Local 613 Has a Few Words for the Goverment When it Comes to Their Students

| 17/11/2017

November 17, 2017

Subject: Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Labour Dispute Resolution Act, 2017

Dear MPP,

As faculty at L613, Sault College, we met today to discuss the upcoming Back-to-Work Legislation being debated in the legislature this afternoon. As there were a number of concerns raised that are immediate in nature, we bring them to you as our representatives to inform the debate and, we trust, improve the legislation to meet the immediate needs of both our students and us as faculty.

The proposed Act is very broad and addresses the general need to suspend the strike and prevent an employer lock-out. The five-day timeline to agree on an arbitrator means that we will already be in class without direction before an arbitrator is even appointed – especially if there is not agreement. To have 90 days beyond the appointment means that we will be well into the next semester with no direction for the current semester.

While we certainly appreciate that the Act states that the parties may continue to negotiate, we trust that you will understand our lack of optimism in this regard. Also, as many of the colleges have incorrectly portrayed the faculty as demanding a $5,000 signing bonus to come from the student hardship fund directed by the Minister, there is a poisoned work environment brewing.

Our concerns are three-fold:

  1. Our students and their wellness/learning
  2. Our programs and their integrity/reputation
  3. Our own faculty health: emotional, mental, physical, and financial

 

Students:

As stakeholders in the college system, students have expressed over and over that they should have a voice in changes to their academic calendar and workload. To date, this has not happened and the removal of the week prior to Christmas and after New Years has affected student plans with their families both here in Ontario and in other parts of the country as well as internationally. Indeed, some students have stated that they will not attend classes outside of the original academic calendar.

We also know that students need time to process, review, and perform the required activities for learning to occur. Our students are often engaged in outside work and have families that limit the time available to devote to their learning. Plans must take into consideration that student mental health issues are already on the rise.

 

Programs:

In addition to the pressure on students, compression of these activities is not always possible in our college programs themselves. In particular, programs that require mandatory hours for classroom or placement hours and have prescribed learning outcomes from outside agencies/regulatory bodies cannot be short-changed in teaching hours or learning outcomes. Some programs are already spanning the entire academic year (September to end of August) leaving no room to add time. With such a diverse range of offerings (post-secondary/non-post secondary/apprenticeship/degrees), the options must be also be diverse. There are also other bodies such as our collaborative university partners who may be impacted.

 

Faculty:

As faculty, we also have many of the same human concerns as our students. Anxiety is high within the faculty group as we consider the work ahead of us. We not only have to go into a somewhat hostile environment with management that has supported the CEC with their bargaining strategies and that has had full access to the student body throughout the strike while we have not.

The uncertainty of how the work required will be done is also a cause of great anxiety giving rise to physical, emotional, and mental impacts.  An appropriate Return-To-Work Protocol is important to give faculty some protection during the time that the arbitrator is at work.

We are also very concerned about our Partial-Load colleagues. Those who are already at the maximum of 12 Teaching Contact Hours (TCH) per week would be pushed into the category of Sessional if more TCH are assigned. This would remove them from the Full-Time Bargaining Unit and remove their union rights/benefits/pay grid as Sessional faculty are not yet unionized. Contracts for Partial-Load faculty may end on December 15. How will our needs be addressed in the legislation? As you may understand, our trust in college administration acting fairly is not high at this time.

The extension of the academic year impacts faculty workloads as the weeks proposed for class extensions are usually used to complete grading and to prepare for the next semester. This work still needs to be done and compensated. Like students, this burden, added onto seeing to the increased needs of our students, our colleagues, and our students. This is a source of high anxiety due to our experience after the strike of 2006. As we do not have academic freedom, it is up to management to determine the changes that are required. How will this be communicated with faculty if students return to class immediately?

What supports will be put in place to ensure faculty are safe, that faculty are not driven into unhealthy working conditions due to our dedication to our students. As frontline workers, we are facing our students on a daily basis and have a position of trust that has been undermined and damaged, we believe, by the untruths circulated.

How will the legislation address the concerns of students and faculty as well as our safety in our learning and working conditions?

The language proposed:

Nothing in the proposed Act prohibits the parties from continuing to negotiate, and they would be encouraged to do so. If the parties execute a new collective agreement, they would be required to inform the mediator-arbitrator, and the mediation-arbitration process would terminate.

Until a new collective agreement is in place, the terms and conditions of employment that applied the day before a strike became lawful would continue to apply with respect to the employees represented by OPSEU, unless the Council and OPSEU agree otherwise.

The government MUST consider the proposed Return-To-Work protocol put forward by the faculty bargaining team to ensure fairness during the time that the arbitrator is working on a new collective agreement.

Thank you for your consideration,

 

OPSEU Local 613

Sault College Faculty

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Category: On The Line

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