Negotiations with the employer have entered their fifth month. The YUFA bargaining team and the Executive remain very concerned about the lack of progress on many of our key issues. With some important exceptions, we have received negative responses to nearly all of our major proposals. We have seen some encouraging progress in the area of equity. In particular, the employer has agreed to include a new threshold trigger for visible minorities in our hiring procedures, and has agreed in principle with our proposal for targeted hiring of indigenous faculty members (but is currently proposing a target that we consider unacceptably low).
On most of the other key issues, the employer has either categorically refused our proposals or failed to show meaningful signs of movement. At our membership meeting on Tuesday, September 22, we will be presenting a comprehensive review of the negotiations and the employer’s response to our package. For now, here are a few highlights:
Monetary and benefits
The employer has offered a salary increase of only 0.5% in each year of an anticipated three year agreement, but has not yet said this is their final compensation offer. We do not yet know if they will agree to increase our PTR increments or by how much (these increments were frozen in the last contract). They also insist on keeping our sabbatical pay at 82.5% of salary, a reduction which many members have found quite burdensome and which has prompted many of them to opt for a half-year sabbatical in order to retain full nominal salary. Finally, the Employer has not responded to our demand to amend language it has exploited to impose compensation arrangements and other terms and conditions of employment inferior to those required by the Collective Agreement on some especially vulnerable YUFA members.
In the area of benefits, YUFA has been trying to address a number of shortcomings in our current plan, some of which include the following:
● Very weak retirees coverage–well below others in our sector–especially for vision, dental, and out-of-country travel;
● Shortcomings in our caregiver and parental leave package;
● Non-inclusion of social workers and psychotherapists in our coverage for therapists; and
● Vision care for family and dependents–employees pay 100% of the premium cost for this, and the employer is refusing to pick up any portion.
YUFA has presented a revised proposal on professorial stream teaching load which would bring our maximum normal load to 2.0. Please see our most recent backgrounder on this issue. In our new proposal, we accept the principle that there may be cases where faculty may be asked to teach a load higher than 2.0 based on a record of significantly lower research contributions. This language is aligned with similar provisions at other universities, yet the employer has not given any concrete response despite being given our new proposal several weeks ago.
YUFA has maintained its position that the new 3.5 teaching load for Alternate Stream faculty that was imposed in violation of the Collective Agreement is too high in light of the requirement that these faculty achieve the standard of excellence in teaching. The Employer has refused to discuss Alternate Stream teaching load or agree to the assignment of caps in the collective agreement as other universities have done.
Other workload proposals that the employer has rejected include:
● Bringing CLA teaching loads in line with loads for tenure-stream faculty in the same stream;
● Limiting the downloading of administrative work onto faculty;
● Protecting practices around research time for librarians; and
● Explicitly assuring reasonable workload for on-line courses and experiential education courses.
In our bargaining survey YUFA members overwhelmingly expressed their support for proposals that would require increases to the tenure-stream faculty complement. In particular, we have proposed that the ratio of students to faculty be reduced from 41:1 down to 35:1 (close to the ratio that existed approximately 12 years ago). Moreover, the University’s own White Paper lists the replenishment of the faculty complement as the top priority for academic policy and planning at York.
As we know, the university has all the evidence it needs to take this priority seriously, including the following statistics showing a massive shift over the last 15 years toward the use of contract faculty instead of tenure-stream colleagues to cover very large enrollment increases.
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Our members have told us that there has been major erosion in collegial governance across the university. On our bargaining survey, no issue ranked more highly. We have seen the expansion of decanal interference in hiring, tenure and promotion. In the last eight years, closed decanal searches have undermined collegial input in the recruitment of academic leadership of the university (though the senior administration has made one exception, allowing Osgoode Hall Law School to conduct open decanal searches).
The employer has not only refused our proposal to make decanal and senior administrator searches open, they have also rejected our proposal to give faculty members meaningful input into decisions to renew decanal appointments for a second term. We have heard similar negative responses to other proposals that would safeguard collegial governance, such as our proposal to limit the deans’ ability to overturn shortlists chosen by departmental hiring committees.
Remarkably, the university has also refused our proposal to ensure that externally sourced online courses from other universities–or even commercial providers–are subject to academic oversight and approval by degree programs and faculty members here at York. This is especially important as the Government of Ontario begins to roll out its “Ontario Online” initiative. The use of a province-wide centralized bank of courses to which universities subscribe could, without proper safeguards, undermine the principle that curriculum should come under the control of academic units and Senate.
Special Bargaining Meeting on Tuesday, September 22
At our meeting on Tuesday (10 a.m.-noon, 152 Founders) we hope that members will come prepared to discuss these and the many other issues and proposals that we have tried to take up at the bargaining table, mostly with little success. We will discuss strategies for moving forward and we hope to use the meeting to gauge your priorities as we try to clear away obstacles to achieving a collective agreement that reflects those priorities.
Scott Forsyth, Chief Negotiator
Richard Wellen, President