FAUW appalled by job terminations, program closures at Laurentian

Yesterday, Laurentian University announced that as a result of on-going insolvency processes, 58 undergraduate programs and 11 graduate programs will be closed. As part of these closures, approximately 100 Laurentian professors were dismissed from their jobs, effective May 15. Additionally, on April 1, Laurentian unilaterally cancelled its federation agreements with Thorneloe University, Huntington University, and the University of Sudbury, placing those institutions in financial doubt, as they cannot issue degrees.

This terrible outcome for our colleagues at Laurentian, who are represented by the Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA/APPUL), was caused by a panoply of catastrophic errors, but chief among them are an unwillingness by the government of Ontario to properly fund universities and to backstop Laurentian during this crisis; the refusal of the Laurentian administration to take advantage of the financial exigency clause in the LUFA/APPUL collective agreement (which the faculty association urged them to use as early as 2017); and the financial sloppiness of a university that consistently proposed balanced budgets while in fact reporting annual losses for the bulk of the last decade.

FAUW stands in solidarity with our colleagues at Laurentian University and its federated institutions. We will continue to advocate for the provincial government to restore Laurentian to financial health and to establish a stable funding base for it and other Ontario universities. We call on universities, including our own, to confirm their support for their federated university colleges. We deplore the total inaction of the provincial government, particularly its Minister of Colleges, Training and Universities, Ross Romano, who has dodged his responsibility to manage this crisis since February.

We will discuss the Laurentian situation further at our general meeting on Friday, and consider a motion of solidarity with LUFA/APPUL at that meeting.

FAUW stands in solidarity with colleagues at Laurentian, opposes creditor protection for the public university

The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo stands in solidarity with our colleagues from the Laurentian University Faculty Association / Association des professeures et professeurs de l’Université Laurentienne (LUFA/APPUL), who are facing grave threats to collegial governance and collective bargaining. On February 1, Laurentian University entered creditor protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), which allows insolvent corporations to renegotiate their debts and potentially make dramatic changes to their labour agreements as well.

This is not the first time a public university in Canada has experienced financial distress, but it is to the best of our knowledge the first time one has sought creditor protection in this manner. The appropriate pathway forward is not creditor protection; it is a combination of support from the Ontario and federal governments to put Laurentian on a sustainable footing and (if needed) the implementation of the process for handling financial exigency already built into LUFA/APPUL’s agreement with Laurentian’s administration.

The crisis at Laurentian is not the fault of the university’s employees, and they should not be suffering as a result of mismanagement. To the contrary, as is true of university faculty and staff across the province, they have been doing astonishing work under extraordinarily challenging conditions since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this situation only exacerbates their difficult circumstances. FAUW supports our colleagues at LUFA/APPUL.

Additionally, FAUW:

  1. Opposes the use of the CCAA: Laurentian has a cash-flow problem, but clearly has access to substantial resources, and can be backstopped by the Ontario government while it gets its financial house in order. Universities are public institutions, not companies that need protection from creditors. Allowing this to proceed will set a terrible precedent for other public institutions.
  2. Calls on the Ontario government to reinvest in universities in general, and Laurentian, with its bilingual structure and focus on educating Anglo-Ontarian, Franco-Ontarian and Indigenous populations, in specific. This is a manufactured crisis, and the means to handle the problem are in the hands of the Ford government.
  3. Deplores the financial mismanagement of the Laurentian University administration, which has burned through research accounts, retiree health-care premiums, and more while hiding the extent to which it was spiraling into financial disaster. We call for a renewed emphasis on transparency and collegial governance, and an examination of exactly what has transpired at Laurentian, so as to avoid similar mismanagement and crisis at other public institutions. The solution to crises of this sort is not more government oversight behind closed doors; it is more public and collegial oversight.

More information

Breaking down our 2021 Salary Settlement

To help clarify some of the implications and motivations of items in the new salary settlement, we’ve once again asked our chief negotiator (Bryan Tolson, this time) to provide some commentary. Below is the full text of the agreement with annotations, but first, here’s a quick, plain-language summary of the items in the agreement:

  • 1% scale increases each year for three years.
  • $85 for eye exams (for each person every two years).
  • A new compassionate care and bereavement leave policy that will provide:
    • A salary top-up (to 85%, for up to eight weeks) for members on a Critical Illness Leave or Family Medical Leave (minus Employment Insurance benefits received)
    • Four weeks of fully paid bereavement leave on the death of a spouse/partner, child, or step-child; one week on the death of any other immediate family member, such as a parent or sibling.
  • A deadline to start collecting faculty equity data, including on race and Indigeneity, and an update to the current salary anomaly review to identify and correct race-based anomalies once the data is ready. Corrections will be retroactive to May 1, 2021, and race and Indigeneity will be factors in future salary anomaly reviews.
  • A Memorandum of Agreement update so that faculty teaching all three terms in a year can now carry two weeks of vacation forward each year (up from one); for lecturers, these weeks will not expire until after their next non-teaching term.

Interpreting the agreement

Bill 124 limitations

Bill 124 limits public sector employee compensation increases to a maximum of 1% each year for a three-year period (our period is May 2021 – April 2024). Specifically, our average salary increase is capped at 1%, and our total “compensation entitlements” (total salary plus all benefits), is also capped at a 1% increase. (See the appendix at the end of this post for the language in the bill itself). Note that selective salary increases (merit) are not affected and will continue as usual.

Our bargaining team estimated that after the 1% scale increase, we had over $600 per member remaining for other items over the three-year deal. Our certified forensic accountant, Linda Robinson, led these calculations. Our actuarial costing, led by Mary Hardy from the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, shows the settlement items have a projected total increase in compensation entitlements of only $160 (items 5 through 8 generate no increase at all). This leaves room for additional benefit enhancements, particularly in the third year of the agreement, in which there is no additional spending as a result of this agreement beyond the scale increase.

Continue reading “Breaking down our 2021 Salary Settlement”

Compensation negotiations proceeding to mediation

Yesterday, after two months of negotiations, the FAUW negotiating team presented a final good faith offer to the UW administration, hoping to reach an agreement on compensation negotiations by the deadline of midnight, February 1. We are disappointed to report that the offer was not accepted. The final offer from the University was also unacceptable. As a result, our negotiations will continue, first going to a mediator and then, if an agreement is still not reached, to arbitration. All these proceedings are set out in section 10 of the Memorandum of Agreement

We know you will be as disappointed as we are. So, let us explain how we got here.

We didn’t enter negotiations to maximize our pay cheques. We wanted—we believed you deserved—fairer benefits and better equity provisions. Bill 124 already restricts us to a 1% scale increase, so we worked instead, for example, to try to make it possible for lecturers teaching all three terms in a year to take their vacation entitlement. We also tried to get agreement on a cost-neutral compassionate care supplemental benefit plan, so that you can take time away from work to provide care or support to a critically ill or injured person or someone needing end-of-life care. We argued for better bereavement benefits. Currently, if your child or partner or parent were to die, the University would offer you one to four days’ paid leave of absence. This seems cruelly inadequate. 

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Anti-Black racism: An apology and a commitment

I have been President of FAUW for almost three years now. In this time, I have not done enough advocacy and work on behalf of Black faculty colleagues to eliminate the systemic racism they face at our University and even within FAUW. For this I am truly sorry. The FAUW Board also apologizes for not doing more on this front.

FAUW is committed to joining the fight against systemic anti-Black racism on our campuses. In addition to this apology, we commit ourselves to:

  1. Listening to Black faculty colleagues.
  2. Learning about the systemic racism Black faculty colleagues face to help inform our next steps.
  3. Better enabling and encouraging Black faculty members to participate in FAUW decision making and reducing barriers to full consultation.
  4. Identifying possible ways to address anti-Black racism, including changing problematic policies and practices that reinforce the racism Black faculty colleagues face.
  5. Continuing to consult with Black faculty colleagues on any actions we identify before implementing them.
  6. Taking meaningful actions that go beyond talking or blogging like this, so that changes in policy and practice actually happen—both within FAUW and at the University.
  7. Advocating for change for Black faculty colleagues.

Although we have not done nearly enough yet, we started this work in earnest after the last Senate meeting. As part of this effort, we have met with the Black Faculty Collective (BFC) three times since then. The BFC informally represent the small number of Black faculty on the Waterloo, Renison, St. Paul’s, St. Jerome’s and Conrad Grebel campuses (they count 8 faculty). Discussions at these meetings informed the steps outlined above.

Our discussions so far have also made clear to me the fundamental importance of white people like me stepping forward to do most of this work, because underrepresented Black faculty can’t possibly do it on their own—nor should they have to. Let’s not forget, Black faculty are here to do teaching and research. So FAUW’s learning, work, actions, and advocacy need to move forward based primarily on significant investments of our own time and energy. But neither should FAUW fail to listen and fully consult.

The process will take much longer than my few weeks left as FAUW President, and longer than the one year I will serve as Past President starting in September. Despite this, I pledge to be in this fight against anti-Black racism for the long haul and I will do my best to equip FAUW to continue this work after I step away from the organization.  

Bryan Tolson,
FAUW President

UW statement risks chilling Black anti-racism scholarship

On June 6, in relation to a matter with a faculty member that prompted a public outcry and media response, the University of Waterloo told the press that “The University of Waterloo unequivocally believes that there is no place for the use of the N-word in class, on campus or in our community.” 

At the June 15 meeting of University of Waterloo’s Senate, we heard from UWaterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur that the University would revise and reissue this statement, but we still feel it is important to release our response, originally written prior to this announcement at Senate. At the time we are publishing this response, the University’s June 6 statement is still online in its original form. 

FAUW is deeply concerned about the harm that racialized students, colleagues, and community members experience because of racist language. We are also concerned about the chilling effect that the University’s statement will have on University of Waterloo scholars, especially on Black, Indigenous, and other racialized scholars who research and teach about race and racism. Indeed, we are aware that at least two local Black scholars have also expressed this concern to the University in the last week. 

FAUW strongly opposes the prohibition implied by the University’s statement. Whether a word is appropriate for use in class is a scholarly decision that instructors must be free to make. In particular, instructors who teach about race and racism must be free, according to their best judgement, to lead unvarnished discussions about racist language. 

FAUW President Bryan Tolson made the following statement at the June 15 Senate meeting: 

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FAUW’s unanswered pandemic questions

FAUW’s job, in this pandemic and always, is to advocate for our members’ best interests and protect our members’ rights. In the current situation, that means persistently asking tough questions of administrators to make sure your interests and concerns are adequately considered in pandemic decision making.

Unfortunately, FAUW is not being formally consulted about pandemic-related decisions. President Hamdullahpur said at the May Senate meeting that the Integrated Co-ordination and Planning Committee (ICPC) is “constantly” in touch with the Faculty Association. Our members deserve to understand precisely what this means. FAUW requested engagement with the ICPC; specifically, we asked to participate in two of the three working groups in a non-voting capacity. Instead we are getting partial verbal updates from one—the academic working group. I get an update roughly once every two or three working group meetings (which is still multiple updates per week). I then must consult very quickly with one or more of the FAUW Executive team to provide written feedback to the working group chair in support of FAUW members’ interests. In addition, we bring many of the same issues to Faculty Relations Committee, which continues to meet biweekly.

To be as transparent as possible, we are now more explicitly sharing (on our COVID-19 page) the specific questions we are posing so you know what we’re discussing before we get answers. We hope some of you will reiterate anything you feel is important in your own discussions across our virtual campus.

—Bryan Tolson, FAUW President

Here are some of our open questions. We will add more to the COVID-19 page on our website as we ask them.

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What’s on the FAUW agenda for 2019-20

Our Board meeting summary posts are back! Tune in every two weeks to find out what the FAUW Board of Directors is doing for you. Subscribe to get the posts right away.

FAUW’s priorities for 2019-2020

These are the key items we’re aiming to get through this year, in addition to preparing for negotiations at the end of 2020 and inevitably weighing in on more proposals from the provincial government.

  • Policy development: Improvements and clarity around the policy drafting process, better supporting our representatives on policy drafting committees, and getting a few policies into (if not through) the approval process. Candidates are the policies on ethical behaviour (33), parental leave (14), accommodations (57, new), and faculty appointments (76).
  • Conflict of interest guidelines: See item #3 from the September 12 Board meeting below. 
  • Workload: We want to see clear and consistent definitions (and monitoring) of how teaching and other faculty work is counted across campus.
  • Representation: We plan to issue position statements on our relationship with research professors and sessional instructors.

September 12 Board of Directors meeting

Here’s what was on the agenda on September 12, the first meeting of the 2019–20 academic year. We welcome your input on any of these topics! 

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FAUW responds to MTCU proposal to reduce salary of faculty members collecting pensions

FAUW sent a written submission to the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) on July 31 regarding proposed MTCU regulations that would reduce the salary of university sector employees who are collecting a pension.

Key points

  • The proposed changes discriminate on the basis of age.
  • The net savings to either the University or the province are not clearly established.
  • Many scholars over age 71 provide more funding and jobs through their research programs than would be freed up by their retirement.
  • Because university faculty start their careers later, they cannot be compared against other sectors on the basis of retirement age.
  • The regulations would disproportionately disadvantage women and members of other equity-seeking groups whose career advancement is often further delayed.
  • The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario has a higher percentage of sitting MPPs age 71 or older than the University of Waterloo has of faculty age 71 or older.

Thank you to the many members who provided feedback on this issue and shaped our response, included in full below.

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FAUW’s response to so-called “double dipping” legislation (updated)

– Bryan Tolson, FAUW President

“The Ford government is giving itself the power to force post-secondary institutions to reduce the pay of any employees who are also receiving a college or university pension.”

CBC News, April 15

I hope you are all excitedly preparing for a nice holiday weekend with family and/or friends. I am trying to, but this news story, “Ford government stopping university, college profs from ‘double-dipping,’” is getting in my way. Lines like “this includes the power to reduce pay to zero” make me pretty unhappy. Then some of the comments on the story make me just plain grumpy. (For those interested in the legal details, the story refers to the language in Bill 100, pages 116-17.)

This new (proposed) legislation is a serious escalation in the public relations battle the Ford government has decided to wage against Ontario faculty. Any guesses what the Ford government thinks about sabbaticals or tenure? With that in mind, we need to defend ourselves and our profession, and we need your help to do that. Here are four talking points you can use in conversations with your family and friends this weekend and beyond.

  1. At Waterloo, the provincial government pays only 1/3 of our salaries!
  2. Pensions are simply deferred compensation, and, roughly speaking, half of the pension we collect at Waterloo comes from our own contributions. 
  3. The average starting age of faculty at Waterloo is somewhere between 35-40 years old. Think about what that means in terms of the pension implications of such a late career start (not to mention the wait-time to start collecting a career salary).
  4. Any Canadian employee working at age 71 or older is forced by federal law to start taking their pension.
Continue reading “FAUW’s response to so-called “double dipping” legislation (updated)”