Bargaining Update #5

Web-posted:February 7, 2020 by President

Hi everyone,

Bargaining in the new year began on Friday, January 24. This was primarily an administrative meeting in which both sides reiterated and expanded on our priorities and goals, and set an agenda for the next few meetings. As you know, our goals were and remain mental health, job security, procedural fairness, and the mitigation of university costs.

Our next meeting on January 31 focused specifically on Article 11, which deals with issues around hiring and posting, which makes up the bulk of our grievances. Our goal is to standardize the processes around both across all departments, which would make it fair and transparent for both the applicant and the department. The employer is arguing for ‘flexibility’ for particular departments that have requirements that are not included in Article 11.01 (Posting Procedure). We are willing to work out a solution that offers both, but we have found that the employer resists standardization as a whole; unsurprisingly, departments want to do what they want to do.

At this meeting we also discussed Article 10.01 (b) (Work Assignments). The employer has proposed a concession on this issue that we cannot accept, and that Unit 1 members should be aware of, as it has a direct effect on your bargaining work, your research, and on any outside work you may take on. The employer wishes to add a .25 work assignment to the current options of 1.0 and .5 assignments. The practical effect of this proposal, which would likely result in four work assignments per semester, per member, is the creation of an excessive and demanding workload to members that would have a negative effect on their own workload as a student, as well as on their mental health. In fact, we have heard from members that .25 assignments have already been put in place by specific departments, in clear violation of the Collective Agreement. We have and will continue to refuse this concession, and we hope that members will stand in solidarity with our position; if you hear of or experience any department putting these assignments into place, please let us know.

This proposal is similar to the employer’s request to establish “Fellowship” positions that would take bargaining work from Unit 2 members (Sessionals) and assign them to Unit 1 members as an ‘opportunity’ to get work ‘experience’. Take the word of a long-term Unit 2 member – creating, preparing, teaching, and grading a course, alongside working with T.A.’s, takes a lot of time and energy that could be used for your own work, enabling you to graduate on time, and avoid paying any additional fees. The proposal has the additional effect of potentially setting bargaining members against one another, which the employer could use to their advantage at any time. The university claims to ‘hear’ concerns about mental health, job security, and finances, but these two proposals alone arguably demonstrate their unwillingness to address such concerns systemically, opting to build benches and engage in self-congratulatory rhetoric instead; cheap and ineffective.

The next meeting will be this Monday, February 10. This will be a challenging discussion, as we are bringing up monetary proposals, including wages, benefits, and tuition indexation. As we have seen with the ongoing negotiations between the government and Teacher’s unions, Bill 124 and its 1% cap has placed limitations on our ability to negotiate compensation and the mitigation of university costs. As I have said, we may need the help of the membership to compel them to bring some form of tuition indexation to the table, and into the Collective Agreement. Good thoughts are always welcome. I will keep you updated, as usual.