Management Team Bargaining Update August 17 2021
During the week of August 3rd, the OPSEU CAAT-A bargaining team presented a number of proposals thematically to the management bargaining team. The nine themes (available at http://www.collegeemployercouncil.ca) included fundamental changes to the majority of the articles in the collective agreement which is not typical in a mature agreement such as ours. As the management team has promised, we are taking the necessary time to understand the union’s perspective. Over the course of the week, the management team met with OPSEU CAAT-A bargaining team to provide the Union with initial thoughts, ask questions to better understand the rationale behind CAAT-A’s proposed changes, offered counter-proposals, and requested additional bargaining dates to ensure adequate time to engage in meaningful discussion with the Union.
Summary of Progress for the Week of August 9th
During bargaining from August 10th to the 12th, we provided the Union with our preliminary thoughts on the themes of equity and workload and asked a multitude of questions to better understand the root of the issues. The Management team has made inquiries to the Union as to how their proposed changes can address their concerns. We counter-proposed a revised definition of the Counsellor class (based on work that was undertaken over that past year in preparation for discussions at the EERC joint Counsellor class working group).
Additionally, we closely reviewed the Union’s submissions on academic freedom, intellectual property, and academic councils, and determined them to be expanded versions of the 2017 demands that were not awarded in that round and which resulted in a strike, back-to-work legislation, and binding arbitration. We acknowledge the special status of Indigenous Peoples and recognize that proposals related to Indigenous knowledge require more consultation and discussion. We believe all proposals related to Indigeneity should be reviewed as a whole rather than piecemeal based on themed submissions.
Below, we have included more fulsome updates on each of the Union submission themes we have had the chance to review and provide feedback on.
Union U1-Equity Proposal
Based on both teams’ respective opening statements and the union’s initial proposals, we note that as Canadians we have a shared commitment to the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion and to the ongoing process for reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. As the Union has presented, the Colleges are also committed to reviewing the current collective agreement to begin to collectively identify and address language and process issues that contribute to barriers to creating an equitable, diverse, and inclusive workplace.
We know from experience and from the work that is already ongoing in many colleges that these are very complex issues requiring time and effort (and in many cases specialized subject matter expertise) if they are to be addressed effectively. They also require a shared understanding of relevant data and of the terminology that will provide the foundation for this important work. In addressing our shared goal of removing barriers within the language of the collective agreement, we can contribute to the broader efforts across the system to create a more equitable experience for all.
With this in mind, the management team has posed a series of questions to the Union to better understand their assertions based on their stated data and research. In order for meaningful change to occur, it must come from a place of understanding and knowledge to avoid unintended consequences for those voices not at the table.
The management team shares the Union’s goal in ensuring the collective agreement is equitable and looks forward to making necessary changes together.
Union U2 -Workload Proposal
The Union has proposed several fundamental changes to article 11. They include but are not limited to, a re-writing of the standard workload formula (SWF), time attributions to Union and committee work, distinguishing between modes of delivery, and accounting for increased diversity in the classroom.
As we reviewed the extensive proposal, the management team ascertained that more information would be required to make any informed changes under the lens of equity. The last thorough review of the SWF resulted in a task force report dated March 2009. That task force was chaired by a neutral third party and conducted broad consultations and statistical study regarding the operation of the workload formula. The task force parameters and report can be found on the CEC website.
That said, we do believe that it is healthy to review the functioning of the workload formula from time to time. It may well be time to conduct another task force study of the functioning of the formula in order to ensure that it continues to provide a reasonable and consistent basis for the distribution of work. The study could address both the Union’s and the College’s perceptions of areas for adjustment in the formula. The study could then report back to the parties in advance of the next round of bargaining in order that we may both approach this issue with objective data and expert advice. In return for the withdrawal of the union proposals respecting workload, the management team has proposed a letter of understanding establishing a workload review task force.
Additionally, we have asked questions and proposed the Union consider areas for discussion that do not necessarily align with the current workload formula. These areas include academic upgrading and apprenticeship. We also raised with the Union modernizing the standard work-week and academic calendar year.
Our students’ need for flexible scheduling to accommodate work obligations or child-care needs has increased the colleges’ need to provide more accessible schedule offerings. As both teams have a shared goal to put students’ education first, we look forward to mutually exploring ways to do so.
Union U4- Class Definition Proposal
We have not yet had the chance to fully analyze the Union’s class definition proposal in respect to amendments to the Professor class definition. However, over the course of the past year, both management and the Union have been part of a joint EERC sub-committee tasked with reviewing and re-defining the Counsellor class definition.
On Tuesday, August 12, management provided the Union with a counter-proposal for the Counsellor class definition based on work that was done at the joint committee. Our proposed definition is at a higher level of focus than the one in the Union’s proposal. This is consistent with the current professor class definition and aligns with the intent of class definitions which are meant to provide a high-level overview of the scope of the role, as opposed to the granular details that one might find in a job description.
As a general rule, there is no ownership in any bundle of duties. Similarly, in any organization with multiple bargaining units, there is cross-pollination of work between bargaining units. We are not looking to upset the balance that currently exists between the faculty and support staff bargaining units, vis a vis student support. Within student counselling services a range of services are currently provided by a diverse and interdisciplinary team which generally includes faculty counsellors, support staff, and administrators working together in their respective areas of expertise and in the best interests of students.
Union U5- Academic Freedom, Intellectual Property, and Academic Councils Proposal
Upon close review of the Union’s submissions on academic freedom, intellectual property, and academic councils, we have found many similarities and overlapping demands with what the Union put forward in 2017. Those demands were largely responsible for the long bitter strike that resulted in back-to-work legislation and binding arbitration that ultimately dismissed the proposals and led to no awards.
The Colleges are not prepared to entertain the expanded rebranded demands for many of the same reasons that were provided in 2017. These include but are not limited to, the Union proposal being contrary to the legislated governance mode in the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Act, 2002, being unnecessary, and limiting the Colleges ability to make decisions with students’ best interests in mind.
Furthermore, academic freedom (which should not be confused with the union’s proposal for academic control) currently effectively exists in the collective agreement as stated in the Union’s rationale in its U5 submission.
We believe that these proposals are designed for rejection given that they were the subject matter of the last strike and were not awarded in any measure by Arbitrator Kaplan.
Since the management team received the Union’s proposals, we have been working hard to analyze and develop an understanding of the Union’s perspectives and positions. At the same time, we are reviewing our own areas of focus through the lens of those perspectives so that, to the greatest extent possible, we can align and present them within the context of the themes the Union has provided to us.
As we continue to diligently review, pose questions, and provide feedback on the multiple proposals OPSEU CAAT-A tabled last week, we recognized the need for additional bargaining dates in order to address all of the Union’s areas of concern and keep the momentum going prior to our next scheduled meeting in mid-September. While the management bargaining team continues to balance College responsibilities with its responsibilities as they relate to the bargaining process, we also recognize the importance of carving out the necessary time to develop a clear understanding and engage in comprehensive dialogue with the union on these important matters. We proposed 8 additional dates in August and September and had hoped it would be possible to align with the Union bargaining team’s availability. The Union has agreed to add 2 additional bargaining dates on September 9th and 10th. The management team will continue to review and analyze the remainder of the Union proposals for when we meet next September 9.
We remain committed to having an informed dialogue of the issues and look forward to receiving the data and research cited by the union in their rationales in response to our numerous questions. Where possible, after we discuss these matters with the Union, we will be developing proposed language which seeks to achieve common ground between both parties’ perspectives.
To stay up to date on how CAAT-A bargaining is unfolding, visit the CEC website for management team updates and tabled proposals from both OPSEU and CEC.