Message from the Chair: Bargaining begins – and we corner Doug Ford
Oh, what a week this was! We started the week with an engaging discussion with our #support4success mobilizers on the communication and engagement strategies for this round of bargaining. The energy was incredible and filled the room with excitement and optimism.
Bargaining for the first time since August 2014 felt like riding a bike after a long time not riding. The first few hours prepping for our initial sit-down with the employer, our team ironed out all the rust that we may have accumulated over the past eight years. After six months of consultation, engagement and meaningful discussions, we crafted 40 proposals. These proposals reflect what Full-Time Support staff have told us need to be addressed in a meaningful way by the employer.
Our bargaining team exchanged proposals on June 15. Our opening statement outlined the ever-changing environment at our colleges and the increased demands on support staff for more work with less time and resources. Our incredible resilience, shown through COVID-19, needs to be recognized with dignity, fairness and respect. Dignity, fairness and respect are what we expect from our employer, and we will accept nothing less. We relayed a message that we wanted to have open and productive dialogue across the table.
This round may be difficult, considering Bill 124 and the current political environment, but we are hopeful that we will be able to achieve a good outcome, with your support. We had a chance encounter with Premier Ford in the lobby of the hotel, and we didn’t shy away. We engaged him in a direct, but respectful, discussion around the wage caps, the rising cost of everything, mortgage rates and our diminishing ability to pay our bills.
We told the Premier that if the province continues to put caps on wages, it will force people to leave the colleges, which would result in heavier workloads and create significant gaps in services for students. He listened and committed that his government was going to address issues stemming from Bill 124 for frontline workers, though he stopped short of including college workers or elaborate what he meant.
Whether Bill 124 is in place or not, we will make sure that we hold the employer to task and demand that our proposals be considered in the way we intended, and not turned into unreasonable concessions.
The colleges keep telling us that it is hard to recruit new employees, while they reject our members through job competitions, without offering useful feedback or ways to improve. They talk about equitable hiring practices, yet they treat us like strangers at interviews and ignore our contributions to the students’ success and college growth.
In the next pages, we have summarized our proposals and included the exchange document we gave the employer. We believe in transparency, open communication and accountability to all support staff.
The employer provided topics for discussion. The topics cover several areas in the collective agreement but did not provide sufficient detail. We asked them when we would be able to discuss their proposals in detail and were informed that we would not discuss them until the next bargaining week. This information was a bit disappointing, but we will continue our communication and mobilizing activities.
Our goal is to have newsletters released on each Monday after each week of bargaining.
Stay tuned, and always in solidarity,
CAAT Support Full-Time Bargaining Team
It was clear from the survey that fairness in our job competition process at colleges is very important to our members. Members with high levels of experience are struggling to compete for jobs due to the high and strict qualifications around education. One of the proposals put to the employer was a system to equate job experience with the different levels of education.
Another issue many locals are reporting is that the hiring process at various colleges for longer-term Appendix D positions is not done in a fair way. There is a proposal to bring the hiring of Appendix D employees in line with the hiring process for all full-time positions.
The bargaining team heard from many colleges that, despite many part-time and Appendix D employees working for years at the college, they struggle to compete for full-time positions. They are often overlooked in competitions that go to new hires from outside the colleges. To help create more equity, the proposal is to give part-time and Appendix D employees access to full-time job competitions.
Due to the pandemic, many colleges experienced layoffs. It became clear our job security language needed improvement. Many heartbreaking situations surfaced at several colleges where members who had been employed for years at the college finally secured a full-time job and were on probation, but due to the layoff and bumping process, were let go. Our proposal in this round of bargaining is to give members on probation access to vacancies. The bargaining team is also seeking improvements to the familiarization language to ensure employees can move to positions, even if they require some on the job training.
While there is no material change to the total number of vacation days, our proposal is for support staff to earn vacation days earlier. We are also asking to align the vacation calendar with our benefits calendar (January 1 to December 31) and realigning the date to request vacation to November 1 of each year. Aligning the vacation calendar with the benefits calendar eliminates the issue of members’ vacation being reset in the summer months, when they may typically need it most. Currently, the vacation year starts on July 1.
Health and safety
Support staff typically spend more time in labs and other areas in the college, requiring safety devices more often than any other working group. All safety devices required should be provided at no cost to the employee.
We have a very diverse membership who span the entire province and also live in Quebec. Including all provincial and federal holidays provides inclusivity, allowing members to observe all holidays and to reflect on the importance of the identified holidays. In addition to the public and statutory holidays, we proposed including the last working day off before December 25.
Many colleges decided to implement fully remote jobs, whereby the employee does not have an office space on campus. Our proposal is that the college provides the same office set up in their home as they would receive if working in the office.
Our members have taken on increased workloads. Members want the ability to request a workload monitoring review to recognize imbalances in the volume of work assigned and a commitment from the employer that validates this gap. In the spirit of transparency, we are also looking for the employer to provide reporting on annual departmental overtime and lieu time to further identify workload issues.
All colleges offer tuition reimbursement for dependants, but the approach and the amounts provided are not consistent. Our proposal will provide a standardized approach and will include spouses as well.
Our proposal on access to career counselling services will provide support to members who want to move within the organization.
For those who are required to pay professional annual dues as a condition of their employment, we submitted a proposal for the reimbursement of all fees.
The bargaining team has proposed increases to union time off to allow greater support for our members. A better union-supported membership allows for greater efforts to work collaboratively with the employer to solve problems as they arise.
A major focus for this round of bargaining is the inclusion of language that supports changes to practices and systems to support equity, diversity and inclusion. We want to ensure that our work environments are free from systemic discrimination in all forms, and that we create space for under-represented groups.
With internationalization at the forefront of many colleges, we need to ensure that our staff reflect the same diversity of our students. We are deeply committed to be purposeful in our journey to create the best experience for our students and our employees. As part of Truth and Reconciliation, our team will be having meaningful consultations and reflections with elders to help provide guidance on inclusive and culturally appropriate processes and policies for Indigenous peoples.
The bargaining team is relentlessly working to achieve a fair and equitable wage increase. The proposal is to add a cost-of-living increase tied to the rate of inflation and the Consumer Price Index. This would ensure that support staff would not see their wages reduced by rising inflation.
During the pandemic, it became very evident that the current structure of the leaves contained in the collective agreement are not adequate. The team is driving forward with proposals to increase the number of family care days and to have all days paid.
The team have also tabled improvements to bereavement leave and added personal days to support better work/life harmony.
Your team has also heard you on the need for improvements to our benefits. Our proposals will address mental health and overall wellness, which include:
- medical cannabis
- dental implants
- separate mental health benefit
- health and wellness spending account
- additional paramedical services and increased maximums
- coverage for sleep apnea machines, accessories and supplies
To help ensure and promote equity, we are bringing forward benefit coverage for Appendix D Members.
An expedited dispute resolution process for drug and medical coverage in urgent and emergency situations is being proposed.