It’s been some time since I sent you all an update on our activities and I didn’t want you to think that you’d been forgotten! The workload in the WLUFA office has actually risen pretty steeply and the complexity and breadth of our engagement on issues has grown in the last few months. I know the office staff is feeling quite worn down, like so many of you, by the new burdens placed on them by these unsettled times. I want to let all of you know that Sheila, Linda and Larissa have been putting in long hours and have been working on intractable (though not insoluble) issues; their commitment to the Association, and to all of you is remarkable.
Normally we’d see a lull after an Agreement is negotiated and ratified … not this year. Since the ratification of the FT Collective Agreement (and my thanks to the membership for your vote of confidence in the work of the Negotiating Team), we’ve been focused on preparing (as have you) for the Fall term. We are currently working with the administration on developing the principles that will guide the University and the Association on managing faculty and departmental decisions over in-person and remote teaching and research in light of public health announcements and potential government directives. We need to recognize that conditions are quickly evolving and that we need to have flexible plans in place that will allow us to adapt to changing health advisories and government directives. It is not so hard establish protocols for the situation as we find it today; but in three months conditions may have changed dramatically and we need to have guidelines that can be adapted.
As part of our conversations we are addressing issues of synchronous and asynchronous delivery, intellectual property rights in a remote teaching environment, and the very complex problem of ensuring that Contract Faculty are not treated differently from Full-Time Faculty when it comes to their personal health and safety. These conversations are going on in Departments, in Dean’s Advisory Committees, and in the other forums of governance. WLUFA is also working with the Administration, to support recommendations arising from our members, your Departments, Areas and Programs, and to speak for those who generally don’t have a voice in the planning process. As the Association will be surveying the impact of decisions that are reached, and ensuring fairness and compliance with the Agreement, we are trying to anticipate issues before they arise and to avoid becoming bogged down in grievances, requests for accommodations, and faculty complaint.
In addition to the issues of hiring and course delivery, we’ve been working on getting additional compensation for Contract Faculty for remote-course delivery training continued into the Fall Term. Laurier’s administration, to its credit, broke from other universities when it offered additional compensation for Contract Faculty delivering courses remotely in the Summer Terms, but Fall is a more daunting prospect given the number of courses taught and the pandemic’s looming financial impact. I’m pleased to say that after much meaningful and soulful discussion a conclusion has been reached and the university will be making an announcement shortly.
I also want to reassure everyone that the Administration has been approaching the many questions and issues regarding Fall-Term teaching in a positive, open, constructive and commonsense way. Much remains to be worked out, and we don’t have a lot of time left to do it, but I am optimistic that plans will soon be in place that the majority of you will find, if not perfect, then at least sensible and supportable.
I realize that this is more a “we’re working on it” message than a “here are the decisions” message. Those decision messages will come soon enough from our employer. I just wanted you all to know that we are working together on them and making good progress.
Warmest regards to all of you and keep safe and well,
Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association