New agreement for McMaster Librarians

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Congratulations to the McMaster University Academic Librarians’ Association (MUALA) for recently ratifying a new collective agreement! Members made significant monetary gains in keeping with their bargaining priorities of bringing McMaster librarians’ working conditions closer to the average for academic librarians across Ontario, significant benefits gains, and improvements for members with contractually limited appointments.

 Following an initial increase to floors and ceilings in year one, members will receive annual across-the-board increases of 3% during the 2024-2028 agreement. Additionally, they received market adjustments to salaries, floors and ceilings in three out of the four years.

On the bargaining mandate priority of equitable benefits for precariously employed members, all members (regardless of probationary status), are now eligible for paid sick leave, Long-Term Disability, and membership in the group registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) from their date of hire. Further, starting in year three, members with contractually limited appointments will be eligible to receive a professional development allowance.

Retirement and benefits improvements include an increase in the group RRSP contribution rate for both employer and employee from 7 to 8%, enhanced vision care and pregnancy leave provisions, and a new health care spending account.  

OCUFA succeeds in getting universities exempted from harmful bankruptcy laws

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TORONTO, June 20, 2024 – After years of advocacy, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) and its allies have successfully secured passage of federal legislation that will exclude public universities from the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) and Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA).

OCUFA welcomes news that the House of Commons Bill C-59, which included the amendments to CCAA and BIA, passed the third reading in the federal Senate on June 19 and is awaiting Royal Assent to be passed into law.

“Public universities are not businesses and should not be treated as such, and this bill is a crucial piece of legislation that will protect university students, faculty and staff from corporate-style restructuring policies that prioritize creditors over the public interest,” said Jenny Ahn, Executive Director of OCUFA.

The news comes more than three years after Laurentian University filed for bankruptcy under the CCAA and BIA. The unprecedented move led to devastating program cuts and jeopardized the futures of nearly 1000 students. It also resulted in massive job losses for faculty and staff and disastrous ripple effects in Sudbury, Ontario, with an estimated economic cost of over $100 million.

“We saw to it that the catastrophe caused by Laurentian’s bankruptcy will never happen again. Years of OCUFA campaigning have paid off, and together with our allies, our advocacy has resulted in a more secure future for our vital public universities,” said Nigmendra Narain, President of OCUFA.

“We thank the federal government for listening to OCUFA, its 30 member organizations, and its allies, to protect the educational institutions that set up our youth for success and drive economic growth and social development in our communities,” he said.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents more than 18,000 faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals in 30 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: media@ocufa.on.ca

Bill C 59 Progress Update – Success!

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After years of advocacy, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) and its allies have successfully secured passage of federal legislation that will exclude public universities from the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) and Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA).

OCUFA welcomes news that the House of Commons Bill C-59, which included the amendments to CCAA and BIA, passed the third reading in the federal Senate on June 19 and is awaiting Royal Assent to be passed into law.

Read the full release here.

Academic community members recognized for outstanding work by OCUFA Awards of Distinction

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TORONTO, June 18, 2024 –The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) extends a big congratulations to the 2023-24 Awards of Distinction recipients—members of the university community who exemplify the best qualities in teaching, librarianship, scholarship, and collective bargaining at Ontario universities; and journalism on Canadian postsecondary education.

“The award recipients made significant contributions to the postsecondary sector, both on and off campus,” said Nigmendra Narain, OCUFA President. “It ‘takes a village’ to build and maintain a thriving university community, and that’s why the awards reflect the multifaceted professions in the sector.”

This year, award recipients include a professor who dedicated over a decade to improving equity initiatives on campus; an investigative journalist exposing the overuse of non-disclosure agreements at universities; and a faculty association member who steered successful rounds of collective bargaining under challenging circumstances.

AWARD RECIPIENTS

The recipients of the OCUFA Teaching and Academic Librarianship Awards, recognizing excellence in education and librarianship at Ontario universities, are:

  • Ayesha Khan, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University (Teaching Award)
  • Mavis Morton, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, University of Guelph (Teaching Award)
  • Heather MacDonald, Health and Biosciences Librarian, MacOdrum Library, Carleton University (Academic Librarianship Award)

The OCUFA Henry Mandelbaum Graduate Fellowships for Excellence in Social Sciences, Humanities, or Arts recognizes candidates with demonstrated academic excellence, provided significant community service, and showed exceptional academic promise in their university careers. The recipients are:

  • Noah Adams (Doctoral), Adult Education and Community Development, University of Toronto
  • Nida Ansari (Masters), Higher Education, University of Guelph

The recipient of the OCUFA Mark Rosenfeld Fellowship in Higher Education Journalism, which supports a reporter to pursue in-depth and innovative journalism on higher education, is:

  • Lauren Phillips, Education Reporter, The Coast Halifax

The OCUFA Equity and Social Justice Committee Award celebrates the outstanding contributions of OCUFA members whose work has contributed meaningfully to the advancement of professors, academic librarians, and/or academic staff who are Indigenous, women, racialized, LGBTQ2S+, living with disabilities and/or belong to other historically marginalized groups. The recipient is:

  • Dolana Mogadime, Brock University Faculty Association (BUFA)

The OCUFA Lorimer Collective Bargaining Award honours and recognizes outstanding contributions to improving the terms and conditions of employment of Ontario university faculty through bargaining. This year’s recipient is:

  • Leslie Jermyn, Executive Director, Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA)

The recipient of the OCUFA Service Award, established to honour individuals who have done, or continue to do, exceptional work on behalf of OCUFA and its members, is:

  • Gyllian Phillips, Nipissing University Faculty Association (NUFA), OCUFA Past President, Past OCUFA Board Chair, and Member-at-Large (incoming)

The awards will be presented at the OCUFA Awards of Distinction event at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel on Saturday, October 26, 2024.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents more than 18,000 faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals in 30 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

OCUFA BOARD MOTION: Caste Discrimination

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WHEREAS the Caste system is rooted in classism and was reinforced through colonial practices and promotes discrimination against people born to lower castes, especially Dalit or ‘untouchables’;

WHEREAS the Caste system, while rooted in India, has travelled with the Indian diaspora and its effects are felt throughout the diasporic community in Canada including direct impacts on our own members who come from lower Castes;

In keeping with OHRC’s policy position on caste-based discrimination dated October 26, 2023, BE IT RESOLVED THAT OCUFA condemns the Caste system, Caste-based discrimination and colorism and calls on our member organizations to include Caste-based discrimination in their respective anti-discrimination policies and collective agreements.   

Full-time faculty at Algoma University ratify new agreement

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Congratulations to the members of the Algoma University Faculty Association Full-Time unit for negotiating their 2023-2026 agreement, ratified in early March. The faculty association is represented by OPSEU/SEFPO Local 685. Notable increases were achieved on salary, with Across-The-Board (ATB) increases of six per cent, four per cent, and three per cent respectively over each of the three years. This is the association’s first agreement following the Bill 124 moderation period, and therefore increases reflect the losses suffered due to the wage restraint legislation on a go-forward basis. Other compensation provisions include an early retirement incentive that provides access to the same insured health and dental plans as for those actively employed. A joint committee has also been established to discuss and analyze options regarding defined benefit and other types of pension plans given that most members are in a faculty Group RRSP arrangement.

Another set of gains worth highlighting is concerning the Indigenization, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (IEDI) mandate of the university. A land acknowledgement was negotiated into the agreement, and identifies the traditional territories of the Sault Ste. Marie, Brampton, and Timmins campuses. IEDI considerations are now included in appointment procedures. On tenure and promotion, a letter of understanding was negotiated that will allow a joint committee to review the structure and function of the Peer Review Committee regarding the University’s decanal structure, faculties, special mission, and IDEI objectives. Indigenous Ceremony expenses are now eligible for professional expense reimbursement.

On workload, there are new course releases related to external research grants and Speakers of Senate duties, as well as a stipend for service on faculty appointment and promotion and tenure committees. Members will also see improved teaching support effective Spring 2024.

In an important gain for members in Contract Limited Term Appointments (CLTA), those in their third year of such appointments are eligible to apply to transition into a Tenure-Track appointment in their department.

Faculty at Waterloo reaches compensation settlement

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Congratulations to members of the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) for their compensation settlement, awarded in a final offer selection process.  On April 12, 2024, Arbitrator Kevin Burkett selected the Association’s final offer over that of the University as more closely approximating what he would have awarded based on an analysis of the relevant considerations of CPI and comparator settlements.

Scale increases in the award are based on actual and forecasted CPI calculations, as well as on a catch-up amount based on scale erosion over the previous cycle relative to two key comparator universities (Queen’s and the University of Ottawa). These two components total an increase of 4.7 per cent in 2024-25 (3.9 per cent plus 0.8 per cent catch-up) and 3.6 per cent in 2025-26 (2.8 per cent plus 0.8 per cent catch-up). For 2026-27, the award provides a 2.22 per cent increase based on inflation, along with an automatic scale reopener (to add the appropriate level of catch-up for that year) with the current MOA dispute resolution mechanism. The argument for the reopener was that this would be a pattern-setting agreement and that it was too early to know the future effect on the sector of Arbitrator Eli Gedalof’s award of eight per cent to the University of Toronto for 2022-2023.

On benefits, the parties agreed to recommend the addition of a Health Care Spending Account (HCSA) of $300 per 12 months per active member, which can be accumulated over two years to a maximum of $600. The application of this HCSA is pending approval from the Pension and Benefits Committee.

The award also addressed salary structure, applying a three per cent increase (in addition to the scale increase) to floors, thresholds, and Selective Increase Units (SIU) in 2024.

The Arbitrator remains seized until the award is implemented.

Ontario university professors mark closure of historic women’s college

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TORONTO, April 30, 2024 – The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) recognizes the essential contributions of the Brescia Faculty Association (BFA) to the vibrant and unique educational experience at Brescia University College in advance of the institution’s closure on May 1, 2024.

“Brescia University College was Canada’s only women’s university college and it provided a singular educational experience to its students for more than 100 years,” said Nigmendra Narain, OCUFA President. “OCUFA is grateful to the BFA and its members for their commitment to service, teaching, and research in an exceptional liberal arts environment. We acknowledge their hard work—past and present—to serve their students.”

Western University will absorb Brescia programs and students. Some permanent and contract faculty from the BFA will join the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA). These members will carry out their teaching, research, and service responsibilities at Western.

However, Western prohibited some contract faculty members from transferring positions from Brescia.  

“OCUFA is glad that some BFA members will be welcomed into UWOFA as new Western faculty members so that they can continue their valuable teaching and librarianship work at Western,” said Narain. “We call on Western University to work meaningfully within collegial governance procedures and with UWOFA to ensure that the path forward for faculty will respect and align with existing collective agreements.”

OCUFA will continue to monitor Western University’s implementation of promises to establish a Brescia Legacy Fund for Brescia students and maintain an all-women and gender-non-conforming residence hall and student lounge on campus, among other pledged supports.

“At a time when the safety of women and trans people is increasingly threatened, equitable and safe spaces that once existed at Brescia must be preserved and enhanced in this new chapter,” said Jenny Ahn, OCUFA Executive Director. “OCUFA and UWOFA will continue to hold the University accountable for ensuring the safety and comfort of students through this process.”

About OCUFA: Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents more than 18,000 faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals in 30 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:
Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite, Communications Lead at media@ocufa.on.ca  

University professors say Ontario’s allocation of international student spots misses the big picture

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TORONTO, March 27, 2024 – The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations welcomed recent news that almost all international study permits will be allocated to Ontario’s publicly funded universities and colleges but warned that distributing study permits based solely on immediate labour market needs misses the big picture.

“Ontario’s public universities prepare students for the jobs and challenges of today and tomorrow, and teach vital critical thinking and research skills that drive lifelong careers,” said Nigmendra Narain, OCUFA President. “Restricting international study permits to current market needs ignores the very mission of a university education and will still perpetuate exploitative tuition practices. We urge the government to change course on this approach.”

The Minister of Colleges and Universities announced the study permit information in a news release Wednesday. The announcement also stated that colleges and universities will be required to provide housing options to accepted international students but provided no information on the process or funding allocation for meeting this requirement.

Colleges will be most affected by the change in study permit allotment, but universities will also feel the impact, said Narain.

“Universities need more funding from the government to make up for any revenue shortfalls that will come from changes to international student enrollment and tuition freezes,” he said. “Ontario universities sit last in per-student funding in the country, far below the Canadian average. This chronic underfunding affects all students—and they deserve better.”

OCUFA is especially concerned that the government’s permit allocation does not restrict international student enrollment in partnership programs between public universities and private institutions, despite reports of bad actors in similar partnerships in the college sector.

“International students offer immense benefits to Ontario’s universities, communities, and economy, and we want them to thrive on our campuses,” said Jenny Ahn, OCUFA Executive Director. “For that to happen, the government needs step up and adequately fund our public universities to allow students to take full advantage of a university education.”

Ontario presented its solutions for revitalizing Ontario’s public universities in its 2024 pre-budget submission and called for renewed investment in public universities at its Queen’s Park Advocacy Day.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents more than 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 budget gets failing grade from university professors

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TORONTO, March 26, 2024 – The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations said the 2024 Ontario Budget gets a failing grade for not supporting the province’s public universities.

“This budget fails the test of investing in the long-term health of our world-class publicly funded universities,” said Nigmendra Narain, OCUFA President. “Universities are in a crisis that the province manufactured through chronic underfunding. It doesn’t have to be this way and Ontarians deserve much better.”

The budget, tabled today in Queen’s Park, included no new funding for universities, even though some Ontario universities are urgently sounding alarms and sadly pausing programs, and Ontario sits in last place in the country for per-student funding by a large margin, therein failing our students as well as faculty.

OCUFA was glad to see an extension of a freeze on tuition fees for postsecondary students, but the government did not invest in universities for this lost revenue, expecting universities to continue to do much more with much less.

The budget included a previously announced $1.3 billion for Ontario’s colleges and universities over the next three years. This drop-in-the bucket is less than half of the amount recommended by the government-appointed Blue-Ribbon panel and eight times less than OCUFA’s recommendation for university funding to reach just the Canadian funding average.

That funding announcement included $15 million directly to private for-profit companies with no expertise or ties to public postsecondary education tasked with finding “efficiencies” through reviewing data on university finances that is already available and reported by universities.

“The government is giving gifts to private consulting firms instead of reducing red tape and administrative burdens for universities that are already highly efficient in their operations,” said Narain. “Ontarians deserve transparency and accountability from their government, not unnecessary spending on private interference in our public universities.”

The government also announced plans to open a medical school in Vaughan affiliated with York University. However, the Budget contained few details about long-term funding for the institution or plans for hiring medical school faculty.

“Faculty, students, administrators, and staff groups are all telling the government the same thing: We need more funding for universities and we need it right now,” said Jenny Ahn, OCUFA Executive Director. “Chronic underfunding hurts students at universities now, and it will negatively affect the experiences of the next generation of students and Ontarians who work on campuses.”

OCUFA is hopeful that the government will also address the inequities of Bill 124 wage restrictions for those in the postsecondary sector.

“Premier Ford recognized the inequality created by Bill 124 wage restraints when his government repealed the legislation. Now it’s time to right the wrongs of this unconstitutional legislation,” said Ahn.

OCUFA laid out its recommendations for revitalizing Ontario’s public universities in its pre-budget submission and held meetings with MPPs and political staffers during its March 20 Advocacy Day, calling for renewed investment into our world-class public university system.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents over 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

OCUFA brings university issues to Queen’s Park during Advocacy Day

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Faculty, academic librarians, and academic professionals from universities across Ontario attended OCUFA Advocacy Day on March 20 at the Ontario Legislature to advocate for more robust, sustainable government investment in Ontario’s public university system.

OCUFA ambassadors representing more than 18,000 faculty, academic librarians, and academic professionals, conducted meetings with Members of Provincial Parliament and their staff from all parties and ridings across the province. Many MPPs represent ridings that house universities or are adjacent to a university city or town.

OCUFA also hosted an evening reception in the Queen’s Park Dining Room. Speakers included MPP Peggy Sattler, Official Opposition Critic for Colleges and Universities, MPP Karen McCrimmon, Liberal Critic for Colleges and Universities, and MPP Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario. OCUFA representatives, MPPs, journalists, and political staffers also attended and enjoyed refreshments and informal conversation.

Throughout the day, OCUFA ambassadors shared updates and photos from their meetings on social media

In their meetings with MPPs, OCUFA delegates discussed critical issues facing Ontario’s universities and offered solutions for a thriving university sector, including:

  • Increasing funding for Ontario universities by compounded annual increases of 11.75 per cent for five years to bring Ontario up to the national average in per-student funding
  • Helping Ontario universities meet and enhance their missions through sustained, long-term investment, to ensure universities can thrive as educational, economic, and cultural hubs in Ontario communities
  • Scrapping the proposed performance-based funding model for universities
  • Supporting the establishment of a strategy for faculty renewal and pathways for contract faculty towards permanent jobs and stability in their professions

Advocacy Day continues to be a productive and constructive experience for OCUFA and its 31 members organizations to forge connections with elected officials and conduct our ongoing advocacy work in support of a well-funded, world-class public university system.