Richard Wellen, YUFA president
On behalf of YUFA's Executive Committee, I would like to wish all of our members a warm welcome back to a new academic year. I was fortunate to have an opportunity to meet many of our new colleagues at a YUFA reception held during the New Faculty Orientation at the end of August. It was gratifying to hear that so many new members are eager to be involved in their faculty association.
One new project for enhancing collegial interaction has been the development of the Faculty-Grad Eatery & Pub, which has been collaboratively financed by YUFA, the York University Graduate Students' Association (YUGSA), and the York administration. The opening will likely take place in early November and we hope that many of our members will take advantage of this unique setting to meet and dine with their academic colleagues and graduate students.
As most of you know, in early 2018, YUFA will be engaged in a new round of collective bargaining with the York administration. In the coming months, I hope to meet many of you as we attempt to schedule visits to your departments and schools to hear your concerns about how YUFA can represent your interests at the bargaining table (in a year when York’s other large unions - CUPE 3903 and YUSA - will also be involved in negotiations).
While members will ultimately decide the content and shape of our bargaining agenda at a general membership meeting to be held early in 2018, there are some key issues that have already been identified in the bargaining survey and by the Bargaining Priorities Subcommittee and the Executive. Some of these include:
- Compensation: In the past decade, YUFA members have accepted very modest salary and benefits settlements that are well below inflation. Factors such as frozen Progress-Through-the-Ranks (PTR) increments, very weak retiree benefits, and pension indexing and freezes applied to funds and benefits amounts have very significantly eroded our overall net compensation. At the same time, the University has run surpluses in the last four years, including a relatively large $36.6M surplus in the most recent fiscal year. Moreover, employees at York are now paying 50% higher pension contribution rates than three years ago, which has further eroded our net pay, and also contributed to a significant surplus in the University’s pension plan.
- Teaching load: While we were successful in the last round of negotiations to expand the research release program (Article 18.15 in our collective agreement), many of our members have expressed concerns about the new program. They have asked why so many York faculty must still engage in an annual application exercise - with often problematic criteria, wide variations across units, and a cumbersome approval process - so that only a subset of faculty can achieve a teaching load that is the default normal load at other comparable universities.
- Governance and collegiality: Our recent bargaining survey shows that members remain very concerned about the diminished level of collegial decision-making and lack of meaningful participation rights in relation to the appointment of senior administrators and deans. For example, a search for a new Provost is now underway, yet there has been almost no real effort to solicit input by faculty or other members of the community for the appointment of the most important academic administrator at the University. Moreover, consultations around developing the university’s Strategic Mandate Agreement (SMA) with government have also been a closed process, even though the document involves many items affecting the University’s academic mission as well as controversial items such as research performance metrics for measuring faculty research output.
- Equity: We need to ensure that we continue to place an emphasis on diversifying York’s faculty, and build on recent programs establishing more opportunities for indigenous and racialized faculty. We also need to improve provisions for accommodations insurance for members with disabilities.
While each union on campus negotiates its own collective agreement, we will continue to work with our campus partners and allies to find common ground on many of the above issues. Most importantly, we hope as many of you as possible can attend general membership meetings this term. The dates of these meetings will be announced shortly.
To find out how to get involved, please email [email protected].
We look forward to hearing from you soon. Have a great semester!