FAUW Execs Appeal to MPPs at OCUFA Queen’s Park Lobby Day

FAUW President Bryan Tolson (Civil and Environmental Engineering) and Treasurer Dan Brown (Computer Science) lobbied at Queen’s Park on March 20, advocating for investment in the university sector, renewal of faculty ranks, and better working conditions for short-term and contract faculty.

Tolson and Brown were part of a team of 25 faculty members from across Ontario, brought together by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), which represents 17,000 faculty members and academic librarians at 28 universities across Ontario.

Tolson and Brown met with several MPPs from Waterloo Region and neighbouring Wellington County: Hon. Daiene Vernile (Kitchener Centre), Hon. Kathryn McGarry (Cambridge), Michael Harris (Kitchener-Conestoga), and Ted Arnott (Wellington-Halton Hills); they also met with legislative staff for Catherine Fife (Kitchener-Waterloo). Continue reading “FAUW Execs Appeal to MPPs at OCUFA Queen’s Park Lobby Day”

February 28 is OCUFA’s Bill 148 Social Media Day of Action

Adapted from a message from Ontario College and University Faculty Associations (OCUFA)

February 28 is OCUFA’s annual social media day of action. The day provides an opportunity for faculty, students, staff, and supporters across Ontario to get the issues of precarious work and fairness for contract faculty (sessionals and definite term lecturers, in Waterloo terms) trending on various social media platforms.

This year’s day of action will be use the momentum generated by Bill 148 to build more support for contract faculty in the lead-up to the provincial election in June.

The goal of the day will be to get as many people as possible to tweet and post Facebook messages to their provincial election candidates. The messages will highlight priorities for contract faculty at our institutions, the need to close gaps in Bill 148, how precarity for contract faculty can affect the quality of education, and where we go from here. Continue reading “February 28 is OCUFA’s Bill 148 Social Media Day of Action”

FAUW Weighs in on Bill 148 – Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act

Faculty association representatives from more than ten Ontario universities recently presented at hearings on Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, including FAUW’s president, Sally Gunz. Her full presentation is below.

Presentation: Sally Gunz, President Faculty Association, University of Waterloo to Committee, Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, Kitchener, 18 July, 2017

My name is Sally Gunz. I am president of the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW). FAUW represents all faculty members at the university except those who are hired to teach by course only. I am a professor of business law and professional ethics in the School of Accounting and Finance, and have worked at the university since 1981. I speak in my capacity as president of FAUW.

Members of the public often think of university professors as well paid, privileged employees. And indeed many are. But few are aware of the prevalence of precarious work on university campuses. My focus is on Bill 148 as it affects the many faculty teaching at the University of Waterloo who are employed solely on the basis of limited term contracts. I note that the university is presently revising its faculty hiring policies and issues around precarious employment are the subject of formal examination.

As background: it is important to understand that there is wide variance in terms and conditions of employment for contract faculty. For example, at the University of Waterloo:

  • Lecturers are mostly hired on one to five-year contracts, but a limited number are hired on an ongoing basis. I focus here on the former.
  • Sessional Instructors are hired by individual course. A distinction here is between those who teach in order to complement another, often professional, career, or to provide post-retirement part time work; and those for whom it is their full-time employment. The goal for many is to become full-time professors. In the meantime, they piece together contracts at Waterloo and often elsewhere, in some cases over very extended lengths of time.

While unstable employment may be used to meet legitimate short term university needs, increasingly such positions are created and sustained in response to real or perceived funding constraints. As university costing models become more sophisticated and transparent, the pressure to maintain flexibility by using temporary positions for high-level teaching tasks appears to be increasing. Let me give you two examples from Waterloo.

  • Case 1: a lecturer hired on one-year contracts for approximately 10 years teaches a range of courses in one discipline. He has received a high-level teaching award and provides strong service to his department, yet his employment remains year-to-year and dominated by no security. 
  • Case 2: in a professional program, instructors are hired to teach multiple sections of courses, sometimes far exceeding a full-time load, but without the benefit of full-time contracts. This denies them a reasonable income, pension, or benefits. The university is reluctant to commit to full-time appointments despite the obvious teaching need in a program in which students pay significantly enhanced fees. 

The use of exploitive hiring exists across universities. The case examples I cite are common. Highly qualified instructors have no employment security, comparatively low pay, and in many cases no pension or benefits. Where educational institutions face funding pressures, the increased use of ‘flexible’ hiring options is virtually inevitable. And while Bill 148 says that no employee shall be paid a rate lower than a comparable full-time employee of the same employer, there are broad exemptions to this rule.[1] What Bill 148 can do, and what I, on behalf of FAUW urge you to do, is to make exploitive hiring options economically unattractive at universities.

To summarize: FAUW is pleased by much of what is in Bill 148. It strongly supports the recommendations OCUFA has made for improvements. In particular it would ask this committee to consider:

  1. Extending the equal pay for equal work provisions to include access to benefits.
  2. Amending Bill 148 to prevent the use of discontinuous contracts as a means of avoiding stable employment. 
  3. Extending the notice period for scheduling of employment to at least two weeks in recognition of the extensive prior preparation needed for assuming a teaching position. 

[1] This rule would not apply where there is a difference in treatment between employees on the basis of: (a) a seniority system; (b) a merit system; (c) a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (d) another factor justifying the difference on objective grounds.

News from the OCUFA Director

—Jasmin Habib, FAUW Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Director

The OCUFA Board of Directors meeting that FAUW President David Porreca and I attended at the end of September was intense. While FAUW is engaged in important discussions about, for example, scheduling and the balance between work and home lives, both David and I were struck with the very serious threats that appear to be facing some of our colleagues across the province.

For example:

Major reforms to pension and benefits packages are likely. Some of the richer benefits packages, for example, those that offer post-retirement research allowances (Professional Expense Reimbursements), are likely to be hardest hit.

Program Prioritisation and Planning processes are underway at several universities and it appears they will lead to deep cuts to programs and academic staff.  Reports across the province are that these cost-cutting measures will be made at the expense of pedagogical excellence.

Serious concerns were also raised about a leaked document that sets out the Province’s “Differentiation Policy Framework”. Since we can all agree that our universities are already “differentiated,” at least to some extent, we do not have any clear sense as to why this particular policy has been introduced or exactly how it will be implemented.  As one Director put it: it seems that the Province is finding all sorts of bottom-drawer policies that may not make any programmatic sense (they may even contradict one another) but they just haven’t been tried out yet. What is most worrisome is that it appears – on the face of it – that smaller universities and their programs will be at highest risk.  To date, OCUFA has not been invited to comment on the matter, which is troubling. Nonetheless, they have made a public statement, as follows: “OCUFA will oppose any policy framework that allows government to interfere in academic decision making, properly the responsibility of university senates.”

For those who would like to learn a little more about what OCUFA does, I would encourage you to visit their website at www.ocufa.on.ca or the OCUFA Facebook page. There, you will find reports and policy statements and a link to Academic Matters.

There are several events that the OCUFA Executive, Directors and Committee members will be engaged with throughout this academic year, including:

  • In October, OCUFA arranges to have its Directors and Faculty Association Presidents meet with local MPPs. These meetings allow for a kind of face-to-face interaction that is quite rare but certainly incredibly important, especially as there is every possibility we will be moving into a critical election sometime early in 2014. David will be attending these meetings on behalf of the FAUW.
  • In November, the OCUFA University Finance Committee will be organising a workshop where they hope “to de-mystify budgets and the budget process.” David and I plan to attend these meetings on behalf of FAUW.
  • And, early next year, OCUFA, together with its standing committees (Collective Bargaining, Grievance, and Status of Women), is planning to organise a workshop “After Bill 168: Occupational Health and Safety in the Academy.” I plan to attend this workshop and it is likely that a member of the FAUW Status of Women and Equity Committee and/or the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee will be joining me.

Last but certainly not least: OCUFA will be hosting its annual conference in February. This year’s theme is “Future View”. The focus of panel discussions and keynote speakers will be on how we might re-imagine research, teaching and service in the future. A big concern: how might our practices have to change as governments shift their funding priorities away from our post-secondary institutions? Stay tuned!