(Posted on behalf of Michele Kramer, WLUFA President.)
The message below has been circulated to faculty associations across the country. It offers an overview of the state of our current Contract Faculty negotiations and the issues that are keeping the Parties apart at the table.
Please note that, since this message was sent out, the Administration has filed for conciliation (What is “conciliation”?). This is a recent event and so, as of today, we do not yet have news re: a conciliator being appointed, nor an idea of when conciliation might take place.
I am keeping in touch with student leaders and with our student newspapers in order to (hopefully) give them a clear idea of what our strike vote, and the move to conciliation, means. You might, however, still be asked questions. Both Parties view strike or lock-out as a last resort. Please assure your students of that and let them know that they are free to direct questions to me if they feel that they need more information — firstname.lastname@example.org
WLUFA is hoping for your continued support of Contract Faculty as they fight for a fair conclusion to these negotiations.
I thought I’d take a few minutes of your time to update you on recent developments in WLUFA’s negotiations for a new Collective Agreement for our Contract Faculty.
Bargaining has now slowed almost to a standstill with the Association’s three main priorities for Contract Faculty still left inadequately addressed: Compensation, Job Security, Access to Benefits (please note that I said “access” to benefits — not benefits themselves). In answer, the Association called for a strike mandate vote. Members voted 95% in favour of the Executive initiating job action, if necessary.
The issues are as follows:
On Compensation: Figures published by our own Administration show that, of all employee groups on campus, Contract Faculty have had one of the lowest percentage wage increases since 2008. In comparison with the majority of employee groups, the difference in percentage increase is staggering. WLUFA has proposed an adjustment amount to rectify this inequity. The employer is proposing an increase that is basically equal to the current rate of inflation (that is, essentially a net gain of 0%), which would result in Contract Faculty falling even further behind.
On Job Security: WLUFA has proposed a Continuing Instructor position, improvements to our current Standing Appointments, and year-ahead contracts that would allow Contract Faculty to know what their year at Laurier will look like and be able to plan at least 12 months ahead — both for themselves and their students. The employer has rejected the Continuing Instructor proposal and is insisting that any other discussions re: job security be tied to increasing the number of Agreement-exempt courses offered to PhD students and postdocs. In effect, then, we are being asked to tie our negotiations for job security to a more insecure pool of teaching available to our members. Additionally, the Administration’s proposal must be read as a shifting of responsibility for the funding of some doctoral and post-doctoral work onto the shoulders (and out of the pockets) of our Contract Faculty.
WLUFA has also expressed concerns that Laurier’s push to make doctoral students responsible for the development and teaching of their own courses after only two years in their programs not only jeopardizes students’ ability to complete doctoral degrees within a reasonable amount of time, but also likely guarantees that graduates will be thrust into the world of precarious employment. As we know, teaching responsibilities steal valuable time away from the hours needed for conference work and the preparation of one’s own publications.
On Access to Benefits: Some progress has been made in this discussion, however the employer would like to limit access to only a specific group of our members — those who teach five or more courses. This might make sense if we were asking for employer-funded benefits — but WLUFA is proposing ONLY that more of our members have the ability to buy into university-sponsored plans with money out of their own pockets. The Administration’s unwillingness to move on this is completely unacceptable.
As we move forward, I will try to keep you as up to date as possible.
Thanks all, for your time.