Bleak, but… (GM and board meeting reports: December 2022)

The highlight of the fall general meeting on December 7 was definitely Jay Dolmage’s audio glitching and getting stuck in a loop of him saying “bleak, but” as he tried to provide an update on the employee accommodations policy. (Jay later summarized in the chat: “PDC 57 has some reason to be optimistic that we can move this along in the new year.”)

“Bleak, but…” turns out to be a good summary of how members seem to be feeling about the role of faculty in governance at Waterloo. Policy development keeps stalling, faculty feel like senate meetings are rubber stamping sessions, and we don’t really get a say in a lot of university guidelines and academic processes that affect our work.

But there’s cause for hope. The administration agrees that the policy development process isn’t working, and we’ll be talking about how to fix that as soon as we see how the new Policy 76 process works out. There’s some real desire and momentum right now among members to find better ways of doing things, whether that’s a revised Policy 1 (the policy on policies), moving more items into the Memorandum of Agreement, or considering certification. And, most importantly, a whole lot of faculty members are interested and engaged with these issues and offering some great suggestions. Now we just need to make them happen. Some ideas we’ve heard recently—at this meeting or otherwise—include:

  • Regular open discussions about hot issues
  • Mobilizing faculty senators—maybe meeting in advance of senate meetings
  • Better tracking of member suggestions and Board follow up
  • Negotiating a workload policy
  • Solidarity with other employee and student groups at UW
  • Improving APRs (the process for these is governed by the MoA, but standards are currently set by each Faculty and department)
  • A member engagement committee to build networks and identify opportunities for members to work on issues
  • And, of course, the internal governance review that will be starting soon

What do you want to make happen, and how? Let us know in the comments, or contact Mary Hardy, acting president, or David Porreca, president-elect.

2023 negotiation priorities

We asked for ideas for goals in our next round of negotiations, which start in late 2023. Here are the most common suggestions:

  • Pay increases to make up for inflation and the 1% cap in the current settlement 
  • Better benefits, particularly vision care (which we opened the door to last time)
  • Pay equity, lecturer pay equity, improvements to the salary anomaly review process
  • Improvements to the performance review process
  • Workload (e.g., limitations, standardization)
  • Vacation (e.g., the ability of lecturers to take vacation)

Sessional certification

There were also a couple of suggestions related to sessionals and we should note that UW “sessional instructors” have just filed an application to certify a union with the Ontario Labour Relations Board. “Sessional” is a colloquial term that isn’t used in any official capacity at UW, but in this case refers to “academic workers who have contracts less than one year in duration.” FAUW represents faculty with contracts of at least one year, including some part-time faculty.

Despite this distinction, a handful of FAUW members have been incorrectly included in the list of employees that CUPE is applying to represent and have been sent an email invitation to vote on the certification (if that’s you, please ignore it). FAUW has registered an interest in the process, through a “Notice of Intervention” which is normal practice where there are overlapping interests. FAUW is not opposing the certification process; we are just asking to be recognized as an interested observer to the proceedings so we can ensure that our members are appropriately excluded.

Our biggest challenges

In another poll during the GM, we collected attendees’ biggest current challenges. By far, the most common responses were workload (also:increasing class sizes, email volume, time, burnout, exhaustion) and concerns about students—and the added workload generated by students’ current struggles (e.g., student health and wellness, accommodations, disengagement).

Other responses included:

  • The (ongoing) pandemic
  • Collegial governance concerns
  • Lack of connection with colleagues
  • Job security, making ends meet
  • Lecturer promotion/working conditions
  • Waiting on policies

If we’re going to make workload a priority, we need to know: How do we address this? More support staff? More faculty/instructors? Smaller classes? Fewer classes? More TAs and RAs? Let us know in the comments.

President’s update

Here’s what acting president Mary Hardy shared at the meeting in terms of what FAUW’s been up to and what’s coming up next:

  • Bill 124 (that’s the one that limited our pay scale increases to 1%) has been struck down as unconstitutional by an Ontario superior court. During our last salary negotiations, we agreed that if the law changed during the term of the agreement, the University and FAUW could, by mutual agreement, revisit the monetary provisions of the settlement. The province is appealing the ruling. If it fails, there may be direction from the court regarding renegotiating, so we’re waiting to see what happens. [The Ontario Federation of Labour has a letter-writing campaign urging the government not to appeal the Court’s decision.]
  • Now that our new Executive Manager is settling in, we are starting on the comprehensive governance review. It will be conducted by CAUT and will cover FAUW’s constitution and internal policies and provide advice on how best to structure the association. It’s expected to take six to nine months to complete, and members will be consulted during the process.
  • The policies on employee accommodations (57) and compassionate care and bereavement leave (12) are back with their respective drafting committees for more revisions, and the joint meeting of Faculty Relations and Staff Relations committees to review the ethical behaviour policy (33) has been postponed until the new year.
  • Policy 76/77 (faculty appointments/tenure and promotion) is now past the first stage (exchange of policy drafts) of the specially-arranged path forward, and is currently with the Policy Drafting Committee.
  • This year’s Hagey Lecture was very successful and is available to watch online.
  • The first of some regular member polls is up on our blog, about hybrid events. [Editor’s note: The second poll is up now: let us know if you have a preference for either monthly or twice-monthly here. We’re experimenting with polling platforms and distribution methods. Bear with us while we figure out what works best!]
  • There have also been changes to the Memorandum of Agreement between FAUW and the University that were required by changes to Tri-Agency regulations. Those will get final approval soon.
  • We successfully campaigned for the HR website to reflect compassionate care and bereavement leave benefits information correctly and completed a successful grievance about the implementation of the new parental leave policy (regarding how it applied to people who’d already started maternity leave but not parental leave at the time the policy came into effect).
  • We’ll have a new benefits provider on January 1: The HR website has information about that.

December 8 Board of Directors meeting

At the final board meeting of this year, Andrea Harrington from the Canadian Association of University Teachers gave a presentation on how trade union certification works in Ontario, and what could change if FAUW certified.

The board approved sponsoring the breakfast at the annual Teaching & Learning Conference organized by the Centre for Teaching Excellence (as we do every year), approved course releases for the new AF&T chair (Vershawn Young) and appointed Rowland Keshena Robinson to the Equity Committee.

We have some suggestions for Salary Anomaly Working Group members but will also be sending out a call to all members to make sure we’re finding all the best people. Keep an eye out for that very soon. At the January 19 meeting, the Board will select the FAUW representatives for the working group and also revisit recommendations from the Equity and Lecturers committees so that we might advocate for changes to the process. We are also checking again to see how close the University is to having the data ready for the working group to use.

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