On October 26, FAUW held a 60th anniversary discussion exploring the unique relationship between faculty and the administration at Waterloo, and presented our first Awards of Appreciation to honour members of the University community who have made real differences in the lives of faculty members.
Panelists Roman Dubinski (FAUW president 1970–71), David DeVidi (FAUW president 2007–09), Lynne Taylor (chief negotiator and board member 2014–16), and Ian Goulden (dean of mathematics 2010–15) described the evolution of faculty representation at Waterloo, from the early relationship characterized by the University’s “benign paternalism” (in Dubinski’s words), through three attempts to unionize in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, to the “honest conversation” of the current arrangement.
The panelists discussed how this relationship works in practice, and how it differs from a union. The main difference is that, in our case, salary is negotiated separately from all other terms of employment. Rather than putting everything on the table (and at risk) in large-scale negotiations every few years, working conditions are continually negotiated —largely through biweekly meetings of FAUW and the administration at the Faculty Relations Committee (FRC).
This system allows us to “accomplish things you couldn’t in a full negotiation,” according to DeVidi. As audience member and 2004–07 FAUW president Roydon Fraser put it, “through honest conversation, you build understanding, and through understanding, you build, generally, good compromises.” Without the pressure of a looming deadline, Taylor explained, things move slowly, and both sides have time to give everything a “sober second thought.”
Surely there’s a catch
This system is not without its risks. Panelists highlighted the importance of having the right people on both sides. Goulden, our panelist representing an administrator’s perspective, pointed out that the provost has a great deal of influence over whether FRC is effective or just “a happy chat.” But overall, the system we have in place seems to be working.
And if it ever fails, we have the ability to seek recognition as a union. While the past union drives Dubinski recounted failed to result in unionization of faculty at Waterloo, they succeeded in encouraging the administration to make concessions and improve faculty working conditions. In fact, we have a near-unionization event to thank for the Memorandum of Agreement that governs working conditions today and which gives us a lot of the same powers as a union.
So, why aren’t we a union?
We promised that this event would answer the question “Why isn’t FAUW a union?” DeVidi offered this answer: “Most universities that unionize, there’s a galvanizing event, usually a massive clunker by some particular administration. So, I think a big part of the story is that the University [of Waterloo], compared to a lot of universities in Canada, has just been fairly well administered.”
Not all about FAUW
Following the panel, we shifted focus away from the Association and presented awards to Al Binns, director of Police Services for compassionately and discreetly helping faculty to navigate confidential emergency situations; Lynne Taylor, past chief negotiator for FAUW, for negotiating and co-chairing the 2015 salary anomalies review, and securing regular anomaly reviews into the future; and Linda Brogden, occupational health nurse, for supporting faculty members through some of the most difficult times of their careers and for her role in changing the conversation about faculty illness and mental health on campus.
Ian Goulden gave a great plug for another important mechanism at play in our relationship with the administration: FAUW’s Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee (AF&T), which he called “a really strong thread that runs through the University.” If you’re not familiar with AF&T and its confidential services to assist faculty with difficulties impacting their terms and conditions of employment, we encourage you to learn about it.
Quote of the day
“We’ll call them the administration. They like to call themselves the University, but so do we.” –David DeVidi