Pam: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to this Telephone Town Hall for OPSEU members in the College Academic Division. I am Pam Doig Administrator of Communications for OPSEU and I'm your host tonight.
Joining me here at OPSEU Head Office are Smokey Thomas, President of OPSEU; RM Kennedy, Chair of the College Academic Division of OPSEU; JP Hornick, Chair of our College Faculty Bargaining Team; Nicole Zwiers, Vice Chair of the Bargaining Team; and Anastasios Zafiriadis, the Staff Negotiator who has been working with the team since the very start of the bargaining process.
Before we hear from our guests, let me start by explaining how a Telephone Town Hall works. Right now there are thousands of OPSEU college faculty members answering their phones and connecting to this discussion. Basically this is like a radio call in show, except that instead of tuning into a radio station, listeners just have to pick up the phone, stay on the line and they're automatically part of the discussion.
The format of tonight's call is very simple. We are going to hear some brief presentations from our guests and then we are going to open the lines to calls from faculty members who are on the call.
The purpose of the Telephone Town Hall is to hear and answer your questions and in the time we have available, we should be able to answer at least 50 of them. If you have a question for any of our guests, all you have to do is press star three on your phone keypad to indicate you have a question. An operator will take down your question and put you in the queue to ask your question live. If you are participating in this call online, you can also type your question into the chat box and get into the queue that way.
Again, my name is Pam Doig and I'm your host for this Telephone Town Hall meeting this evening with the OPSEU college faculty. I'm here to keep this conversation moving smoothly and to make sure we get to hear you opinions and have as much discussion as possible.
Without further ado, I'd like to invite Smokey Thomas, President of OPSEU to say a few words. Smokey.
Smokey: Yeah, thanks, Pam, and I'd like to thank everybody for being on the line tonight and the bargaining team members and our RM, Chair the Division for being here as well. I just want to say a couple of things.
First off, I know it's cold comfort … No pun intended but I've been on strike. I've walked the picket line in the dead of winter for the Kingston Psychiatric, so I do know what it's like and I've walked a lot of picket lines over my years as President. I know it's not much fun, but, however, your team did not put you out here, your employer did. Your employer is one of the most unreasonable, bullying examples of management that I have ever witnessed. I rank him right up there in about the top two and it's a tossup between who's worse, Mike Harris or your employer.
We are where we are. The team's going to answer all your questions about the offer. The teams and I are asking you to vote no. Vote no so that the team can go back and then have the employer sit there and figure out how they're going to get themselves out of the pickle that they’ve put themselves in.
All I know is the team has worked very, very hard and I've had calls from parents and students and they're quite understandably upset, but I always implore them not to be mad at you and I don’t think that they are. The odd one is, of course, so you can't make everybody happy but they're quite really upset and concerned but they do understand. If there are any managers listening in and the odd time, I'm sure they've got their hands on the number somewhere. I'd just say this to you.
Ask yourself this question: Would you have your son or daughter vote to accept this offer with all the concessions in it and that will make the workplace worse? Would you ask your son or say to them, "Yeah, take that offer. Go back to work and be bullied some more?" Would you ask, have your son or daughter work for you or work in the college system? I suspect the answer is probably no. For managers, I think they're being misled by a guy named Don Sinclair who's no fan of working people, nor is the lawyer they use.
You're educators and sometimes in life, you get what's called a teachable moment and I think when you go back in … Cause the strike will come to an end, whether it's next Thursday or Friday or whatever or a week later. Let's be real, it's still a fight. It's still a war. This is a just a battle along the way but students are going to come back in and I know that some presidents have been trying to turn the students against the faculty with limited or if any success at all. I'd ask you to consider this when you're talking to your students, if you're able to. Talk to them about being bullied and how they should not be bullied when they go into the workplace.
I did a CTV interview and I wrapped it up by saying this: "I would hope that when the students leave college and get a job in the world, that they don’t have to work for a bad boss like this one." I really do mean that, but your team is dedicated. They've got answers for you and, again, I'm just asking you to support the team and vote no on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Pam: Thank you, Smokey.
If you've just joined us, you are listening to an OPSEU Telephone Town Hall on the upcoming vote by college faculty. I'm your host Pam Doig.
Our next presenter is very well known to college faculty. JP Hornick is the Chair of the OPSEU College Faculty Bargaining Team. JP.
JP: Thank you, Pam.
Thanks, everybody, for joining us tonight. I'm going to take some time now to explain what's going on in this particular moment. The landscape of bargaining changes very quickly, particularly this week and I know that you all have a lot of questions so I won't take too much time.
Basically, we've been hearing a lot from our faculty on the lines through text, through email, through social media about the support and solidarity that you show for your team and I can't tell you how much that means to us. Thank you.
This round has been built from the beginning and continues to be built on the principles of fighting for a better quality of education and for better fairness for all of our faculty. Those are the two key issues that remain facing us today. Basically, what we're doing is we're fighting to improve the system for the next generation of students and the next generation of faculty who come in, as well as to battle for better conditions for ourselves.
It's hard being out on the lines. I know that. I've been visiting lots of lines around the province and what I've noticed more than ever and certainly more so than even in 2006 is the amount of solidarity that people are showing for each other and the knowledge that you show about the issues of precarious work, Bill 148, governance and academic freedom and how strongly you feel about fighting for these issues.
I know it's getting harder as the time goes on, but very soon, the strike's going to be over. The only way it can end, however, with a negotiated settlement is if we reject management's offer next week. Next week's Forced Offer Vote, it's a one-time only option for college employer counsel. When we vote that contract down, they're not going to be able to bring it out again, they lose their leverage at the table and they'll have a sense of just how strongly our faculty feel about how bad this offer is.
The concessions they've included in this offer and concessions we cannot take. Their offer looks good on the surface, perhaps, but it will cost us dearly in jobs and in our working conditions. Next week, Tuesday at nine AM when that poll opens, I'll be voting no and I hope you will, too. When you vote no, you're going to reset the clock so we can go back to the table and quickly finish up the job of negotiating a fair agreement that both parties can recommend.
There's no need for students not to be in their classroom this week. The college employer and counsel, they could have done this back in September or in any point during the early days of the strike. They need to get back to the table immediately. They need to stop telling us they're at the table when they're not and then students could be back in class on Monday. It's really just that simple.
Pam: Thank you, JP.
I'd like to turn now to Nicole Zwiers, Vice Chair of your Faculty Bargaining Team to talk about why the team is recommending members vote no. Nicole.
Nicole: Thanks, Pam.
The contract offer put forward by the college employer counsel on November the 6th is a bad one for faculty and it’s a bad one for the students we teach. I want to walk you through some of the big issues that we have with this offer.
This offer allows the colleges to continue to expand the pool of contract faculty without restriction. This is wrong. Having more precarious work is not a better plan for our colleges, we've been very clear about that and so have our members. This offer allows the colleges to avoid paying equal pay for equal work for contract faculty, even after the passing of Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act. This is wrong.
This offer will decrease the percentage of full time jobs in the colleges. Faculty are fighting for a 50/50 ratio of permanent to contract staff. The colleges' offer, fails to create a path to permanent jobs for partial load faculty. In fact, by removing the cap on teaching weeks and overtime for full time faculty, this offer allows the employer to move work from partial load faculty to existing full timers. This offer will mean fewer teaching hours available for partial load faculty. This offer does nothing to recognize that faculty need academic freedom to safeguard education quality for our students.
The return to work protocol included in the counsel's offer includes much of the same language from the 2006 protocol, except it's a little bit worse. That protocol left thousands of faculty without a penny in return for their return to work overtime hours. We're also really concerned that the change in Paragraph One to one over 216 days could mean a monetary loss for faculty. The colleges have forced a vote on an offer that is filled with concessions and it still does nothing to address academic freedom.
I really could go on and on but I know we want to get to questions, so I'll stop there.
Pam: Thank you very much, Nicole.
Your listening to an OPSEU Telephone Town Hall about the contract vote for college faculty that is taking place next week from November 14-16.
If you want to ask a question of any of our presenters tonight, all you have to do is press star three on your telephone keypad or if you are participating online, just type your question into the chat box. Either way, you will get into the queue and you'll be able to ask your question directly or we will read it out if you ventured it online.
Before we go to those questions on the phones, I just want to hear from one last presenter and that is RM Kennedy who's going to talk a bit about the vote itself.
RM: Thanks, Pam.
For the vote itself as you probably already know, it will be online and takes place starting at nine AM Eastern time on Tuesday, November 14th and continues until 10 AM Eastern time on November 16th. There's only one way to get the information you need in order to vote and that is to check your college email.
On Monday, you will receive an email that includes the personal identification number that you will need in order to be able to vote, as well as the address online that you need to go to in order to vote. It's not complicated. The main thing is you have to check your college email on Monday and you have to vote.
Pam: I'm sure we'll hear more about that. Thanks very much, RM.
Let's go to our first question of the night from Marissa at Sheridan and, Marissa, you have a question, I think about a forced vote. Please go ahead.
Marissa: I'm just … why the forced vote is not about the agreements that were … They much advanced over the weekend, why they went back to the previous offer?
JP: Marissa, that’s a great question. We were a bit confused by that ourselves. I mean we believed that we had been making progress at the table on the key issues. We've been really chipping away and starting to move them from some of the concessions. We had really expected to wrap this thing up on Monday and instead when they called us to the table, they presented this offer that is filled with concessions and told us they were going to the OLRB for a forced vote.
Unfortunately, they get the right to do that once. Had they offered something that was closer to what we had been talking about, they had offered a little bit of sweetening in the deal, then we'd be in a different position than we are now but they just added back in concessions. That really made it hard for us and so we found ourselves in the position … Now, that said, we kept trying to bring them back to the table to actually have a conversation and they've really continued along the path of "It's our offer or nothing at all."
Pam: Okay, thank you very much for that question and your answer, thorough answer, thank you.
Let's go right to another member's question. We're hearing from Barat at Sheridan who would like to talk about Article 2.5, I believe. What's your question please, Barat?
Barat: Okay, first of all, thank you so much, JP, as well as Smokey. I think the two of you have done a fantastic job of representing us. I applaud you for the great stuff that you're doing. One of the things that I found very, very concerning are some of the things that were crossed out and on the top of page four, it says, "No full time bargaining unit member who has completed the probationary period will be released from the college employ as a result of the college contracting out his or her work."
That’s crossed out and what scares me is that they could technically … I mean Smokey was talking about this whole issue around bullying and harassment. He talked about the … Like how this employer truly is and I completely see that. I completely see it even within in our college, but this is scary because one of the things that I valued about getting out of probation was the protection I had as a full time member and this suggest that I could technically …
My AD, if that individual does not like me or wants to remove me from my employment, this would be one way to do it and that simply, simply to just contract me out. Then ultimately I don’t see any provision here around seniority, merit or anything. This is the clause that I think takes precedence over academic freedom because you won't have academic freedom unless you're employed long term with the college.
I'm just wondering why this clause has not been highlighted for the media, highlighted for the students, and highlighted for all the faculty that are not in the picket line, because this is the one that should … Where it's an automatic no. I just want to know what the Bargaining Team's position is on this one?
Pam: Thank you, Barat. Nicole is going to answer your question.
Nicole: Hi, Barat, thanks very much for calling in. What you just referred to actually expired with the expiry of the last collective agreement. That provision you're referring to, the letter or understanding was negotiated in the 2014 round and it was set to expire with that contract. It went hand in hand and worked together with the moratorium in Article Two, which was a freeze on the preference for full time faculty. With having the moratorium expire, we naturally had this expire as well.
Although I appreciate that it can be alarming to look at this wording and see that it's crossed out, that was always the intent and again it was a counterbalance to the moratorium on the article by which we're able to get preference in hiring for full time faculty.
Pam: Thank you for question and we're going to move along here to Danielle at Humber or Daniel at Humber, rather, about an annual wage increase.
Daniel: Hi there. Hi there. Thanks for taking my call. I want to know if there is a no vote and things move back to the negotiating table, will the union be pushing for annual wage increases that at least at a very bare minimum, meet the rate of inflation?
Pam: JP's going to take that question.
JP: Sure, we're actually very close on wages. The staking point in this round hasn’t been the wages. We have been pushing for a reasonable wage increase that meets the cost of living and for a retroactive provision in what the employer had tabled. They were hoping to start the wage increase in year one, from the date of ratification and we want to push that back as well. We are looking at the wage increases that you've seen tabled in our proposal and we actually are hoping for better job security for the partial loads as well so that they'll get to enjoy those wage increases a little bit faster than they used to.
Pam: Thanks very much, JP. Moving along now to David at Algonquin College. David, you have a question about electronic voting?
David: Yeah, my issue of electronic voting is first of all, it's managed by the OLRB the Labor Relations Board and I am concerned that the colleges get an email from the OLRB with all our pins that we used to vote. My concern is that people who do not read their emails just before voting closes, it's very easily for the college to snipe the pin numbers, go in and skew the vote and we have already had at Algonquin College where management has tried to influence voting and they …
Obviously management had to pay a hefty sum when they caught out, but I think we have to get rid of electronic voting. Stanford University says electronic voting is a bad idea and I think it's a bad idea. We have to have two feet in the polling both with a pencil and mark an X.
Pam: Okay, David. Thank you very much for that question. I'm going to ask Anastasios to give you an answer.
Anastasios: Hi, David. Thank you for the question. Yeah, you're right on how the vote should have been done. Unfortunately, under the CCBA, Colleges Collective Bargaining Act, the OLRB supervises the vote and determines the process that the vote happens or how it happens. They determine that it would be electronic voting. We argued, unfortunately, we weren’t successful in having it changed.
There was a couple of other issues that the employer wanted that we were able to beat back. One of them was they wanted a voting on the contract … Sorry, on the offer in, on campus and they weren’t able to get that. Unfortunately, as I said, the OLRB determines how the vote is done and that’s how we were doing it right now.
Pam: Thank you, Anastasios. I'm just going to ask RM to follow up on that.
RM: Yeah, just this one follow up. I think it's important to look at the regulations as they're posted on how the vote will be conducted. The good news is that there will be an alternate call in, telephone option. We can take the pin and people can actually call directly in to make their vote and register their vote that way. I think that’s an important back up that we have as well, besides just voting online.
Pam: Okay, thank you, RM. Now we've got Tom from Algonquin on the line regarding overtime removal. Tom.
Tom: Hi, I'm just putting together some information with some colleagues and it appears with the language of that removes restrictions on overtime, that if full time faculty were … If 20% of full time faculty were to agree to just six hours of extra work per week, and that’s not all overtime work, it appears that after two semesters, the extra hours that they took would cause the part time work … That’s part time to exceed the partial load work. When I look at that language, I just think, we can't let this go through. Is there any possibility that that overtime restriction can be removed and we could end up in another circumstance?
Pam: JP, please go ahead.
JP: That’s a really great point, Tom, and one that we've been looking at as well and that’s why this round is so important for the partial load. The overtime provisions, both that weekly overtime, as well as the hourly overtime removals, what that would mean is exactly what you've just identified, which is the ability for the colleges to move that work into the full timers which is going to mean that it reduces the amount of work available for our partial load colleagues.
Now the bigger part of your question is how do we fight that? How do we take that out of a negotiated settlement?
The answer is very simple, you reject this offer and it's not in our offer back to management, right. It hasn’t been there. It's one that they keep insisting on throwing back in and if we reject this offer than we have really better leverage. The more strongly this offer is rejected, the better that leverage becomes as well. I think the answer on that one is actually quite simple and you're quite right in your reasoning. Just reject the offer and encourage everyone you know to reject the offer.
Pam: Thanks, thank you, JP. We've got Cindy on the line from Sheridan College and, Cindy, you've got a question about the vote, I understand.
Cindy: Hi, my question has to do with what happens if we … Actually, it has to do with the … I'm surprised that we haven’t been legislated back to work and subject to binding arbitration. If we reject the vote next week, which is more likely to happen? We'll be back at the negotiating table or we'll be subjected to binding arbitration? What do you see as the better outcome, let's say binding arbitration, compared to the offer that we have in front of us?
Smokey: It's Smokey here, so I vote down the offer in front of you. Let your team go back and finish the job but on … There was a … The liberal government interfered in collective bargaining in the education sector so that’s like OSSTF Ops who had followed the Catholic Teachers Association, a bunch of smaller unions and they imposed terms and conditions. The unions filed a charter challenge and we won that charger challenge cause labor rights are enshrined in the Constitution of Canada.
What that means is the liberals do not have at their disposal the ability to legislate you back. They could do that but it would be a bit of an extraordinary move. The minister has said repeatedly that they would consider it but I don’t know under which circumstances they would. I believe in the past year, legislate back went to arbitration. That might be an option as well, but if not, given any indication that they would do that, at this juncture, they'd have to get a vote in, have to be move a bill in the house, in fact, make it a law.
It's not that I don’t think that they're considering that at this time. I think if it went on, they would consider all options. I can say on the part of the government as they've put tremendous pressure on both the employer, counsel, and on OPSEU, and to reach a negotiated deal. A negotiated deal is far superior to the nonsense they're doing to you now or to be unlegislated or arbitration. Cause in arbitration, arbitrators tend to split it down the middle, you get some, they get some, and quite often not be a happy outcome either.
I think the key here is do what the team's asking as voted down and let them get back to the table and cut you a deal.
Pam: JP, can you add to that?
JP: Smokey's absolutely right. Historically, we've been legislated back and sent to binding arbitration and even that as a worst case scenario, it's still better than this offer. The trick is to look at the history of our division. This is the time for us to keep fighting to show our strength so that we can get back to the table. If the government ends up insisting on binding arbitration or the employer does, then we have to look at that at that point, but the key step that we're focused on right now is we have to reject the offer either way to get to the next step of how to negotiate.
Pam: Thanks for that important question, Cindy, and the comments. We've got Shareen from Seneca, regarding the vote. Shareen.
Shareen: Hi there. One of my questions was on the security of the online voting and I believe it was answered because we do have another choice now for the phone. I'm very new to this actually. I've never been through a strike and I'm just wondering about the email. Will they use our college emails for us to vote on?
Pam: We're happy to … Going to turn that over to Anastasios to help you out, Shareen.
Anastasios: Hi, Shareen. Yes, they will be using the employer email but only to send the email giving you your pin number. The company that’s doing sort of the OLRB that’s doing that electronic voting will only have the information, nobody else can access that.
Pam: In that way it's like a secure ballot. Okay, thanks very much, Anastasios. Ernie from Humber, are you there Ernie?
Ernie: Okay, I'd like to say that the entire negotiating team and everyone involved with the organization or this is doing an absolutely phenomenal job and to go to the 10 AM meeting this morning near Humber and to be in the room with 500 people that are totally passionate about what they do was an absolutely phenomenal experience.
My fear in this situation is that we are preaching to the choir. I think there's a high number of members who are not coming out, who are not on the picket line who may not even vote, etcetera. I think we have to reach them, if at the same time we can reach the general public in Ontario and get them on side, I think that would be phenomenal.
Smokey's not going to like my next comment but I think it would be great if the head office of OPSEU could pay for a one page ad and every major newspaper in Ontario so that people can see what the issues really are instead of the way they're being hoodwinked by the media right now. If they see that the instructors voted no, they'd stand up and applaud for us. I think this would not hurt us at all. This has to happen before the vote.
I also have one other comment about the balloting via the email. The employers have software which they can use to go in and read our email. They can find out what our pin number is. This is not a hard problem for them.
Anyhow, the first issue which is the, my first comment regarding newspaper ad, what do people feel about that?
Pam: Ernie, thank you and I think that Smokey's happy to answer your question.
Smokey: Thanks, Ernie. No, it doesn’t make me unhappy at all talk about newspaper ads, I think it's a great idea. I know we're looking at all options. I know we've been using social media, very, very effectively, the team has. We're putting things out on social media, I think they're out, exposing their salaries and I know when we did that before newspaper ads, they really didn’t like it. I can tell you, they really didn’t like it. Some newspapers are reluctant to run that sort of thing so we have to really figure out what they'll run and what they won't run. They actually do a lot of editing on your ads when you get into this kind of battle.
Just on the ads, though, so social media, I think, but on the people who are not participating in the strike, I suspect a lot of them are people who have other jobs and they work two and three jobs to live. They're probably not participating because they've got to live and they want to eat and they can't jeopardize the other jobs they have. I think if everybody was committed to touch base with two or three of your co-workers, particularly if you know they're not participating in the strike, they're not crossing picket lines, they're not doing work, just not participating.
If everybody undertook, call two or three of your co-workers and say, "Hey, you know what," and in a very non-judgmental way say, "I'm asking you to vote and I'm asking you to vote no," and take a couple of minutes to explain why. That would be phenomenal. That would be the most powerful thing you could do. The newspaper ads right now, they go at the employer, but the task right now and JP's exactly, right, is to get the no vote and get everybody that’s going to vote to vote and vote no.
Phone your friends, phone your colleagues. Even if you're only acquaintances, give them a call. Check up on, you want to see how they're doing, too, right.
Pam: Yeah, and JP's going to follow up on that, Ernie.
JP: Ernie, I remember meeting you at Humber there and I can tell you explicitly, I just was in the conversation with some of the LACK at Humber, the Local Executive and they are already well underway on a plan to create a phone bank and call every single one of your members. I really applaud the work that you guys have been doing out there. It's been amazing to see the solidarity in the lines at Humber.
Pam: Okay, thank you, JP. I can tell you, too, that we are working with an ad agency as it happens and we are looking at a big [inaudible 00:32:56] but job number one is to get through this vote and that’s mainly internal organizing, right, so thank you very much.
I'm going to take one more question before we just get onto something else, it's a little bit of a poll to see who's on the line and that is from Tim at Algonquin, regarding contract work. Is that right, Tim?
Tim: Yes, it is. JP may have already addressed this when I came in after putting my question forward, she was discussing it but it's an issue that brings together part time/partial load and full time employees all together. The management offer to settle, page four, they delete Article Two, Section One and that seems to imply that they can terminate any full time staff at their discretion for the next four years if there's a yes vote and replace them strictly with contract workers, creating more precarious situations within the education network. I was just wondering if you could confirm this or expound on it.
JP: Yeah, thanks, Tim. What that is is actually a letter of understanding that was the moratorium on Article Two that was agreed to in 2014. That expired September 30th as it was meant to do, because the no contracting out language that you identify there was actually connected to the moratorium in being able to file staffing grievances. Both of those things expired and that means that Article Two is actually back to status quo. There's no real loss there.
The team has been looking at contracting out language but that aspect of the employers offer is less scary since it was meant to expire than their Article 2.04 and 2.05 which actually allow them to expand the part time ranks with almost no restrictions and then to create a definition of the various levels of contract faculty that would allow them to get out of their obligations under Bill 148 for equal pay for equal work. The team is actually not concerned about the thing that was set to expire but the new concessions they've brought in to create more precarious work in our system and destabilize the amount of the full time bargaining unit.
Pam: Okay, thank you, JP, and I hope that's helpful to you, Tim. One of the other things that we could do on anything like this is find out who's on our line and so we're going to do a quick poll now. I'm going to ask a question and then read out four answers and you chose the one that most reflects your opinion by pressing the number on your phone keypad that corresponds with the answer you agree with.
Oh, three, sorry, there's a little typo here. It's just like going back to school, isn’t it? Okay. Thank you, JP.
Back to the [inaudible 00:36:07].
Our first question is and only question is tell us who you are. Press one if you are full time faculty. Press two for partial load faculty. Press three for full time but used to be partial load. Again the question is what is your position at your college? Press one for full time faculty. Press two for partial load faculty. Press three for full time but used to be partial load.
For those of you just joining us, I'm Pam Doig and I'm your host tonight for this Telephone Town Hall and to talk about the next contract offer vote that’s happening next week. I'm joined tonight by Smokey Thomas, President of OPSEU; RM Kennedy, Chair of the College Academic Division of OPSEU; JP Hornick, Chair of our College Faculty Bargaining Team; Nicole Zweirs, Vice Chair of the Bargaining Team; and Anastasios Zafiriadis, Staff Negotiator working with the team.
If at any time you would like to ask a question of our panelists, just press star three on your phone. An operator will take down your question and put you in line to ask your question live or if you're participating online, just type your question into the chat box and you'll go into the queue as well.
Panel, we're ready to take some more questions.
All right, we have Nord from Fanshawe, a question about academic freedom.
Nord: Good evening, everyone. First and foremost to Smokey and to JP, thank you so much for your conviction, your consistency, and your hard work. I really appreciate it and I say that very sincerely. These are difficult times for all of us and I think you're doing a fabulous job.
My question is with regards to the language regarding academic freedom, specifically with regards to new faculty coming in and the qualifications that are … or the credentials, pardon me, that are recognized for establishing the first step in this era of evolution when we look back at the last 50 years and consider looking forward now that we have more people with terminal degrees, I'm wondering how the bargaining team wants to shape that conversation with the employer, thank you.
Pam: Nicole, please.
Nicole: Hi, Nord, thanks very much for your question around academic freedom. We need to speak to the employers' offer and how it relates to academic freedom and I'm hopeful that I'm going to address your question in there. As you know, it's quite different from what the faculty bargaining team wants to see in terms of language for academic freedom. In fact, we're quite concerned that if this language that is in the employers' forced vote were to be accepted, that we would actually be in worse positioning in respect of our hopes for academic freedom.
The language that’s in the letter of understanding that the employer has proposed really focuses on the limitations to academic freedom. It almost might be better described as restrictions or control over academic freedom, rather than academic freedom. The idea is that every single member of the faculty ought to have academic freedom regardless of what their background or qualifications are.
That means every single faculty member, including anyone who may have a degree, may not have a degree, might be in the trades, might have a red seal, the idea is that we are experts in the subject matters we teach in, when we're talking about teaching faculty, that also extends as well to counselors and librarians. Again, it really isn’t about the education that a faculty member has, it's premised on the fact that we are experts in what we do and we are in the best position to give input into what happens in our classrooms.
Pam: Thank you, Nicole. All right, Keith from Humber, you have a question about Bill 148.
Keith: Hi, good evening, everyone. I'd like to reinforce what's been said, we really appreciate your hard work. My question around Bill 148 is this can an employer not follow the law, like if it passed into law, how can a collective agreement preclude them from following it? I'm no lawyer but I wanted to understand that because whether it's 7.75% that’s negotiated for now over the next four years, three, four years, if Bill 148 comes into effect and we fall under that, how can they override the law, I guess?
Pam: That’s a very good question, Keith. I'm going to put that over to JP.
JP: There's actually two ways that an employer can get around Bill 148. One is if they already have the inequity built into their collective agreement and the collective agreement's been ratified, then Bill 148 would not apply until after the collective agreement expired. The second way would be to create language in the collective agreement that could be used in arbitration to argue that the workers that should be covered within Bill 148 don’t have those … That the legislation doesn’t apply to them, that they are exempt from the legislation.
That’s the concern that we have with the Article Two language as well as some of the other concessions that they've put in define the contract faculty in such a way as to make it more clear to an arbitrator that they do not do the same work as full time faculty. Those are the two ways. The either having it built directly into the collective agreement so it's delayed or having language that makes it almost impossible for us to arbitrate that those workers should be covered by Bill 148.
Pam: Thank you, JP. I'm just going to ask Smokey if he has anything to add.
Smokey: JP covered it very well but I just say this, first Bill 148's not passed in the law yet, so we're still not really clear but this particular act on the part of the employer is really … It in and in itself is enough to generate a no vote because it's very dangerous and you don’t want to spend four years waiting on what other citizens of Ontario might get almost immediately, right.
Pam: Good point. Thank you very much for that, Keith. Mary from Seneca, you have a question about a return to work protocol?
Mary: I do, thank you. Point number one on the return to work protocol says that the reduction in annual salary for full time bargaining unit members will be 1/216th of the annual salary for each working day of the work stoppage. I was wondering what they meant by that, cause I'm already not being paid while I'm on strike, so I'm thinking that once I return to work, my annual salary shouldn’t be reduced so I was just trying to get my head around that one.
Pam: Thank you. Nicole is going to help with that.
Nicole: Hi. Hi there, thanks for the question, Mary. Yeah, that’s a real concern that bargaining team looked at as well and again, I'm speaking to the employers offer which is certainly not something we would want to see in any agreed to return to work protocol. I think you're quite right to be concerned about the reference to 1/216. In the 2006 return to work protocol, it was 1/261 and if you do a little bit of math that makes quite a bit of difference when you're talking about a reduction in annual salary.
We do think that the way that this is worded, having not seen this before in our return to work protocol, so this being new, we can only guess that this is going to be a monetary reduction and very meaningful coming off a many week long strike for faculty.
Pam: Thank you, Nicole. Next we've got a question and I'm going to bring you the poll results but we've got German from Fanshawe wondering who are the college counsel.
German: Thank you very much and before anything, JP and Smokey, thank you so much for all the work you do and I want to also express my greatest gratitude to Daryl Bedford and to Mark Shelton and Whitney Holt and the London team that have done a very beautiful, beautiful job getting us through these very harsh weeks.
My vote, I also want to anticipate will definitely be a no because and this is just going towards my question, I cannot stand by something that has been placed before me by an authority, someone who claims to be an authority that does not have integrity, that has no transparency, and that has no respect.
That leads to my question, what is going to happen in terms of disclosure of the nature and identity of each one of the members of the employer's counsel? Why have they taken on the task of trying to destroy our union instead of trying to create a unity around something that is of a federal and a provincial matter, actually? That is a fact that in Canada we are now dedicating that percentage of GDP that we should be entertaining from other nations in the world where those percentages are much higher and of course to pay for a greater quality of education. What is, in short, what we're going to do about identifying these people and making them public?
Smokey: Smokey here, on social media, I don’t know how it all works just exactly, but I know it's going out and if you could share it on Facebook and Twitter is actually every president's salary. We've done them all up with … and it's pretty powerful piece. Circulate that. We're going to look … We did an ad before about their salaries. I've done lots of radio interviews and TV interviews about how their salaries … but one of the problems in this particular burning unit is the college is in the main but … and a lot of colleges individually use a few different lawyers around Ottawa and stuff like that.
In the main they’ve used a law firm to do bargaining and their central stuff called Hicks Morley. Hicks Morley is one of the most anti-union, anti-worker law firms that I have ever encountered. We run up against them at bargaining tables everywhere and wherever they're at a table bargaining, you can just about guarantee you're either going to have a strike or a very near miss. They are driven. They live on to get concessions out of workers. I don’t really know how they look at themselves in the mirror in the morning when they shave cause I'd be ashamed to be one of them, but they are anti, anti-union, your DivEx that deals with them year in, year out at arbitrations and grievances and everywhere else.
I keep saying to the government, "Why do you use Hicks Morley?" They're only interested in running the meter cause lawyers of course have billable hours and I can just bet that Hicks Morley and whatever the dude's name is, are getting really rich off of this strike personally. They don’t have any incentive to settle. The longer it goes on, the more money they make.
Pam: Thank you, JP.
JP: Yeah, to your question about who the college counsel are, I mean that, their chief executive officer is Don Sinclair and then their negotiator there is Peter McKaraker but they're also governed by a number of committees, including the most influential is the committee of nine presidents that they keep very, very secret, who advise the counsel and give them direction.
When we map this out, we look at who are the nine presidents with the most influence in the system and by influence, it's often the ones who have the largest colleges and so you can look at that list from Humber, Centennial, Seneca, Sheridan, Algonquin, George Brown, Conestoga, Fanshawe, all of these are the largest colleges and these are the presidents with the largest influence.
Targeting those presidents for those top nine largest colleges would be a really good way to put pressure on counsel in order to get them back to the table and move on some of these key issues. I think that's important to communicate to parents, to students, and to the faculty who are on the line, particularly in those colleges.
Pam: Thank you very much, JP.
I now want to report back on the poll results from the quick poll we just did on the question, "What is your position at your college?" and this poll will give us an idea of who's on this call.
For folks who are participating from … and identify as English faculty, we've got 53% full time, 31% partial, and full time but used to be partial load, 16%. That’s for folks who identify as English speaking faculty.
From our French speaking faculty, folks have identified as 70% full time, 8% partial load, and from full time but was partial load at one point, 22%.
I can tell you happily, there are thousands of people on this call. Absolutely thousands.
My name's Pam Doig and you've joined a call with your college faculty team, bargaining team, and President Smokey Thomas. We'll go back to questions which are lining up.
Tobata, Saint Lawrence College, you've got a question or a comment about voting no?
Tobata: Yes, thank you very much, first of all to the union team that’s been negotiating on our behalf and if there is a no vote next week, I'm wondering … First of all, in the efforts of trying to get a contract with the colleges, a number of concessions or compromises have been made on the part of the union on behalf of the faculty . I'm wondering if there's a no vote, does that put us in a stronger position where we can take back some of those compromises and negotiate from a stronger position?
Smokey: Yes, absolutely, it puts you in an absolute position of strength. It's the one thing you can do to help yourself is vote no, cause then the team can go back to the table, look across the table at them or through the mediator and just say, "Now it's time to get serious and it's time to be reasonable."
Nicole: Yes, thank you. Just to echo Smokey's comments, voting no is our strength. That’s what's going to put the bargaining team in the best position to negotiate on behalf of our members. We could do that reasonably quickly with the forced offer vote out of the way, voted down, the bargaining team would be ready, willing, and able to negotiate a settlement as quickly as possible.
Pam: Thank you for those comments. Ken, can we go to you please, from Conestoga College.
Ken: Yes, hello. Good evening. My question is around job security for partial load and what is in the current offer for job security and what would be in our negotiated offer?
Pam: Nicole's going to address your question.
Nicole: Hi, Ken. Thanks for your question. The difficulty with the counsel's offer that it's put forward is that anything that it's given in the way of job security for partial load has then been undermined by the concessions that its included in its offer. Some of the things we've spoken about are really reducing any restrictions on overtime, that’s going to lead to more hours being done by full time faculty. There would be a much less of a need to have partial load faculty.
We contemplated that we'd have a registry of sorts, we'd have a better priority in hiring for partial load that if you had taught previously, you would be able to be on a registry and get preferential treatment for teaching again. Again, when we have the concessions in the employer's offer around Bill 148, which is really where we hope to make the most gains for members by equal pay for equal work, those concessions are all but undermining any gains that you might see in the employer's offer.
Pam: Thank you for that, Nicole. Next to please to Anita from Georgian College.
Pam: Are you with us, Anita? Hi.
Anita: I am, sorry. JP, this question is for you. Basically, we have a question coming from Georgian College that's Provincial Tech taskforce and I want you to elaborate for our group about what you had chatted with our team about today in terms of the role of that taskforce and the challenges to it.
JP: Yeah, sure, Anita. That’s a fantastic question and I had a really great conversation with you folks up there at Georgian [inaudible 00:55:13] this morning.
The one thing I want to say about this taskforce, it is historically unprecedented for our sector. I mean this is a provincial government facilitated and funded task force specifically to deal with college governance and the precarious work in our sector and what a faculty complement should look like. It is the only time in my 20 years at the college that we really have this opportunity and the best part about it is that this taskforce has committed to bringing forth the recommendations to cabinet for funding.
The third great part about it is it does it in a quick timeline. It starts work January 1st and it concludes on May 18th. We have in both … In the employer's offer, you see a list of key stakeholders and that’s longer than we'd like to see it, but what that also does is lend it strength by having people from industry, from students, from CADAS, the support, as well as us counsel in the ministry.
Now having those stakeholders involved means that all of them have a stake in outcome and it also means that we can work with the government to structure committees and sub-committees that will address the things that are most important to those groups in turn.
The taskforce in this is an incredible benefit. Now, that all said, the benefits of that taskforce can only be realized if the concessions that the employer's offer contains are not in there, because those concessions will limit the ability of us to do successful work in that taskforce, particularly around precarity or governance, to be quite frank. While we see the provincial taskforce is a really positive development, it was in our offer, too, but without all of the concessions.
Pam: Thanks very much, JP. Smokey.
Smokey: Yeah, that taskforce, so on the union side, we will staff it up, give you all the resources you need to do the best job possible. I recently sat on a task force convened by the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Health, have violence in health care, starting, looking at hospitals first.
Combine my last name Thomas, honestly, I was Doubting Thomas at first but the work of the taskforce were come up with 23 key recommendations to really start to address violence in the workplace. Take those recommendations, move them to other sectors of the workforce but there's a commitment in writing from two ministries to actually fund that, to facilitate the changes. In this particular case, there was an employer called the Ontario Hospital Association, that is just about as backwards as the one you have but they have to enact these changes and the ministry, two ministries are saying it.
This taskforce, I think … is JP is right … It's historic. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity and we will make it work and I know that Minister Matthews is … I know she is absolutely committed to it. She's not running again, but she's committed to it, cause she sees the future of the economy of psychologists so I think it’s a great thing but we don’t want the concessions. JP is absolutely right.
Pam: Thank you, Smokey. We have next a question from Robert at Cambrian College in snowy Sudbury and, Robert, please go ahead.
Robert: Yes, hi, everyone. I ask a question today, Cambrian College in [inaudible 00:58:43] held a rally today and, basically, I think it's a no brainer for full time faculty. I think we all know, that anybody who's been on the picket line or knows the issues, that we have to vote no.
Pam: Robert, can you just slow down. Sorry, I need just to interrupt for our translator. Can you just try to speak directly into your phone and maybe a little slower for us, please?
Pam: Thank you.
Robert: I was just saying, I believe it's a no brainer for full time faculty who are aware of the issues that we need to vote no, because we didn’t go on strike for no reason here. I'm concerned about the part time people. I'm glad to hear there's a lot of part time people that are on this call, but I'm concerned that they're not aware of all the issues and I'm just wondering what we're doing to let them know or to inform them.
Now I like what Smokey said about we should be contacting faculty who are not on the picket line to make sure that they're on our side but what else can we do to make sure that the part time people see the value in voting no? Thank you.
JP: Thanks for that, Robert. There's I think three things that we can do and one of them's a kind of sneaky thing and I like it, but the first thing is we've done a video today specifically for contract faculty, for our partial load faculty to talk to them about why rejecting this offer is so important. I expect that'll probably be out tomorrow to speak directly to them and we'll share that through our normal channels, through the locals, but also through social media, etcetera, etcetera.
The second thing is that each of the locals is receiving their phone lists of everyone who is a member of those locals. All of them to my knowledge, right now, are setting up phone banks where people are calling, phone trees that'll be happening so that we have the temperature of what's happening in the vote, which right now, that temperature is very high for a reject.
Then the third thing is, one of the benefits of, I suppose, getting those email lists from the employer is that we can circulate our own information on those email lists as well. We'll be able to reach out to people who maybe aren’t reading their emails from the locals, any other way, but are still checking their college accounts, even though that you shouldn’t be doing that, it is a new avenue that we can use to do that outreach as well. It gives us that third little in from the side.
The best thing you can do, Robert, is to talk to everyone you know and ask them to talk to everyone they know about why these issues are so important for the contract staff.
Pam: Thank you very much, JP. Okay, we've got a question now from Angie at Algonquin, regarding improvements for part time faculty and sessional faculty which Nicole is going to listen to and help you out with, Angie.
Angie: Okay, thank you very much. I'd like to know what improvements, if any, will accrue to non-partial load faculty that is part time and sessional professors as a result of the strike? There are some departments such as mine that rely very, very heavily on these two categories, pay them outrageously low wages and as you know sessional teachers aren't allowed to exceed approximately 12 months in a 24 month period. It's just a constant revolving door of new sessional teachers that have to be recruited and trained.
Nicole: Thanks, Angie. You've just really put a fine point on exactly all of the concerns that we've been raising about precarious work in the college system and you've identified the issues that we're really concerned about.
I'll start by saying that in terms of bargaining, we have to bargain for the bargaining unit members which are the partial load and the full time. However, we've really tried to make strides to increase the number of full time positions and in so doing, our expectation is that our very capable sessional and part time colleagues would have the opportunity to apply for and be hired in those full time positions. That’s really the move towards having the 50/50 complement which would be to expand what is currently a very low rate of full time faculty and open that up for people who are currently sessional and part time.
Pam: Thank you very much, Nicole. From Lita, Northern College.
Lita: Hi there, can you hear me?
Lita: My name is Lita and I'm from Northern College and my question is about the 50/50. Historically, the colleges have created committees that never really go anywhere and now you're saying there's a taskforce that might bring us to 50/50. Will this be in the collective agreement or is this going to be another one of those things that might happen or might not?
JP: It's in the collective agreement as a letter of understanding. It has a commitment to funding by the government and a commitment to bring those recommendations to cabinet for further funding. I have every confidence that this is actually a taskforce with meaning and with teeth.
Pam: Thank you very much. We have next a question from La Cite.
Eddie: My name is Eddie Duashe and I'm a permanent in the College La Cite. My question has to do to what will happen after a vote no concerning the offer. What does guarantee us that the government will not say, "Go back to work with an arbiter?"
Smokey: That’s a good question. We addressed it earlier but we'll address it again. The government has indicated that it will not legislate back at this point in time. They have also indicated that they would not be inclined to do that. We're involved in a charter challenge in the education sector so we represent some workers in the boards of education as well. We're involved in a charter challenge when the then McGuinty government interfered in bargaining and imposed contracts.
We won that charter challenge. The labor rights are enshrined in the Constitution of Canada. That’s a tool that the government kind of has at its disposal but that they would be extremely reluctant to use because they know at the end of the day, they would lose the charter challenge and they would have to figure out how to settle up with 12,000 people for violating their rights. In the case of the education sector, the negotiations around the settlement took … It took quite a while but we put money in people's pockets and we won that one. I don’t think they'll do that.
Pam: Merci, Eddie.
Speaker 27: Thank you, Eddie.
Pam: Next is from Saba at Algonquin regarding overtime after returning to work and Nicole's going to address that. Saba.
Saba: Hi, thank you for taking my questions. I have two questions. One is the overtime, I think that’s thousands of professors that didn’t get paid after they go back from the work stoppage due to the clauses in the previous agreement or the collective agreement and I don’t understand why they will be paid all these overtimes. The second question, if you allow me, is I couldn’t figure out what are the improvement for full time position in our offer. I see the improvement for the partial time but I couldn’t figure out what is the actual improvement for full time position. Thank you, these are my questions.
Nicole: Sure, thank you very much for your questions. I'll answer the first one, first. You're right about the overtime and the fact that after 2006, there were thousands of faculty who rolled up their sleeves after being on strike for three weeks, did a lot more work to get students to be able to finish a semester and they weren’t paid for that work. You may or may not be surprised to know that the language that is in the counsel's current offer is almost identical in every single respect.
We have 1400 grievances filed in respect of the 2006 return to work protocol, most of those were dismissed, most faculty members did not receive a single dime, despite having worked overtime, again, following a strike. If anything, the language in this return to work protocol, while almost identical, in the areas it's not identical, it's worse. That leads us to conclude that we would have faculty members after four or five weeks on a strike in a much worse position and doing much more overtime without pay.
In respect of your second question, improvements for full time, the taskforce is really aimed at achieving a complement and because there is teeth to this taskforce and it's tied to funding, government funding which is what would we be needing, we're quite confident that we could get to a better level of complement of full time faculty. In addition to that, the moratorium has ended and as a result we have the mechanism in Article Two to argue for more full time positions.
Pam: Thank you, Nicole. Next we'd like to hear from Clair at Algonquin.
Clair: Hi, thanks for taking my call. I'm a partial load faculty so I'm very interested in Article Two. I've partial for seven years now. I'm having a bit of trouble understanding exactly how the language in those new editions undermines Bill 148. To me, 2.05 kind of just describes definitions that already exist so I'm just wondering if you could potentially just clarify exactly how that language is so bad, if that makes sense.
JP: Yes, absolutely, Clair. It looks really innocuous on its surface and so I can understand what the confusion would be, but the trick is in the interpretation of this article. 2.04 doesn’t address Bill 148. 2.04 is about the way in which the college may utilize part time teachers with basically any time they want to as long as they say they have had no express intention to undermine the bargaining unit. We take that to mean that basically, they'd be able to hire part time teachers at will unless they say they are intentionally trying to do so to undermine the union. It's a little bit ridiculous, this language.
2.05, however, entrenches the notion that the definition of a part time employee, a partial load employee and a sessional employee is only linked to teaching, which is not the full range of faculty work that’s done and also doesn’t account for the way in which the colleges currently pyramid contracts so that as we all know, our contract faculty engage in activities well beyond the classroom. This would entrench a definition that shows them different, to be doing different work, which is not the intention of Bill 148.
Pam: Thank you, JP. We're going to try … We've got a lot of questions lined up, everyone, so we're going to try to keep the questions short and the answers short, even though you've got a complex collective agreement and some complex issues. I want to remind folks that at the end of the call you can stay on the line or drop your questions in through the chat box and we will follow up with you afterwards, as well.
Next, we have Malcolm at Algonquin, regarding contract faculty teaching. Nicole. Malcolm, are you here?
Malcolm: Yes, I am. Go ahead.
Pam: Ah, so what is your question, please, Malcolm?
Malcolm: My question is I've been on the picket line at Progress Campus at Centennial and they’ve been running evening classes that are being taught by partial load or part time faculty and I'm wondering why we're allowing that to happen and why we're not shutting down those picket lines?
JP: Hi, Malcolm. Yeah, those classes that are being taught are continuing education classes. They're outside our bargaining unit so the best that your picket lines can do at Algonquin or any of the other colleges is run strong picket lines to slow down and make it as difficult as possible for people to get across those lines and make sure that they understand what exactly they're doing as they go across.
Pam: Hey, thank you, JP. Hope that helps, Malcolm. Beth from George Brown College, you have a question about what happens if we lose academic freedom, is that right?
Beth: Somewhat. Hi, everyone. Thanks for taking my question. Academic freedom is obviously and important issue for faculty and it certainly has played out in terms of being an important issue in the negotiations. I think that there are some … In my mind anyway … there are some ambiguity around what that exactly means. I'm wondering if someone could provide one example or more what that would look like to have a lack of academic freedom in terms of our daily lives with students in the many teaching and learning environments that we inhabit.
Pam: Thank you, Beth. JP.
JP: Sure, Beth. This is a really crucial issue for us. Many of us think we have academic freedom right now because we might have a good chair or associate dean or supervisor who lets us basically make the decisions in our courses and assign grades that are appropriate for our students. You are one chair or associate dean away from losing that privilege. It is not an enshrined right in the collective agreement and in a college policy, it doesn’t mean that you have it, it just means that the college lets you exercise it at their whim.
Imagine being told that you are going to use canned content from a publishing company only to teach your students or that you can only use multiple choice evaluation methods or the grades you assign will be overturned without any appeals process whatsoever. Then imagine that you mentioned something in a newspaper about your field of expertise and the college doesn’t like what you’ve said and disciplines you based on that. Those are just some of the things we've seen already happening in our colleges because of the lack of academic freedom.
Pam: Okay, thank you and I hope that helps, Beth. We have a question from Peter at Humber. Peter, are you on the line?
Peter: Yeah, I am, thank you very much. Humber and Sheridan, actually, partial load and professor there. My concern is that we've got a couple of days to the vote and the vote could go to a yes, so do we have some strategy for the next few days to maybe close this before the vote actually happens? I think we would be in dire straits if the vote goes yes.
Smokey: If I might just say, you don’t want to be in dire straits so vote no and the strategy for the next few days is to get the no vote out. That’s job one, right now. If the employer suddenly had a flash of sanity or reasonableness and said … and the mediator calls and said, "We'd like to meet again," the team will be there, just as fast as it takes to drive into Toronto to go sit at that table. That is an open invitation from JP and the team and myself to the mediator, to the employer counsel through the press and through … From the negotiator to the mediator. It's there if they want to get reasonable, come back to the table, but again, you don’t want that yes vote. You want the no vote.
Pam: Anything to add Nicole?
Nicole: Yeah, Peter, just as well, to follow up on Smokey's comments, we really can't have a yes vote. It would be disastrous, it would be dire, so Smokey recommended, talk to a couple of people you know who may be haven’t been coming out on the lines, just talk to them. Explain why you're voting no. Keep putting on social media, posting it out there. We do have at most campuses meetings happening to explain to members why a no vote is so critically important. Ask questions and you'll find that people are happy to provide you with answers.
Pam: Okay, thank you very much, Nicole. I'm going to read this question out because we received it online and so the question is from Harvey at Loyalist. "How do we verify the results of the vote if we wish to contest the results?" I'm going to ask Anastasios to help us with that.
Anastasios: Thanks for the question, Harvey, so all voting results will go to the Ontario Labor Relations Board and they will do all the counting and give us the results. Once we get the results, we will then look at any … Hold on a second, just with respect to the … irregularities and after that, if there's anything to challenge, we'll do that.
Pam: Okay, thank you, Anastasios.
Smokey: Just to add to that, we have a lawyer that we use, a very good labor lawyer and a trade unionist at heart. He's been looking at this and every angle possible, and we will scrutinize it very, very carefully if there are any irregularities or we suspect any, we will turn it over to the lawyer and let him go do his job.
Pam: Thank you, Smokey. We have another question. I'm going to take just a few more and then we're close to a wrap up, folks. Let's hear from Michael at Conestoga regarding arbitration.
Michael: Yes, good evening and I'd like to thank the team for its hard work and dedication and a shout out to Lana Lee and her team in Conestoga. My question is this, given that it's very clear that the college counsel strategy is to starve us out, fight a war of attrition, is there a way, and again bear in mind that as time goes on, as the strike is prolonged, people become more and more antsy. They do not have a reliable source of income coming in and sometimes people will do things in desperation, hence the fear of a yes vote.
My question is this. Is there a way to through the courts petition to have another form of mediation? Now I know that Smokey has been against the … an arbitrated, binding arbitrated settlement and he explained why but there are other methods. I don’t know the terminology but there is one method where each side is required to table its very best offer, meaning the most concessions that it can reasonably make and then there is a tribunal that chooses one or the other. It's binary, one for the other. Can you do that?
Pam: Thanks, Michael. Yeah, I'm going to ask Anastasios to help you out with that. Thank you.
Anastasios: Michael, we are currently in mediation and I think what you're referring to is binding arbitration and you've heard already … Smokey's indicated, it would only happen if the government chose to put us into binding arbitration and that’s where you would put your final positions or what you have left in terms of demands from each side forward to an arbitrator for a decision.
At this point, we're not there and I don’t think we're going to get there so we're going to try and hopefully get a no vote and get back to the table and negotiate a deal for the members.
Pam: Thank you, Michael. David from Algonquin, you have a question please.
David: Yes, hi. My question, if you don’t mind, I'd like to read it off the document comparison of final offer dated November 6th from the counsel. It refers to on page one, "The establishment of a provincial joint committee to review the class definition of counselors recognizing the changing profile of the learners." What does that mean and what is the outcome that the union would like to see of that joint committee.
Pam: JP, please.
JP: Yes, so what we were looking at in that letter of understanding was … Originally, what we had tabled was language to update the definition of a counselor to recognize the changing scope of practice that they engage in in the college system. That letter of understanding came out of some language we had tabled. What we were hoping to do in that is to very simply take some time and jointly together look at the best ways to update the counselor definition to reflect the work that they actually do now, as well as any additional legislative obligations that have come up since the last collective agreement.
Pam: Thank you, JP. Okay, so we are getting close to a wrap here but we do want to hear from Kathleen at Saint Lawrence College. You have a question for your team?
Kathleen: Yes, I do. I would like to say thank you very much for your tenacity in this [inaudible 01:22:25] bargaining and I will be voting no, but I do have a concern. My concern is that there is ambiguity and I think some level of misinterpretation of the term academic freedom and what it is we're actually asking for. This was exemplified for me today in a piece that was written by Michael Cohen in the Toronto Star. If I could just quote a piece, just because I feel it exemplifies the ambiguity that the public has and maybe some of their membership.
The quote is, "For college instructors to elevate their disputes to the realm of academic freedom is a conceit borrowed from cutting edge professors in the rarefied world of research universities." My concern is that we need to …
How can we articulate much more clearly for both the public and our membership what it is we're talking about with respect to academic freedom? With respect how we teach, how we evaluate, who makes decisions about the knowledge skills and competencies that are demonstrated by students in whatever form of evaluation we use to determine those?
Pam: Kathleen, I appreciate that. I'm going to ask Nicole, I think she's got the gist of it. I'm going to ask Nicole to give this a shot.
Nicole: Thanks, Kathleen, I think you raised a great question. I read the article as well. I think it's really important that our members understand and I think our students will then also appreciate that when we talk about academic freedom, we're talking about academic input from the people who are most knowledgeable. By that, we are talking about the people who are in the classrooms teaching, the counselors, and librarians.
Just as you referred to, academic freedom really is about having those individuals say what the evaluation method is most appropriate for a given subject. As you can appreciate, as an educator, not every evaluation method is the right one, depending on the learning and the learning outcomes. Determining the textbook, determining if there are pre-requisites, co-requisites that should be going along with your course. Determining whether or not a final grade remains as you put it.
All of those factors are really what we're talking about and it's important to note that this isn’t an ivory tower thing as it may have been portrayed. It really is the norm in post-secondary education. We have to keep in mind that over 50 years that colleges have been in existence, they’ve changed somewhat, they’ve evolved. We now have many of our colleges giving degrees and conducting research and the check in the balance to those has always been academic freedom.
Pam: Thank you, Nicole. We are at our last question which came to us online and I don’t know who sent this in but somebody quite wonderful is asking "What can I do to support the team?"
JP: The biggest thing you can do to support the team is to support one another. Talk to the other faculty that you know, the faculty that you're meeting on the lines, the faculty that your local is going to identify on your phone list and tell them why they need to reject this offer and how crucial it is. Talk to them about the concessions that are included in here, the poison pills that counsel is asking you to swallow and tell them that they are fighting for the future of the system by rejecting this offer. That’s the best way to support the team.
Oh, also, on Tuesday when the voting starts … I'm going to put in a little personal request here … It's my birthday and the best present you could give me on Tuesday for my birthday would be to reject this offer.
Pam: There you go. Happy Birthday, JP.
Okay, so you have been listening to Telephone Town Hall about the contract offer vote for OPSEU college faculty that is taking place next week.
Before we go to final statements from your panelists, I'd like to just remind everyone that if you want more information about the contract offer or anything at all to do with faculty bargaining, you can find tons of information on our website at www.opseu.org or at www.collegefaculty.org. You can follow us on Facebook at Ontario College Faculty and we're also on Twitter and Instagram and we certainly encourage all faculty to continue this conversation on social media.
If you wanted to ask a question tonight but were not able to, stay on the line at the end of the call and you can leave a message and we'll get back to you.
I'm just going to ask right now for some very brief closing remarks from a couple of our panelists, beginning with Smokey Thomas, President of OPSEU.
Smokey: I'd like to thank everybody for getting on the call and wonderful questions and very good questions. Just on Mr. Cohen, he is an opinion writer, so he expresses an opinion, so his opinion on academic freedom, he's entitled to it but I'll stick with Nicole's definition any day of the week, cause I think she's absolutely correct.
If there's anybody that can beat a bad employer, it's this group of workers and this union. If we stick together, if you give your team that no vote, I can't promise you the sun and the moon, but I can promise you, you'll give them the opportunity to go back, get you a deal that they can recommend, that they can say to you, let's ratify this deal. That would be worth all the pain and suffering.
Now it's easy for me to say, I'm not on strike, but I've walked the line for six weeks in the dead of winter under Mike Harris. It is hard to stand up especially, when public opinion or people are upset with you, they're mad at you, but I just say this, I realize then that that’s the one time in life, you know what, we need to stand up, take the bully down and beat them back. I'd say that you're in just about an identical situation here so I hope you can find it in you to go vote and go vote no and give your team that support that they need to go back to the table.
The organization and myself and the executive board, we're 100% behind the team and I mean 100% behind the team.
Pam: Thank you, Smokey. Lastly, let's hear from JP Hornick, Chair of the College Faculty Bargaining Team.
JP: Thank you and I'd echo what Smokey has to say. We are an amazing group of faculty with skills beyond measure and those skills have been brought to bear enormously within the context of this strike. Make no mistake, this is a watershed moment in the history of Ontario's colleges. This is more than just a contract negotiation. This is more than just a strike. This is actually about social policy and this is actually a social movement. We are on the front lines of some key battles around precarious work and about what it means to have quality post-secondary education and our allies are with us.
This strike has been and must continue to be a strike that’s about making our college better for all students and for all faculty. Folks, this is our moment and you have to decide how we're going to take advantage of that moment. We're close to winning a giant step forward, a huge victory for our system and the next step is to vote no and reject this offer.
Pam: Thank you, JP, and thanks to everyone for your participation tonight. One last reminder, if you didn’t get to ask your question, please stay on the line and when the call is over leave a message and we'll get back to you.
You've been listening to an OPSEU Telephone Town Hall for college faculty. I'm Pam Doig. Thank you and have a great evening.