government to interfere with the bargaining process.

This legislation marks the third time the Ontario government has attempted to interfere in public sector bargaining within the past year. The back-to-work legislation that ended last fall’s strike at Ontario colleges breached the constitutionally protected rights of workers to freely negotiate their agreements, and this new legislation will do the same. These actions undermine the collective bargaining process and encourage employers to avoid meaningful engagement in negotiations, resulting in longer future strikes and employers who stonewall while waiting for government bailouts.

OCUFA is particularly concerned with the clause in the “Back to Class” Act that prohibits the arbitrator from including any provisions that might protect employees from being discharged or disciplined for exercising their constitutional rights. Such a provision unduly ties the hands of the arbitrator and works against the principles of reconciliation and healing that are important for all parties as they try to move on. The arbitration and remediation processes should focus on resolving the issues and points of conflict between the two parties, and not encourage targeting and punishment of individual members of the bargaining unit.

Recent strikes and bargaining impasses at postsecondary education institutions are products of government underfunding and problematic hiring practices. The increasing number of precarious positions and erosion of working conditions on our university and college campuses are direct results of such practices.

The provincial government should focus on addressing and resolving these systemic issues through a sustainable and informed approach. Growing precarity, deteriorating working conditions, and the threats they pose to educational quality can only be resolved with commitment and investment from both postsecondary institutions and the Ontario government in consultation with workers. These challenges have not, and will never be resolved by undermining constitutionally protected collective bargaining rights.

Significant arbitration decision on use of student questionnaires for teaching evaluation

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A recent arbitration award between the Ryerson Faculty Association and Ryerson University has established an important precedent for faculty associations, and lends support to others who have been arguing that student questionnaires are deeply problematic instruments for the purpose of evaluating faculty members’ teaching effectiveness.

It is telling that “student evaluations of teaching” or SETs, as the arbitrator chooses to call them, have been a “live issue” between the university and the Ryerson Faculty Association for fifteen years. In that time, not only have SETs been a recurrent point of contention for other faculty associations for reasons similar to those addressed in the arbitration, but other grounds for concern have come to the fore. In response, OCUFA established a working group to examine “SETs” and their use, broaching a number of issues, including some that were not before the arbitrator for the Ryerson decision.

Arbitrator William Kaplan lends critical momentum with his award. He accepted the expert evidence of Professors Philip Stark and Richard Freishtat that student evaluations of teaching cannot be used to assess teaching effectiveness. Kaplan’s award, and Freishtat’s and Stark’s pivotal reports are available online, and summarized as follows.

While Mr. Kaplan does find that SETs can continue to be used in the context of tenure and promotion decisions, he asserts that they cannot be used for the purposes of measuring teaching effectiveness for promotion or tenure.

He accepts that SETs do have value as the principal source of information from students about their experience. However, he states that, while SETs are “easy to administer and have an air of objectivity,” insofar as assessing teaching effectiveness they are “imperfect at best and downright biased and unreliable at worst.”

The evidence provided by Stark and Freishtat shows that SET results are skewed by a long list of factors, including personal characteristics (such as race, gender, accent, age, and physical attractiveness) and course characteristics (including class size, subject matter, traditional teaching vs innovative pedagogy, etc.).

The lack of validity (“reliability” in the arbitrator’s award) of SET results is further complicated when SET results are reduced to averages and then compared with other faculty members, the Department, Faculty, and the University. Mr. Kaplan finds “the evidence is clear, cogent and compelling that averages establish nothing relevant or useful about teaching effectiveness.” The use of averages is fundamentally and irreparably flawed. He concludes that only frequency distribution reporting is meaningful.

The arbitrator accepted the experts’ conclusion that the best way to assess teaching effectiveness is through the careful assessment of the teaching dossier and in-class peer evaluations. SETs may be ubiquitous, but this does not serve as a justification for over-reliance on a flawed tool.

In addition to identifying several items for the parties to work on together (developing guidelines, modes of presenting results, and a successor questionnaire) and requiring discontinuation of online questionnaires in stipulated situations, Arbitrator Kaplan ordered that the:

  • Ryerson Faculty Association Collective Agreement be amended to ensure that SET results are not used in measuring teaching effectiveness for promotion or tenure;
  • numerical rating system be replaced with an alphabetical one;
  • summary question of overall effectiveness be removed from the questionnaire;
  • parties ensure that administrators and committee members charged with evaluating faculty are educated in the inherent and systemic biases in SETs.

The arbitrator declared that “a high standard of justice, fairness and due process is self-evidently required” given the impact that SETs can have on faculty. OCUFA also believes that this standard applies given the impact that SETs can have on student learning.

OCUFA has been using the term Student Questionnaires on Courses and Teaching (SQCTs) to describe these evaluations. When it releases its report in October, the OCUFA Working Group on SQCTs will have more to say with respect to the methodological, ethical, and human rights implications of student questionnaires.

References:

Acknowledgement: This story incorporates and adapts a summary prepared by Emma Phillips, Partner at Goldblatt Partners, LLP.

Merrilee Fullerton appointed the new minister of Training, Colleges and Universities

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On June 29th, Merrilee Fullerton was appointed Minister of the newly retitled Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, in the new Premier’s Cabinet. Minister Fullerton is a first-term Progressive Conservative MPP from the riding of Kanata-Carleton. She is an alumna of the University of Ottawa’s medical school and a formerly practicing doctor.

Ms. Fullerton does not have any previous professional background in the field of postsecondary education and it remains unclear what the PC government and Minister Fullerton’s plans are for the sector, outside of the previously announced freedom of speech protection measures.

OCUFA is hoping to meet with Minister Fullerton in the coming weeks to discuss her vision for the future of higher education in Ontario and current issues facing the higher education system, including the rise in precarious jobs and the need for government re-investment in universities.

Faculty Association Contingent Joins Thousands to Rally for Decent Work

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On Saturday, June 16, 2018, a contingent from faculty associations across Ontario joined thousands who gathered in front of the Ministry of Labour at 400 University Ave. in downtown Toronto and marched to Queen’s Park. Themed as “WE the people”, the rally delivered a strong message to the incoming Doug Ford government to keep its hands off public services and to not undermine the hard-fought rights of the precarious workers and minimum wage earners, particularly the new labour laws passed under Bill 148. Prior to the election period and during the PC leadership race, Doug Ford went on record speaking against new changes to labour law introduced under Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, as well as the plan to increase the Ontario minimum wage to $15 an hour. The PC caucus also unanimously voted against Bill 148 at its final hearing.

The rally was organized by $15 and Fairness and the Ontario Federation of Labour. It featured a wide array of speakers including Naomi Klein, co-author of Canada’s Leap Manifesto, Chris Buckley, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, Sandy Hudson, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Toronto, Dr. Ritika Goel, member of the Decent Work and Health Network & OHIP for All, Gobinder Singh Randhawa, chair of the Ontario Sikh and Gurudwara Council, Anita Agrawal, member of the Better Way Alliance, and Sarah Jama, co-founder of Disability Justice Network of Ontario.

The rally for Decent Work marks the first big public demonstration to take place since the election of a PC majority government under Doug Ford and has sent a loud and clear message to the incoming government. OCUFA has been a strong supporter of the Fight for $15 and Fairness movement and has advocated tirelessly, through its Fairness for Contract Faculty campaign, for the rights of contract faculty and campus workers to fair employment, equal pay and job security.

Equal Pay for Equal Work Now: OCUFA Joins College Contract Faculty Meeting on Bill 148

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OCUFA was pleased to join the College CAAT-A contract faculty and Fight for $15 & Fairness on June 12, 2018, for an event entitled “Equal Pay for Equal Work Now: Equal Pay for Contract Faculty under Bill 148”. Approximately 100 Ontario contract faculty and college faculty union representatives attended this event to discuss the new rights available to contract faculty under Bill 148.

The event was the first step toward creating a broad coalition of university and college contract faculty to lead the charge against precarity in post-secondary education and fight for fairness for all contract faculty province-wide.

The evening began with welcoming remarks from the event hosts including OCUFA’s chair of Contract Faculty and Faculty Complement Committee, Kimberly Ellis-Hale. Following an overview of contract faculty’s new rights under Bill 148 and the process for filing equal pay complaints with the Ministry of Labour by a legal expert from Parkdale Legal Clinic and equal pay activists from the $15 & Fairness campaign, the discussion centered on different ways and strategies for enforcing these rights, particularly the right to equal pay for contract faculty.

The Fight for $15 & Fairness campaign and the movement they have built has made great advances in recent months with the passage of new legislation in Bill 148 that will bring more fairness to Ontario workplaces. Among these changes is new equal pay legislation for contract, part-time, temporary and casual workers, which came into force for non-union workers on April 1, 2018 and will be implemented for unionized workers on the earlier of their collective agreement expiration or January 1, 2020.

OCUFA remains committed to the fight to achieve fairness for contract faculty and will work with partners in the college sector in leading and supporting the campaign for equal pay for contract faculty.

New issue of Academic Matters examines importance of public funding for Ontario’s universities

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Ontario’s public postsecondary education system has been evolving for over a century. Core to its development has been a foundation of robust public funding delivered primarily through the provincial government.

The government’s approach to university funding has profound implications for the student experience and research contributions. A government that makes university funding a priority and maintains a high level of public investment is not just investing in institutions and educational outcomes, but in people, their communities, and our collective future.

This spring’s provincial election campaign presented a valuable opportunity to discuss these challenges, so in this issue of Academic Matters we explore why public funding is so important for our universities and how we can work together to make funding postsecondary education a priority for the next government.

The case for publicly funded universities
Graham Cox explains why Ontario’s universities are important public spaces that depend on robust public funding to thrive and how the structure of the funding model impacts their fundamental mandate.

It’s time to invest in a faculty renewal strategy for Ontario’s universities
Gyllian Phillips reflects on the stagnation of full-time faculty hiring at Ontario’s universities and makes a case for the government to invest in a robust faculty renewal strategy.

The public value of public funding for research
Jeff Noonan demonstrates how basic, curiosity-driven research continues to take a backseat to research linked to short-term commercial profit and says we must change how we invest in research.

What happened to the issue of postsecondary education?
André Turcotte and Heather Scott-Marshall discuss the ways that postsecondary education – an issue that affects a majority of Ontarians – could feature more prominently in provincial election campaigns.

Building Solidarity on Ontario’s university campuses
Nour Alideeb illustrates how university administrations often advance unpopular agendas by pitting students against faculty and describes how campus alliances can be used to better advocate for student and faculty interests.

Looking at the big picture: A breakdown of university funding in Ontario through the decades
In a two-page spread, Academic Matters explore the history of university funding in Ontario, and how its composition has changed over time.

Humour Matters: It’s time to make meaningless words great again
Steve Penfold provides a humourous perspective on funding rhetoric and how it might be turned to good use.

Divisions in the university commons yield dividends: A partial review of Peter MacKinnon’s University Commons Divided
In a web exclusive, Root Gorelick provides some thoughts on the new book University Commons, which explores governance debates on university campuses across Canada.

All of the above articles are free to read online, and previous issues of Academic Matters are always available at academicmatters.ca in addition to web exclusives, blog posts, and more.

Faculty Association Contingent Joins Thousands to Rally for Decent Work

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On Saturday, June 16, 2018, a contingent from faculty associations across Ontario joined thousands who gathered in front of the Ministry of Labour at 400 University Ave. in downtown Toronto and marched to Queen’s Park. Themed as “WE the people”, the rally delivered a strong message to the incoming Doug Ford government to keep its hands off public services and to not undermine the hard-fought rights of the precarious workers and minimum wage earners, particularly the new labour laws passed under Bill 148. Prior to the election period and during the PC leadership race, Doug Ford went on record speaking against new changes to labour law introduced under Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, as well as the plan to increase the Ontario minimum wage to $15 an hour. The PC caucus also unanimously voted against Bill 148 at its final hearing.

The rally was organized by $15 and Fairness and the Ontario Federation of Labour. It featured a wide array of speakers including Naomi Klein, co-author of Canada’s Leap Manifesto, Chris Buckley, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, Sandy Hudson, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Toronto, Dr. Ritika Goel, member of the Decent Work and Health Network & OHIP for All, Gobinder Singh Randhawa, chair of the Ontario Sikh and Gurudwara Council, Anita Agrawal, member of the Better Way Alliance, and Sarah Jama, co-founder of Disability Justice Network of Ontario.

The rally for Decent Work marks the first big public demonstration to take place since the election of a PC majority government under Doug Ford and has sent a loud and clear message to the incoming government. OCUFA has been a strong supporter of the Fight for $15 and Fairness movement and has advocated tirelessly, through its Fairness for Contract Faculty campaign, for the rights of contract faculty and campus workers to fair employment, equal pay and job security.

What the 2018 election results mean for Ontario’s professors and academic librarians

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On June 7, the Ontario voters elected a Progressive Conservative majority government led by Doug Ford. This election outcome has a number of important implications for professors and academic librarians in the province and will pose several challenges and opportunities for the university sector over the next four years.

During the election, OCUFA analyzed the higher education platforms of the Ontario PC, NDP, and Liberal parties, posted their responses to OCUFA’s party survey, and produced a report card evaluating the platforms of the different parties. Our analysis was based on a set of assessment criteria that included each party’s approach to university funding, faculty renewal, precarious academic work, and access to postsecondary education.

The Ontario PC platform

The Ontario PC platform was silent on almost all postsecondary issues, and did not provide a plan for postsecondary education in Ontario. It did not include any reference to addressing underfunding for postsecondary education or  the need for a faculty renewal strategy in the province. However, the platform statement did emphasize the PC party’s belief that Ontario has a “spending problem”. Such a statement should be of grave concern when it comes to public funding for all public services, including postsecondary education. Any cuts to university funding in this province would threaten the quality of education available to students, the teaching and research at our postsecondary institutions, and the good jobs and economic benefits universities provide.

On precarious work and fairness for contract faculty, the PC platform did not include any plans or references to how the party would address the problem of precarity on university and college campuses. However, prior to the election period and during the PC leadership race, Doug Ford was on record speaking against new changes to labour law introduced under Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, as well as the plan to increase the Ontario minimum wage to $15 an hour. This approach, coupled with the fact that the PC caucus unanimously voted against Bill 148 at its third and final hearing, is of serious concern to OCUFA.

The one area where the PC platform is clear about its plans for postsecondary education is their promise to mandate that universities uphold free speech on campus and in the classroom. The platform does not expand on this promise or explain how such a mandate would be enforced. However, in previous announcements, the PCs noted their plan would tie government funding for public universities to free speech by expanding the mandate for the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) to include a complaints and investigations process to evaluate speech violations on campus.

Moving forward, what can we expect?

We expect the Progressive Conservative government to move swiftly to implement their platform promises, and despite postsecondary education being largely omitted from the PC platform, it is difficult to imagine that some of the cost savings the government is seeking won’t come from education.

There are two important things to keep in mind as this new government’s plans take shape. First, that without a plan in their platform, the Progressive Conservatives were not elected with any firm mandate to make substantial changes to Ontario’s postsecondary education system. Second, that according to a public poll commissioned by OCUFA, a majority of those who voted for the PCs believe that larger class sizes and less one-on-one student-faculty engagement – both symptoms of underfunding – have a negative impact on education quality. The same poll also found a majority of PC supporters oppose universities hiring more contract faculty on short-term contracts instead of full-time professors. These issues will only be exacerbated with further cuts.

These facts alone won’t change the government’s approach, but they provide an opportunity to remind the government that Ontarians of all political stripes support fairness for contract faculty and ensuring universities have the resources they need to provide the high quality education Ontario students deserve.

OCUFA has been a constant and strong advocate for fairness for contract faculty and the need to address the rise of precarious work across Ontario. This work is vital and will continue. We will continue to advocate the government to ensure that measures are taken to protect workers at Ontario’s universities and create pathways to job security for contract faculty.

We will also continue to oppose any plans to tie funding to outcomes or performance. Creating such a system of winners and losers creates scenarios where already well-resourced institutions will thrive and those institutions struggling to keep up are punished. Such an approach ultimately hurts students and threatens the quality of their education at universities from which funding is withheld. Government commitment to robust public funding for postsecondary education is essential for sustaining the capacity needed to ensure these contributions in the future.

In the upcoming months, as the new government is formed and there is more clarity on the government’s agenda, including any plans for the postsecondary system, OCUFA will be offering further analysis and engage in advocacy on behalf of faculty and academic librarians for the high-quality, well-resourced, affordable, and accessible university system that serves our students, our communities, and Ontario.

OCUFA pleased with Ontario Human Rights Tribunal decision supporting rights of older workers

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In 2006, the Ontario Human Rights Code was amended to prohibit mandatory retirement. However, this change was accompanied by new provisions that permitted employers to reduce or stop providing certain group benefits for workers when they turn 65.

In 2012, Wayne Talos, a high school teacher at the Grand Erie District School Board, commenced a proceeding at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal after his health and dental benefits were cut off when he turned 65. He challenged the constitutionality of the provisions that allowed for this, arguing that they violated his right to equal treatment on the basis of age.

As an occupational group, university professors are the most likely to work past 65. Consequently, the outcome of these proceedings were of significant concern for Ontario faculty. OCUFA applied for and was granted intervenor status in these proceedings, along with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, and the Ontario Elementary Catholic Teachers’ Association.

On May 18, 2018, the Tribunal released a decision finding that the Ontario Human Rights Code provisions being challenged breached the equality provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and were unconstitutional. While the Tribunal’s decision only applies to the Talos case, it creates an important precedent – especially for grievance arbitration. The decision will still need to be judicially reviewed and upheld for it to substantively impact existing law.

Faculty associations now have a strong basis on which to engage with employers and discuss what steps they are taking to bring their group benefit plans into compliance with the Ontario Human Rights Code as interpreted in the Talos case.

OCUFA is very pleased with the decision. We firmly believe that no one should be discriminated against based on their age and the Tribunal’s decision represents a significant victory for Ontario’s faculty. We will continue to defend the constitutional rights of Ontario’s professors and academic librarians.

Read the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s press release.

Read the full decision.

OCUFA’s 155th Board of Directors meeting

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On Saturday, May 12 and Sunday, May 13, OCUFA held its final Board of Directors meeting of the 2017-18 academic year. During the weekend, board members discussed the organization’s current priorities – good jobs and vibrant universities, university funding, and capacity building – with a focus on the postsecondary issues that were likely to receive the most attention in the provincial election. During a special lunchtime reception on the Saturday, board members and colleagues celebrated the winner of OCUFA’s Service Award and the Henry Mandelbaum Graduate Fellowship.

Priorities

OCUFA’s priorities for the 2017-18 academic year were developed to strategically align with those issues most likely to gain traction with the public and political parties in the lead-up to the provincial election. In addition to good jobs and university funding (detailed in OCUFA’s 2018 pre-budget submission), capacity building has been identified as an important means through which OCUFA can support the work of local faculty associations. University governance also continues to be a serious concern.

Good jobs and vibrant universities

One of OCUFA’s established long-term goals is a postsecondary education system where every academic job is a good job with fair compensation, reasonable workloads, access to benefits, and job security. Good jobs are essential for fostering vibrant and dynamic universities. This year, OCUFA has focused on three opportunities for improving the terms and conditions of employment at Ontario’s universities: fairness for contract faculty, faculty renewal, and pensions.

Fairness for contract faculty
In recent years, substantial progress has been made raising awareness about the challenges faced by contract faculty at Ontario universities, and OCUFA hopes to continue building momentum to close gaps in existing labour laws and achieving fairness for contract faculty.

On February 28, faculty, staff, and students from across Ontario participated in OCUFA’s third annual social media day of action in support of fairness for contract faculty and other precariously employed campus workers. Because of our work, the hashtags #Fairness4CF and #15andFairness were trending for much of the day.

OCUFA also participated in this spring’s Fight for $15 and Fairness Provincial Strategy Meeting, which featured many postsecondary stakeholders. Sessions focused on enforcing new equal pay provisions, organizing on campus, and bargaining after Bill 148.

Faculty renewal & panel presentation
In OCUFA’s 2018 pre-budget submission, a faculty renewal strategy was identified as a vital initiative for the government. Ideally, it would support new full-time tenure stream hiring, the replacement of retiring tenured faculty, and create pathways for contract faculty to full-time secure positions. A discussion moderated by Rahul Sapra (OCUFA’s Vice-President) and featuring Gyllian Phillips (OCUFA’s President), Richard Wellen (former President of the York University Faculty Association), Leslie Jermyn (Executive Director of the Queen’s University Faculty Association), and Jeff Tennent (Chair of OCUFA’s Collective Bargaining Committee) reviewed hiring practices at different universities, existing mechanisms for moving contract faculty into the tenure stream positions, the importance of equity when making hiring decisions, and the role of bargaining in determining faculty complement.

Pensions
For several years, OCUFA has worked with sector stakeholders on an initiative to build a new voluntary jointly sponsored pension plan (JSPP) for Ontario’s universities. The University of Toronto Faculty Association, Queen’s University Faculty Association, and University of Guelph Faculty Association have been working to finalize a JSPP intended to provide a secure and sustainable pension option for interested university faculty associations and staff unions in the province. As the pension environment shifts, OCUFA will continue to organize workshops and meetings to help all member associations reach their pension-related goals and expand their capacity to communicate pension issues at the local level.

University funding

OCUFA has held a long-standing goal of increasing public funding for universities to support high-quality postsecondary education in Ontario. Unfortunately, investment in Ontario’s universities has stagnated in recent years and there was no additional operating funding provided in this year’s budget. This remains a serious concern for OCUFA, and our hope is that the next government will make substantive new investments in postsecondary education to help Ontario close the funding gap with the rest of the country.

The provincial government continues to move forward with its efforts to update the university funding formula. However, it is doing so without any meaningful consultation with Ontario’s faculty. The government’s intent to tie university funding to performance according to a series of metrics is of great concern. OCUFA is focused on pushing back against this move towards performance-based funding and advocating for more substantive faculty consultation as part of the strategic mandate process through which these metrics and targets are being negotiated.

Capacity building

Ontario’s university faculty face serious challenges in their workplaces, including too few faculty to do the work, and too many precarious jobs at underfunded universities. OCUFA continues to support member associations with capacity building strategies that can be leveraged to build stronger unions and a university labour movement able to more effectively tackle these problems. Member engagement is an ongoing process and this year’s election has provided many excellent opportunities for faculty associations to engage their members and work with other campus groups to organize all-candidates debates that raise awareness of postsecondary issues.

Update on 2018 provincial election advocacy

The meeting featured a detailed update on OCUFA’s election work advocating for increased public university funding and good jobs for all academic workers. The discussion included a presentation on the results of OCUFA’s public opinion poll on precarious employment on university campuses and its perceived impacts on education quality, and the publicity tour OCUFA conducted to promote the poll results across Ontario.

Meeting participants were updated on faculty-organized advocacy events, including OCUFA’s annual advocacy day and social media day of action, and the many election events being organized by faculty associations across Ontario, including events hosted by the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association, the Faculty Association at the University of Waterloo, the Lakehead University Faculty Association, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Faculty Association, the McMaster University Faculty Association, and the Trent University Faculty Association.

Updates were also provided about the election resources being produced for OCUFA’s website, including party platform analyses, questionnaires on postsecondary issues, and the party platform report card.

Following the discussion of OCUFA’s election work, Greg Lyle, President of Innovative Research Inc., provided a comprehensive presentation of new poll results and what they could mean for the dynamics of the provincial election campaign and its possible outcomes.

Creation of Investigative Journalism Fellowship and Grievance Award

At the Board Meeting, members voted to create two new awards: one that will encourage additional investigative journalism focused on postsecondary issues, and another to recognize the work of those who defend faculty rights through the grievance process.

The annual OCUFA/Academic Matters Investigative Journalism in Higher Education Fellowship will seek to encourage in-depth reporting about new developments in postsecondary education. Available to full-time, freelance, and student journalists, each year the fellowship will provide financial support for a project of merit that will explore important or underreported developments in higher education.

The new Grievance Award will recognize the contributions of faculty and faculty association staff who have made remarkable efforts to uphold their union’s collective agreement and defend the rights of professors and academic librarians at their institution. The award will be given on a biennial basis.

OCUFA executive elections

During the meeting, the OCUFA Board of Directors elected the organization’s executive for the 2018-19 academic year.

As of July 1, the new executive will be comprised of:

President:
Gyllian Phillips (Nipissing University Faculty Association)

Vice-President:
Rahul Sapra (Ryerson Faculty Association)

Treasurer:
Ann Bigelow (University of Western Ontario Faculty Association)

Members-at-large:
Diane Beauchemin (Queen’s University Faculty Association)
Glen Copplestone (King’s University College Faculty Association)
Sue Wurtele (Trent University Faculty Association)

Chair of the Board:
Kate Lawson (Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo)

Celebration of 2018 recipients of OCUFA Service Award and Henry Mandelbaum Graduate Fellowship

Finally, a special luncheon ceremony during the meeting celebrated the recipients of the 2018 OCUFA Service Awards and Henry Mandelbaum Graduate Fellowship for Excellence in Social Sciences, Humanities, or Arts.

Wilfrid Laurier University Professor Judy Bates and Laurentian University Professor Jean-Charles Cachon were honoured with OCUFA Service Awards for their work strengthening OCUFA and advancing the interests of professors and academic librarians across the province. Queen’s University PhD student Galen Watts was recognized with a Henry Mandelbaum Fellowship for his excellence is scholarship and community engagement.

The luncheon concluded with a special presentation from 2017 Mandelbaum Fellowship winner Laura Jane Brubacher. Laura shared her work studying the challenges faced by pregnant Inuit women who are removed from their families, are forced to travel large distances, and spend months living in boarding houses before giving birth in southern hospitals.

The next OCUFA Board of Directors meeting will be held October 20-21, 2018.