Across the college system, Local Executive Committees (LEC) have been encouraging their memberships to vote NO on September 23rd’s contract ratification vote.

The following LECs have formally recommended rejection of the tentative agreement:

Algonquin

George Brown

Mohawk

Niagara

Centennial

Georgian

Fleming

Humber

St. Clair

Sault

Cambrian

Containing roughly half the colleges in the system, this list shows that a significant number of union stewards feel that the deal before us is a giant step backward.  It also shows that acceptance of the deal is far from a fait accompli.  There is a very good chance that the deal can be rejected, and that our bargaining team can be sent back to the table with the strength of the membership behind them.

It is hard to see how rejection of this offer and further negotiation could fail to improve the situation we now face. Management can still force a final offer vote, or impose a contract, but would they do this on terms that the membership has already turned down?  This is highly unlikely; and as a result, even if management does force a vote or impose, it would have to be on an agreement that is better than the one currently before us.

Of course, if the faculty bargaining team goes to the membership for a strike mandate, then achieving a deal with limited gains and NO concessions becomes very possible.  We must remember that faculty bargaining teams have gone to members for strike votes in 13 of 19 previous negotiations.  This is what unions do when management is seeking to strip their hard-earned rights and weaken their collective agreements.  This is what the faculty bargaining team should be doing in this round, when management has so clearly dismissed our concerns about quality education, academic freedom, full-time staffing, and job security for partial load.

We have to realize that this round is far from over, and that our options are far from exhausted.  If we vote NO on September 23rd, we can turn this situation on its head, and show management that college faculty are serious about our demands.

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The Proposed Deal Affects our Foundations

The definition of ours, and any union must be able to define:

Who we are – the bargaining unit

&

What we do – the work

Who we are – Articles 1 and 2 of our Collective Agreement do just that. Article 1 defines the union as the exclusive bargaining agent for teachers, counsellors and librarians. However, it is Article 2 that gives it teeth. It says that the college must give preference to full-time positions. Article 2 creates who we are.

The proposed settlement would add the condition of ‘economic viability’ along with a 3 year moratorium on grieving article 2, foundationally diminishing who we are.

What we do – Article 11 is the longest in our Collective Agreement as it sets out the SWF in detail and so defines our working conditions. Indeed article 11 has grown longer as we better define and defend what our conditions are.

The proposed settlement removes a cap on what we do – no limit to sections. It also proposes that the length of your working day can be voluntarily longer than 8 hours, putting the onus on the individual instead of giving blanket protection from the collective agreement.  Removing and weakening these limits would foundationally affect what we do.

Conceding on these foundations not only weakens the union, but opens us up for more in three year’s time.

The other basic about unions is that they are democratic.

The final say is up to the members at the upcoming ratification vote.

On Monday, September 8, the OPSEU 240 Local Executive Committee (LEC), representing faculty at Mohawk College, unanimously passed the following resolution:

“The Local Executive Committee of OPSEU Local 240 recommends that our members NOT accept this offer and support the Bargaining Team in returning to the table.”

Since this time, LECs at Niagara, George Brown, and Algonquin colleges have also passed resolutions asking for their members to reject the current management offer, and to send the team back to negotiate a better deal. Other locals seem poised to follow suit.

These unanimous resolutions not only reveal the serious nature of the concessions contained in the current agreement, but also show that college faculty will not stand idly by while their collective agreement is hollowed out, and their bargaining unit decimated.

What kind of message could we send about the worth of our students, the value of education, and the dignity of our work if LECs system-wide would join the call to reject this offer?

One can only hope…

Below is a reprint of an email sent by JP Hornick, Chief Steward Local 556 to the rest of the local chief stewards, followed by additional comments:

Why I will vote no on the Memorandum of Settlement

To all my fellow Chief Stewards:

First, to be clear, I am writing to you in my capacity as a chief steward, and not in my role as DivEx chair.

Second, I will not be addressing the specific problems with the memorandum of settlement that is before us.  Those have already been discussed in detail by both JP Lamarche in his email to the group, and Kevin MacKay in the blog oncollegesnow.com.  Overall, I agree with both of their critiques of this settlement in terms of its impact on our locals and our members.

Instead, I just want to take a moment to explain why I won’t be recommending this settlement to my members.  As you may remember, I was on the 2012 bargaining team, and have a bit of insight into the processes and pitfalls that are part of negotiations with our employer.

I know that the team worked hard and I thank them for their time and energy.  The concerns I have are not with the team itself.

Rather, my concern is with the new approach to bargaining in CAAT-A this round represents.  Historically, CAAT-A has NEVER bargained using a trade-offs model as we did this round.  Our approach has always been a no concessions model.  In other words, we have entered into bargaining using a model that we have a strong collective agreement, but that gains are necessary to keep it so.  Indeed, we used this approach with the knowledge that both sides would be seeking improvements, and that no concessions were necessary in order to make those improvements.

As a result, we have a history of significant gains with few strikes (3 in 40 years) and without concessions. Our only backward steps came from arbitrator awards, or the 51% employer-forced vote.  These were imposed, not bargained away, losses, despite dangerous threats from our employer.  This also meant that the employer has had to take us seriously at the table, knowing that we were not likely to give in on our mandate from our members.

This round marks a very troubling shift toward a different kind of bargaining, both practically and philosophically.  Next time we enter bargaining, our employer will expect that we are willing to make concessions from the start, and they will push for more.  They have a long game in mind, and so must we.

If we hope to not only hold ground but make gains in 2017, then we absolutely need to show our strength in the ratification vote.  The team did their best in a difficult climate, and now it’s our turn.

Voting no on this deal will show the colleges that we are not willing to be pushed into bad deals. While it is quite likely that the settlement will be ratified by our members, it is imperative that it not be by a large margin.  Anything we can do to reduce the percentage of yes votes will be a step toward a stronger future.

I encourage you to use your position as chief stewards to set a strong example.  Vote no on this memorandum and encourage your members to do the same.  It is not a rejection of our bargaining team, but a rejection of a settlement that is not good for us now or in the future. And, more importantly, it is the rejection of a bargaining model that will unnecessarily but inevitably diminish the hard-won rights of college faculty.

In solidarity,

JP Hornick

Chief Steward, Local 556

 

And here are some additional facts about CAAT-A bargaining: 

Another troubling aspect of this round is that in 19 previous negotiations, the CAAT-A team has never failed to seek a strike mandate from members in back to back rounds.  The team did not seek a mandate last round, and they have not chosen to this round either.  This sets a new precedent in which, in the face of serious concessions, faculty negotiators don’t turn to the members for the clear and public show of support that a strike mandate provides.

In 19 rounds there have been 13 strike votes, but only 3 strikes.  This shows that, far from heralding a strike, a strike vote is simply a regular process by which the faculty team indicates to the employer that they have the strength of the membership behind them, and will not be bullied into concessions.

A crucial part of our process should involve notifying the membership of serious concessions and soliciting their support through consultation with the local presidents–before accepting the current offer.

We need to do vote no on this settlement. Reducing the percentage of yes votes will help us next round, even if this settlement is ratified by our members.  Some local executives are already recommending no votes to their members, and I applaud their courage.

Now is not the time to abandon our principles in order to placate our fears.  Let’s either send the team back to the table, or at the very least send a clear signal to the colleges that we do not agree with these concessions.

 

On Tuesday, September 2nimage.d, further details of the tentative settlement reached between the OPSEU college faculty bargaining team and the Colleges Council were released.

The OPSEU bargaining team is recommending that faculty ratify the tentative agreement.  A ratification vote has been scheduled for September 23rd.

In the first place, it is imperative that full contract language be released immediately so that faculty can know the exact terms of what they are being asked to ratify.  The information released by the bargaining team to date is suspect in its presentation and wholly inadequate in its detail.

Although the actual contract language has not yet been released, making it impossible to determine what, if any, has actually been gained from the agreement, what is clear from the bargaining team’s communication is enough to indicate that the agreement they are calling on members to ratify is completely unacceptable.  The agreement contains what are easily the most damaging concessions faculty have ever faced, and represents the complete opposite of what college faculty voted for in the demand-setting process.

As the former coordinator of OPSEU’s Campaign for Quality Education, I can also personally affirm that the agreement now before us in no way reflects the interests of the over 600 faculty at 24 colleges that I consulted with during the Campaign, nor does it reflect the interest in maintaining quality education shared by Ontario’s college students, their families, and their prospective employers.

Say Goodbye to Full-Time Faculty … Say Hello to Precarious Work

In exchange for vague “improvements”, this agreement represents an unprecedented attack on arguably the two most important sections of the faculty Collective Agreement – Article 2 and Article 11.

The tentative agreement states that no new grievances can be filed under Article 2.02 and 2.03A for the 3-year duration of the agreement.  Article 2.02 of the Collective Agreement states:

“The College will give preference to the designation of full-time positions as regular rather than partial-load teaching positions, as defined in Article 26, Partial-Load employees, subject to such operational requirements as the quality of the programs, attainment of the program objectives, the need for special qualifications and the market acceptability of the programs to employers, students, and the community.”

Article 2.03 of the Collective Agreement States:

“The College will give preference to the designation of full-time positions as regular continuing teaching positions rather than sessional teaching positions including, in particular, positions arising as a result of new post-secondary programs subject to such operational requirements as the quality of the programs, enrolment patterns and expectations, attainment of program objectives, the need for special qualifications and the market acceptability of the programs to the employers, students, and the community.  The College will not abuse sessional appointments by failing to fill ongoing positions as soon as possible subject to such operational requirements as the quality of the programs, attainment of program objectives, the need for special qualifications, and enrolment patterns and expectations.”

These Articles contain the only language in the Collective Agreement that forces management to hire full-time faculty over non-full-time faculty.  In colleges across the system, management have been finding every way possible to hire non-full-time faculty who are less expensive and who don’t have protection under Article 11 –  including the Standard Workload Form (SWF).  With Articles 2.02 and 2.03A, union locals are able to file staffing grievances when managers are clearly ignoring the preference for full-time hires, and instead abusing the appointment of non-full time classes.  These non-full-time classes include partial load (who teach between 7 and 12 hours per week, and are members of the faculty union), and sessionals (who are paid a daily rate, can teach up to 18 hours per week, and are also not covered by the Collective Agreement).

Article 2.03A ensures that management won’t just hire sessionals instead of full time professors. Currently, part-time faculty hires are allowed under Article 2, an omission that previous bargaining teams have attempted to correct in order to create new, much-needed full-time positions.

Chief Stewards system-wide will tell you that the only way in which full time hires happen in the Colleges today is if the union forces them through an Article 2 staffing grievance.  Without the ability to file staffing grievances, there will be next to no full-time hires for 3 years.  This could mean a loss of over 1,000 full time jobs system-wide.  This means that retiring members will most likely be replaced by partial load, part-time or sessional workers – none of whom receive adequate time for preparation, development, evaluation, student consultation, or professional development.  None of whom have job security, and thus protection from retaliation should they participate in union activities, advocate for students, or speak out about deteriorating system conditions.  This also means that even fewer of the growing body of non-full-time faculty will achieve a full time position, and instead reinforces the trend toward post-secondary being run by an overworked, underpaid, precarious army of perpetual part-time faculty.

The other major concession contained in the tentative agreement affects Article 11, and removes the cap placed on the number of separate sections per week that can be assigned to a faculty member in a given semester.  Currently, Article 11.01 D2 states that “No more than four different course preparations or six different sections shall be assigned to a teacher in a given week except by voluntary agreement which shall not be unreasonably witheld.”.  A “section” is defined as a separate course delivery (i.e. a professor teaching Introductory Psychology to four different student groups in one week would have four sections).  With the cap on sections removed, management will be able to accelerate the practice of dividing theoretical from practical teaching hours, and in-class from online teaching hours.  Professors can then be faced with delivering lectures to 8, 9, even 12 different student groups each week, and as a result can experience drastic increases in workload.

Improvements?

The bargaining team statement refers to a guarantee of “No lay-offs for full-time faculty as a result of contracting out, for the length of the contract.”  This sounds like a tangible gain, but without the language, it is hard to evaluate.  As well, any full-time positions saved by this provision will be substantially eclipsed by those lost through an inability to enforce Article 2 for three years.

The salary increases are negligible, and with inflation averaging 1.75% over the past 10 years, will still see our wages continue to erode in year one and two of the contract. These financial gains are equivalent to a cup of coffee a day, and in no way make up for the 0% increases we’ve seen over the past two years.  By comparison, our comparator groups–particularly in the university sector–are winning better wage increases along with better working conditions.  Carleton University’s faculty association just ratified a 3-year contract that saw wage increase of 2.1%, 1.7%, and 1.6%, along with improvements to workload, benefits, and other areas.

The team says that there are gains for partial-load, including an “increased period for Partial-Load to apply for full-time positions as internal candidate”.  However, with no ability to grieve for full-time positions under Article 2, partial-load faculty will have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting hired for the duration of the contract.  As such, this “improvement” is meaningless.

The expansion of items to be considered in Workload Monitoring Groups to include method of course delivery appears to be a gain, but it also depends on the specific language.

Committing to discuss intellectual property rights through the Employer/Employee Relations Committee (EERC) is in no way binding, and is therefore essentially meaningless.

A reduced probationary period for full-time faculty hired during the contract is a gain, but is hard to evaluate without seeing the contract language.  In addition, with the moratorium on full-time hiring that will occur through no Article 2 protection, reduced probation will benefit precious few faculty.

Full Tilt in the Wrong Direction

Ultimately, what is baffling about the tentative agreement is that it represents the exact opposite of what faculty directed our bargaining team to achieve during demand setting.  Members were clear that after two disappointing contracts and a wage freeze, that we were looking to make gains on our key issues.  At the top of most people’s list were issues like full-time hiring and academic freedom.  Several delegates stated clearly “No concessions”, and this was a sentiment widely echoed by members in my travels to all 24 colleges.

Instead, we now face an agreement with no improvements to academic freedom and no additional tools to confront the critical staffing, workload and intellectual property issues of online courses.  Even worse, we not only failed to gain new tools to reverse the trend of precarious faculty work, but we have sacrificed our only means to fight this battle.  Currently 2/3 of college faculty are non-full-time.  After three years of this contract, we might very well be at 3/4, or worse.  The effects of such a staffing free-fall would be devastating to our union, to our workplaces, and to the quality of college education in Ontario.

Vote NO: Send the Team Back to the Table

The bottom line is that this is an agreement with concessions drafted in management heaven.  Voting no to ratification does not mean a strike, but it does send a strong message to management that college faculty will not be bullied into bad deals.  Our team could go back to the table with our support in hand. Several times in Ontario’s recent past public sector unions have voted down a bad deal and sent their bargaining team back to the table.  It is critical now that we do the same.

Kevin MacKay

Professor, Mohawk College

Vice President, Local 240

 

Image  —  Posted: September 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

Inaugural Post

Posted: September 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

Greetings and welcome!

For information about who we are and what we do, please check out the About button.  For our plans, keep reading.

We are a group of faculty (a category made up of professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians) employed within the Ontario community college system. Our system is one that we love, and one with which we have become increasingly disenchanted.

Here we will publish our own thoughts and analysis of current happenings in the system, as well as those of guest writers.  We will also occasionally publish relevant and thought-provoking articles and comments about our system and/or our posts.

We welcome your thoughts and feedback.  The intent of this blog is to provide our perspective and create a space for respectful discussion about the public college system in Ontario.

If you’ve read the second missive from our Grand Employer, the College Employer Council (CEC), you’ll know how concerned these folks are about partial load faculty being disenfranchised. Because, of course, management has been working hard since the 70s to defend the rights of partial load faculty.

That’s why the CEC has ensured that hundreds of partial load folks have been working the equivalent of full time jobs, for about 2/3 of the pay — many for 5, 10, 20 years without being properly hired – forcing those folks to reapply for their jobs every 4 months. That’s why college management fails to tell so many partial load folks that they’re eligible for the health benefits that come with union membership and, at a number of colleges, neglects to pay partial load faculty the raises they are entitled to (until the union forces them). That’s why so many partial load members of OPSEU CAAT are in their classrooms teaching for weeks before they actually receive teaching contracts. That’s why so many partial load folks are expected to volunteer their time attending departmental meetings, meeting with students, developing course materials and participating in college committees.

What the management missive fails to say is that the union bargaining team has few options for scheduling a vote and, as far as OPSEU is concerned, partial load members have the right to vote. If the colleges were truly concerned about partial load faculty, management could easily empower their partial load employees to vote by dating their contracts from August 28. The changes to the College Collective Bargaining Act in 2008 – the changes that the Council drove, incidentally – tie the union’s hands when it comes to timelines. It’s obvious that August 28th is not an ideal date for anyone, but the Council has a history of strategically dragging their heels in bargaining, and the union team wants to ensure a timely agreement.

If the Council bargains in good faith and is planning on trying to get a deal by August 31 when the last contract expires, then there’s nothing to worry about and the vote will be a technicality. However, despite the willingness of the union’s bargaining team to meet, the CEC has already refused to book more bargaining dates in August. So, as the union’s team predicted, it looks like the Council’s team are going to stall, prevaricate, only present their real demands at the last moment and push for multiple concessions, which means that all faculty will have good reason to vote a strong YES. Not, “Yes We Want To Strike,” but Yes to indicate that we support our bargaining team in refusing concessions and winning better workload provisions – particularly for partial load folks.

It is clear that the CEC wants to make sure that no one notices that improvements for partial load faculty are a major union demand in this round of bargaining. The union knows that partial load faculty need job security. They need a system of seniority that allows expert and experienced teachers to keep their positions from term to term and to not be constantly anxious about what happens to their employment in 4 months. In addition, partial load faculty need recognition that many of them do the same work as full time faculty and therefore, should be able to become full time faculty.

The Council is trying to spin themselves as friends to partial load faculty members, while simultaneously resisting every attempt this bargaining team makes to win job security and better working conditions for those same faculty. They have consistently resisted all of the union’s previous efforts to win better working conditions for partial loads.

Indeed, rumour has it that rather than strengthen full time employment in the Colleges, or recognize the work and contribution of long-time partial load faculty, the CEC is presently pushing for yet another temporary faculty employment category – because they claim that having the options of sessional positions, instructor positions, part time faculty positions and partial load faculty is not sufficiently flexible.

Please, if you’re partial load, don’t be fooled by the CEC’s attempts to hoodwink you. If the Council were genuinely concerned about the “democratic right to vote” of any non-full-time faculty, they wouldn’t have spent so many lawyer-hours working to prevent the Labour Board from counting your ballots in the certification vote in 2008. The Council is playing a cynical game of divide-and-conquer, aiming to pit partial load and full time faculty against each other and weaken our chances of winning any workload or job security