Bill 148 and the Employer’s Latest Offer (#2)

Yesterday’s post concerned (amongst other things) the desirability of having the two bargaining teams explicitly assert in our Collective Agreement the importance of equity for Partial-Load faculty, and having them negotiate the implementation of Bill 148’s terms into our Collective Agreement, to the fullest degree possible.  Desirable, at least, in comparison with the Employer’s offer a) to say nothing about Bill 148, b) to make no effort whatsover to effect the kind of equity that Bill 148 is designed to legally enshrine, and c) to have all issues about how to implement such provisions (in the event that the legislation passes) to a board of arbitration, in a time-consuming formal process.

Our most dedicated correspondent responds, claiming that my…

…idea “that the College is unwilling to provide pay equity to contract faculty only a) under the force of legislation, b) to the minimum degree required by that legislation, and c) only to the further degree (and only at the time) determined at the end of an arbitral process” is not “uncharitable.” It defines the way the employer behaves with respect to all issues from salary and and working conditions to matters of pedagogy and curriculum control.

The only possible good that might come from arbitration lies in the fact that arbitrators have occasionally sided with workers as, for example, in the case of compelling colleges to open up a few more full-time positions – something local management is now claiming as a sign of its generosity and good faith, after fighting against such initiatives for decades.

Looking forward to fair arbitration results, however, doesn’t alter the fact that securing any such results would be costly. time-consuming and far from a certainty. Maybe the employer is just looking forward to a change in government on or before the scheduled election date of June 7, 2018 and is putting as many of its eggs as possible into Patrick Brown’s basket.

 

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Bill 148 and The Employer’s Latest Offer

First things first: The Employer now has a new Academic Bargaining Update out – I find it rather remarkable on many levels, and I look forward to writing about it soon. Feel free pre-empt me by offering your thoughts on it, in the meantime.

So, it appears that the latest series of face-to-face “negotiations” between the College Faculty (i.e., OPSEU CAAT-A) and College Management (i.e., the College Employer Council) bargaining teams ended recently, and I believe that leaves off meetings until late September, as we near the expiry of the Collective Agreement on September 31.

Now, it seems that my last post may have already been out of date by the time it was published, as the Employer has already presented a new offer once the previous one expired uneventfully.

Now, perhaps I could be forgiven for not knowing that there was a new offer on the table, given that it was presented with, um, minimal fanfare, and little explanation of how this new offer was better than the last one, which had been rejected by the Union’s bargaining team.

Now one possible reason for the absence of that explanation is the fact that the new offer is virtually identical to the last one, in all but one respect – that one being the subject of my last post.

With an eye to the impending passage of Bill 148 (which is designed to improve conditions for part-time or temporary workers, and would enshrine principles of equal pay for those workers), the Employer’s original “public” offer contained a provision that disputes about how to implement the provisions of Bill 148 into the Collective Agreement over the next four years would be subject to arbitration, with the understanding that all changes would be revenue-neutral to the Colleges.

That revenue-neutral language has been removed.

As a consequence of this change, if there were a dispute about how a recently-passed Bill 148 needed to be applied to our Collective Agreement, both sides would still need to resort to arbitration, but the arbitrator would not be obliged to work off the presumption that both sides agreed that any changes should present no additional costs to the employer.

So the revenue-neutrality “agreement” is off the table, but the arbitration provision is still in the new offer, and that’s not insignificant. Certainly, both sides could be at the bargaining table, negotiating what “equal pay for equal work” means in the context of our Collective Agreement. Instead, the offer remains mute on how Bill 148 would be implemented into the Collective Agreement, and dictates that all eventual disputes on the issue would be referred to arbitration.

Needless to say, this introduces a considerable measure of uncertainty regarding what benefit, if any, contract faculty might gain from the passage of Bill 148. It also means that, in the event of disputes following Bill 148, an entire arbitration process would needed to resolve every single conflict – a process that could include preliminary disputes about standing, the scope of the law, and proper procedure.

Note that this process is proposed by the Employer instead of taking the time to ensure  that the Collective Agreement already incorporates the principles of equity for contract faculty, or even (in the face of legislative uncertainty) the time to negotiate at the bargaining table a common understanding of the principles that ought to inform the application of Bill 148 to the Collective Agreement (the College already took the first step to doing that when it introduced the initial “revenue neutral” clause–a further step might involve, um, negotiation).

Back to the College’s proposal to refer all disputes about equity to arbitration: Arbitration is a time-consuming process, and it might be worth taking a moment to look off into the middle-distance, and consider why the Employer would prefer to punt all issues associated with a drafted piece of legislation, rather than negotiate such details at the table, so that both sides could confidently be on surer footing.

Since the Employer hasn’t yet provided any explicit rationale for why contract faculty should be denied the kind of rights that Bill 148 proposes to provide, I can really only come up with two explanations for why the Employer is so insistent upon its current position (i.e., do nothing to incorporate the principles of Bill 148 before it becomes law; refer all disputes to arbitration after):

1. The Employer is relying on the possibility that Bill 148 won’t become law, in its current form.

2. The Employer believes that it would fare better through arbitration than it would by negotiating the changes ahead of time.

The problem with #1? It suggests that the Employer is hoping that the law will permit the Employer to continue to treat contract faculty inequitably. That’s a disturbing line of reasoning, which might explain why the Employer has, to my knowledge, provided no argument in support of it.  What exactly, in the Employer’s opinion, would Bill 148 provide to Contract faculty that those faculty don’t currently deserve?

The problem with #2? It suggests that the Employer is hoping that an arbitration process could ultimately postpone or limit the application of any obligations that the Employer would have under the new law.

These are, quite possibly, uncharitable interpretations or imputations. Please don’t hesitate to get back to me with more reasonable ones that adequately account for the Employer’s current position.

The most reasonable argument I can come up with, to justify the Employer’s position is as follows: “Well, the law will create certain obligations, but we don’t know what they are, so we should wait until the law is implemented, to find out what the legal obligations are. After that time, there will be a legitimate question about how those new obligations would impact our Collective Agreement (if at all), so arbitration is an appropriate dispute resolution mechanism”.

The problem with that sort-of-seemingly-reasonable approach? It ultimately indicates that the College is unwilling to provide pay equity to contract faculty only a) under the force of legislation, b) to the minimum degree required by that legislation, and c) only to the further degree (and only at the time) determined at the end of an arbitral process.

So, look – implementing Bill 148 will either cost the Employer a significant sum, or it won’t. If it will, then perhaps the Employer should explain to Contract faculty which components of Bill 148 would produce the added expense, and why contract faculty should now support an offer that lacks those provisions.

I’ll finish off with the return of a welcome voice from Northern Ontario:

Bill 148 attempts to address precarious work, such as the work of part time and sessional faculty. There would be no revenue-neutrality in recognizing these workers as actually working in ONTARIO (rather than for the federal Crown) and their being entitled to the protections of the (Ontario) Employment Standards Act such as vacation pay and stat holiday pay. With or without a SWF, PT and sessionals have been getting screwed for a long time!

 

 

 

Open Letter from a GTA Partial-Load Prof

So the following letter has been published at the website of Fanshawe College’s Local 110  I wanted to pass it along, and I encourage you to share it with your colleagues, referring them to this page of the Local 110 site.
I’ve taken the liberty of adding a couple of links to the letter below, to provide some additional background context to the author’s points.
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At great risk to her career, a partial-load professor asked us to circulate the following letter anonymously.

Dear CAAT-A faculty members:

I know that many of you have waited quite some time for an increase in your salaries. After the proposal by the College Presidents this past winter to the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development requesting a hefty increase to their salaries, I know that many of you deserve an increase in your salary too. And you do.  The 7.5% increase over four years seems like a tolerable offer along with the other proposals.

Like you, over the past three years, all members of the bargaining unit have worked hard and dedicated themselves to ensuring that our students have acquired the skills they will need in their future careers. Every one of us deserves a raise. However, note that the offer by the colleges does not provide any gains for partial load, counsellors and librarians.  The proposals offered by the colleges won’t change the workload or the unfairness quite a number of our members experience.

The changes to Article 22, Pregnancy and Parental Leave, proposed by the College provides beneficial changes but considering that a significant portion of professors at GTA colleges are partial load, they will not benefit from this adjustment.  Eight years ago, I was pregnant with my first child along as well as two other full time faculty members in our department. Being partial load, I was not offered a teaching or working contract for the following semester as my due date was during the term, but the other two employees were assigned other duties until their pregnancy leave kicked in. Unlike my full-time colleagues, who received 93% top up pay and the opportunity to extend their leave for another 12 months on Employment Insurance, my only source of income was EI but my leave was cut short. Unlike my full-time colleagues, my time was cut short as my EI would have ran out before I could return to teach at the start of a semester.

Bridging health benefits over the pregnancy and after the birth was another challenge. I was informed by the college’s HR representative that I could only bridge my benefits if I had an offer of employment, a contract, outlining my return to work within the six-month time period. During my ten plus years teaching in the Ontario College system, I have never had a contract that extended beyond four months and never received an additional contract that went beyond the semester I was to teach.  My supervisor, who was very compassionate and understanding, informed me in both circumstances that a contract could not be offered: not for one until the birth of my child nor after the birth of my child to extend my benefits.  Looking ahead without coverage was fearful and left me anxious of how I could deal and pay with what could happen with a new child.  Like me, there are many female partial load faculty I have known who leave the college before the start of a semester because their due dates interfere with contract dates.  As well, when we leave, coverage is rarely ever an option. I was diagnosed with post-partum depression and while I obtained assistance from municipal resources, I look back asking how extending benefits  without such challenges and complications or having benefits for the duration of a contract period while in the third trimester could have helped me cope better. This is why the Bargaining Team’s proposal of 12-month contract for partial load employees and adjustments to bridging benefits work for us as members of a collective bargaining unit.  It extends the same protections and rights to all.

The colleges wish to continue the extend the moratorium on Article 2 grievances for another four years. At Seneca College in the Winter 2015 semester, it cut partial load employees in favour of part time and sessional. This not only eroded the collective bargaining unit at the college but also impacted greatly the income and seniority of many partial load employees who had worked at the college for a number of years. As a result, the following summer and following semesters, many former partial load employees were unable to apply for Employment Insurance benefits and since the cuts, these professors had to seek additional teaching contracts at a second and sometimes third college. Some have left the college system, all of whom were valued professors. As well, this reduction in partial load led to the increase of more part time faculty, a class of workers not protected under a collective agreement. As a result, the college was able to offer teaching contracts to employees with less seniority and experience than former partial load members. The union’s Report on Education addresses the impact that the increased use of contract employees has had on full time members.  The current Collective Agreement provides job security protection to full time professors, counsellors and librarians, but not for partial load. The Bargaining Team’s adjustments to partial load’s job security and seniority helps ensure that partial load members who have acquired the experience and expertise can continue to do so. It works for all of us.

Finally, we all know that librarians and counsellors are just as crucial to student success as the professors and instructors. We collaborate with our colleagues in these areas to ensure students are given the support and resources they need to succeed not just in their program but when they enter the workforce. Unlike full time professors, counsellors and librarians do not have workload calculation formula. Listening to their experiences at the General Membership Meeting has helped me understand that partial load professors are not the only ones impacted by the current collective agreement. In some colleges in Ontario, there are no librarians and there is no ratio determined for counsellors and librarians per student enrollment.  They are truly overworked and need a workload calculation formula just like their colleagues and need specifics in the collective agreement that help them do their job well.

I want us all to get our salaries increases, to receive a fair wage, to be paid for all work, and to have a fair collective agreement, but if the union accepts the College’s proposal to wait until 30 days after Bill 148 goes into effect, January 1st, 2018, we cannot ensure that these “consequential adjustments”  to ensure “revenue neutrality” requested by the Colleges will be fair. The proposals that the union Bargaining Team sets out for all our members are in line with the changes to the Employment Standards Act and set a precedent for fairness. This is why the proposals put forth by the Bargaining Team work. It works for all of us.

The Colleges’ proposals do not address any of the demands put forth by our members and this is why we need to vote “Yes” to strike to ensure that negotiations continue to address union demandsLet’s fight together to ensure fairness for all members of our collective bargaining unit.  It is about “us”, for all of us, not just some of us.

Partial Load Professor

Region 5

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Feel free to offer your feedback to the letter, or to share your reactions with the letter’s author (I’m pretty sure we can make sure that any responses come to the author’s attention), by clicking “Leave a Comment”, below.

For Those Just Tuning In…

I originally intended to crunch some numbers here and look at what the Employer’s offer really means for the financial life of its intended audience.  But then I started trying to summarize the negotiations so far (from what I can interpret, based on the parties’ public statements), and, well, I got a bit carried away.

So today will be that background/summary; soon I’ll try to get into the weeds.

For those of you just tuning in, you may recall the that College Faculty (OPSEU CAAT-A) bargaining team was charged with negotiating a list of demands that originated from Local demand-setting meetings that were held at each of the 24 Colleges.

Probably the best summation of the demands presented to the bargaining team can be found on pages 3 and 4 of the Negotiations Bulletin #3 (located here for those reading on phones and here for those who like the graphics).

Those demands include workload measurements for all faculty, so that all of our work — including the work of partial-load faculty, counsellors, and librarians — is actually measured and so that we have sufficient time to properly help our students.  They also include improved job security for all faculty, plus language that limits outsourcing, and language to limit the erosion of Full-Time jobs within the bargaining unit.  They also include demands that would give faculty meaningful authority to make the academic decisions that their expertise as educators uniquely qualifies them to make.

Judging from the following Negotiations Bulletin (#4) (web text here; colourful pdf here), those demands met… a chilly reception.  To quote from the Bulletin:

[I]t only took 24 hours from the union’s presentation of their first set of proposals . . . for management to declare their lack of belief in the need to discuss issues ranging from faculty’s top issue of academic freedom / collegial governance to the grievance process.

The College Employer Council’s bargaining team’s refusal to consider demands at the, er, bargaining (or is that “bargaining”?) table resulted in the faculty bargaining team’s requesting an OLRB-appointed conciliator, and, later, requesting that a strike authorization vote be held in September.

That, in turn, inspired management to broadcast an offer directly to faculty, seemingly in an effort to bypass negotiating with a democratically-elected bargaining team.

And the offer?  Well, nothing about workload; nothing about Partial-Load; nothing about counsellors; nothing about librarians; nothing about job security; nothing about decision-making authority.

Let’s just say that the College management is clearly contented with the status quo, and the offer is clearly designed to maintain that status quo — of an overreliance on contract faculty who are treated as fungible; of a decision-making authority that rests exclusively in the hands of those who may lack teaching experience; of college credits literally being obtainable at McDonalds.

The offer does, however, offer money.  Not much else — maybe even a new expense — but it does offer money.

And evidently, the College Employer Council believes that that offer of money is so important, that it had to be shared directly with the union membership.  In fact, the Employer’s Offer FAQ included the following:

4. Why are you putting out the terms of the offer? Isn’t that bargaining in public?

OPSEU . . . did not provide any information to its members about the 7.5% increase, the new maximum of $115,094, and other benefits with no concessions. We felt it very important to get the information out to faculty. 

Well… mission accomplished?

So let’s start (and, for today’s purposes, finish) with some reasonably self-evident conclusions.

  • The employer would rather offer money than negotiate any meaningful changes to the work that we do, and how we do it.
  • The employer is counting that college faculty care about salary, to the exclusion of every other issue.
  • The employer would rather hold up dollar bills to the members than negotiate the members’ demands through the bargaining process to which they apparently have committed themselves.
  • The employer feels no compulsion to negotiate serious issues, when they have the option instead of trying to get Union members to hold votes on the employer’s offer(s)

All of which leads me to my final, tentative conclusion (which is obviously subject to change in the face of new information and events):

The employer will feel no compulsion to negotiate serious issues when they are given any alternative, whatsover.

And, by logical extension:

The College Employer Council bargaining team will negotiate serious issues only when given no alternative.

And, by logical extension:

If Ontario College faculty truly wish to see fairness for Partial-Load faculty, authority over any educational decisions, control over our own students’ grades, ownership of the material we produce as teachers (to protect our own jobs), or a workload formula that truly measures all of the work that we do, there is only one route by which to make any possible gains in any of those areas, at the bargaining table.

 

[Are my conclusions based upon an error in reasoning?  Are they premature, given the data?  Are they consistent the experience or previous rounds, or your experience at your college?  Hit “Leave a comment”, below, to let me know.]