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Bargaining Bulletin July 2013: Get ready for bargaining in the new year

We the North
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Brothers and Sisters,

At the start of the summer holidays – for most members – the CAAT Academic Divisional Executive wishes everyone a very joyful, healthy and relaxing vacation.  Be it puttering around the garden, cycling, or traveling to new destinations the important thing is to be able to relax and enjoy yourselves.

At the start of the new academic year, we will begin the pre-bargaining process that will precede negotiations for a new collective agreement. We will be at the table with our employer at the start of June 2014.

Your input at the local level is important in shaping the demands that will ultimately make it to the bargaining table and finally into the collective agreement.  Ideally, demand-setting is one of the most democratic processes in any union.  Exercise your democratic right to be heard: Participate fully in this process.

The pre-bargaining meeting has been confirmed for Saturday October 26 and Sunday October 27 in Toronto. 

This meeting will include the election of our provincial negotiating team. Delegates will be able to discuss and apprise themselves of the issues that we are facing and those that are coming up. This is a fully delegated meeting. Each College may send the allotted number of delegates as per OPSEU policy and guidelines.

The delegate entitlement is according to the OPSEU convention formula (Article 13.4 Constitution) and based on the number of CAAT Academic members in the Local. The first delegate will be your Local President.

The collected pre-bargaining conference material, along with the input received at the pre-bargaining conference, will be provided to your Local as resources for a productive local Demand-Setting meeting.  At your local meeting you may bring forward any ideas that will help your sisters and brothers achieve a better working environment and a better learning environment for our students.

After a restful summer, be prepared to exercise your democratic rights by participating in this important process.  It is your future: Make it count.

CAAT-Academic Divisional Executive

2nd Annual College Faculty Symposium addresses quality education and academic freedom

On June 7, 2013, over 50 College Faculty members and guests gathered at Oakham House on Ryerson’s campus to strategize around how to gain academic freedom in the colleges.  As both keynote speaker James Turk, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) and OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas emphasized, academic freedom is absolutely crucial to ensure quality education in Ontario’s colleges. It’s not only about the rights and status of educators, but about educators having enough control of our workplace to ensure academic quality.

As Turk defined it, academic freedom includes four elements:

Teaching:   teachers should have the freedom to teach and assess students without interference

Research and scholarly work:   academics should be able to pursue academic inquiry free from prescribed orthodoxy or outside interference

Intramural:   all faculty should have the right to be critical of our own institutions, as well as its policies and practices

Extramural:   each of us should have the right to participate actively as citizens in our society without the employer taking action against us.

In a nutshell, as educators we should have control of our classrooms and intellectual property, as well as the right to speak out as public intellectuals and experts in our fields.

So, who in Ontario currently has these rights?  100% of university teachers and 0% of college teachers. And what’s good for university teachers is good for college teachers—because, in both cases, it is good for our students.

According to Turk, there are two competing visions in our sector: That academic workers should have a significant role in the academic decisions of the colleges, versus the employers’ vision that this was okay 100 years ago, but now we need to go in the corporate direction of WalMart.

Our job is to forcefully reject this corporatization and erosion of our role as educators. The key is collective bargaining. Excellent language and resources exist with regards to including academic freedom in our collective agreement.  The challenge is how to force the employer to accept this demand.

Ontario colleges have a history as vocational educational institutions, however universities do a lot of vocational training (think of doctors, lawyers, or nurses, for example). The only difference is institutional status.

College faculty should have the same protections for academic freedom as university faculty: Job security, the ability to express ourselves freely in the classroom and in our scholarly work, ownership of what we create, custody and control of our own records, and the ability to constructively criticize our institutions.  Educators are the experts and should be the dominant voice in academic decision-making, not managers. 

Warren (Smokey) Thomas assured the crowd that OPSEU will support us 100% in the fight to restore the proper balance in our system—one in which the people who know best are the ones who make the decisions in the classroom.

Our challenge now is to build academic freedom into our collective agreements, not just into college policies. Many of our individual colleges have some academic freedom language built into college policies.  Some of it even looks pretty good.  What we are learning, however, is that this language can be changed or ignored according to the mood of the administration.  Many colleges are now in the process of eliminating key elements of their academic freedom policies—for example, both Fanshawe and St. Lawrence are proposing language that would strip away rights of faculty.

Information presented at the symposium further supported this trend.  A panel of college faculty including Carolyn Gaunt (Cambrian), Darryl Bedford (Fanshawe), Geoff Ondercin-Bourne and Kevin McKay (Mohawk) and moderated by Winnie Ng (Sam Gindin Chair, Ryerson), discussed the ways in which partnerships with private colleges, outsourcing, and forced online curriculum are eroding the role of faculty in educational decisions of the colleges, as well as undermining the very foundations of quality education. 

As panelist Alistair Woods (Canadian Federation of Students, Ontario) so eloquently expressed: “This is both a state of the union and an idea of how to move forward together.  Our common issue is to fight for low cost, high quality, public education based not on expediency, nor on education as a commodity.” Other members of this panel, including Constance Adamson from the Ontario Coalition of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), Penni Stewart (CAUT), and moderated by Louise Brown of The Toronto Star, also demonstrated the need for alliances between unions, students, university faculty, media and the colleges. Brown highlighted the ways in which colleges can use the media to reach the public, as well as the limitations facing print news reporters. 

Over the course of the day, it became clear that in order to win academic freedom we must work together in our locals to:

  • educate ourselves, allies and the public about why this is a crucial issue;

  • build alliances with students, alumni,  and other educators;

  • know that we should have these rights not because we want to become universities, but because we need them to do our jobs well;

  • make this a public issue: these are rights we need to guarantee better quality programs and institutions. 

The symposium wrapped up with a World Café discussion about how to best reach these goals.  A campaign kit is being assembled from the information gathered from the day, and will be distributed to each local in late August or early September. 

Our classrooms are our working conditions and our students’ learning conditions. We have to defend our labour rights in order to ensure the best quality college education we can deliver. 

For more information, including videos of each of the speakers and panels, please visit:  http://opseu.org/caat/caat_ac/2013-conference-videos.htm    

 

NUPGE Convention inspires and informs

 

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) met in Ottawa June 14-16 for their triennial convention.  Representatives from across the country gathered to examine the issues facing public service workers in particular and workers in general.  Policy papers outlined the research and strategies used to battle the austerity agenda, privatization, and cuts to community-based social services. 

Plans were also made to fight for tax fairness and develop a modern industrial strategy to ensure that good jobs are here for Canadians through value-added manufacturing, sustainable resource extraction, energy generation, and agriculture.

Trade deals such as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) undermine the authority of our elected leaders – did you know that if Canada were to enact “Buy Canadian” policies, European companies could seek compensation for their “losses” – is this what we want for our country?  <

Even the list of items that is included in the CETA deal is backwards – it is a negative exclusion – if something isn’t excluded on the list, it is included in the deal.  Therefore, something that isn’t even invented yet could be subject to the restrictions of the deal!

Hearing such articulate, informed union leaders from across the country speaking passionately and purposefully about the work being done on behalf of working people and those who are unable to speak up for themselves was inspiring. 

Challenging and knowledgeable guest speakers included Chris Hedges, author of Death of the Liberal Class and Chrystia and Chrystia Freeland, author of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.

To read a summary of the work done by the National Executive Board over the last three years, go to http://convention.nupge.ca