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Information for students

Your student learning environment is impacted by our faculty working conditions. Here are some important developments in the faculty bargaining process at Western.

UWOFA has now called for a strike vote during the week of September 26th. We are asking our members to vote “YES,” indicating their willingness to take strike action as needed, which increases our bargaining power at the negotiating table. The word “strike” might sound scary, but UWOFA will continue to work with Western’s representatives at the table to negotiate better working conditions for faculty, which will in turn make your student experience even better.

This page will continue to be your source of timely reliable information on our progress in bargaining. See below for answers to some questions you may have.

STRIKE VOTE FAQ

What is a strike vote?

A strike vote is a way for our membership to indicate their support for the work of the negotiating team and our collective stance on the issues.

What does a “yes” vote mean?

A “YES” vote expresses support for the negotiating team and gives them leverage at the table, because it provides the Association with the ability to call a strike. Past experience at Western and other universities in Canada has shown that Employers are unwilling to negotiate a fair deal until faculty show their determination through a strong strike vote.

Why are we calling for a strike vote now?

Last week, UWOFA released a report called Every Budget is a Choice 3.0. This is the third report of its kind that UWOFA has produced over the last decade – each one detailing Western’s financial position at the time of bargaining. Previous reports have indicated that Western was in a very healthy economic position, having accumulated budget surpluses that it has chosen not to reinvest in its core mission of teaching and learning. We’re sorry to have to tell you that the findings in this year’s report are no different, and they show a clear pattern of resource hoarding. We know that they have the money to give us many of the things we are asking for in bargaining. Western’s negotiators have been taking their time responding to our proposals, but of the ones that have been addressed so far, nearly two-thirds have been rejected. We feel that calling a strike vote at this time is an appropriate response to hearing “no” so many times from Western’s bargaining team, particularly after how hard faculty worked to continue to deliver quality education at the height of the pandemic. We hope that a strong strike vote will encourage Western to be more open to our bargaining proposals.

Does a “yes” strike vote mean that faculty will definitely go on strike?

No. A strong “yes” vote does not mean we automatically go on strike. Any decision to go out on strike can only be made by the UWOFA Board of Directors on the recommendation of the negotiating team and will come only after all other options have been exhausted, if and when there appears to be no other way to reach an agreement.

Is there a second vote to go on strike?

No. A positive strike vote delegates authority to the Board to decide based on the recommendation of the negotiating team.

What issues remain unresolved?

There are crucial issues remaining to be resolved in all six key areas of UWOFA Bargaining Proposals: 1) recognizing and rewarding faculty effort; 2) supporting faculty health & wellbeing; 3) fair and equitable workload; 4) collegial governance; 5) job security for contract faculty; 6) Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Decolonization (EDID). We will continue to spotlight some specific details of our different bargaining goals in ongoing student updates, as we have done below.

Bargaining Goal Spotlight: Supports for Faculty Health & Wellbeing

Did you know that the mental health benefits available to Western students are better than those available to faculty? Or that Part-Time Faculty members are currently denied access to essential benefits available to their permanently employed colleagues? Mental health concerns continue to grow among all members of the university community, as we are impacted by the pandemic, current rates of inflation, and the general state of the world. All faculty members at Western deserve equal access to a benefits plan that at least matches the average benefits provided to university faculty across Ontario. It is important that Western properly support all members of the campus community equitably. A university which ignores or fails to adequately resource the health and wellbeing concerns of its entire community is not investing in its people. If your teachers are unwell, then your education will suffer. By not investing in us, Western is also failing to invest adequately in you and your education.

Here are two things we are NOT bargaining for:

  1. Cost of living compensation increases – as you may have heard, the provincial government passed Bill 124 in 2019, which limits the wage gains certain public sector employees can have to 1% during a 3-year moderation period, for as long as the bill is effect. Since this is essentially a “win” for Western, in terms of salary expenditures, we are focused instead on making other gains to reward faculty for their tremendous efforts to maintain teaching and learning quality under the challenging and unpredictable circumstances of the last two-and-a-half years.
  2. Covid 19 mandates – contrary to gossip circulating on social media, our bargaining goals have nothing to do with these health protocols. Bargaining takes time and energy, so collective agreements, once negotiated, remain in place for a number of years. It would make no sense for us to bargain for these temporary protocols that would have limited long-term relevance for our membership.

Bargaining Goal Spotlight: Job Security for Contract Faculty

Western does not seem concerned about ensuring that Part-Time Faculty have job security, benefits or compensation commensurate with their Full-Time colleagues. As students, you are paying the same tuition, regardless of whether or not your highly qualified course instructor is adequately compensated for their labour. Part-Time Faculty in many departments teach a significant number of undergrad classes, and as students move closer to the completion of their degrees and begin to think about grad school or job opportunities, they turn to the professors with whom they have built the strongest relationships, unaware of their precarious employment circumstances. These Contract Faculty want to support their students, so they may spend many hours responding to these requests, often helping to ensure that students are able to pursue the opportunities they desire. But as Contract Faculty are only paid for their teaching, all other labour or service they do is voluntary.
UWOFA is fighting for fair compensation and equitable workloads for all Faculty. Now that you’re (back) in the classroom, you will see how hard your profs are working for you. You can show your appreciation by calling on Western to invest in people – its greatest resource.

Here are some questions you may have at this early stage in the process:

What is a collective agreement?
A collective agreement is a written contract between the employer and a union that outlines the terms and conditions of employment for workers in a bargaining unit. These terms and conditions are reached through collective bargaining between the employer and the union.

What is UWOFA currently bargaining for?
Our bargaining goals are focused on improving and maintaining quality teaching and learning at Western. We are prioritizing things like improving job security for contract faculty, recognizing and rewarding the additional burden the pandemic has placed on all faculty, faculty renewal for more equitable workloads, decolonizing the university, and strengthening our campus-wide commitments to equity and inclusion.

What is involved in achieving bargaining goals?
Some goals involve changes in policy, while others will require the Employer to spend money. Canadian universities currently have healthy surpluses, so we don’t anticipate this to be a barrier.

Why should I care about this?
The teaching conditions of faculty are the learning conditions of students. This means that your academic experience at Western is directly impacted by the support your faculty members receive from Western to do their jobs to the best of their ability. At some point during negotiations, we may call on students to show their support for their teachers and mentors – we hope we will be able to count on you when the time comes.

Why has UWOFA created a website section specifically for students?
We want to be transparent with you about what is happening, because a breakdown in negotiations could potentially disrupt your year, and after all of the disruptions to in-person learning caused by the pandemic, this is the last thing UWOFA wants. We hope you will find that you can rely on us to give you timely and accurate updates, as negotiations progress.