Faculty bargaining update on goal development

Jeff Tennant & Johanna Weststar

The UWOFA Collective Bargaining Committee (CBC) is currently developing the goals that will form the mandate we take to the negotiating table when we begin bargaining this spring to renew our collective agreement which expires on June 30.

The bargaining goals that will be presented to members of the faculty bargaining unit for approval in late March are the result of an ongoing conversation that began when the current collective agreement was ratified four years ago.

Goal development draws on a number of sources, including experience in administering the current collective agreement, issues that come to our attention at the provincial and national levels, and reports from our members through surveys, emails, and face-to-face conversations.

A number of themes are emerging in the ongoing conversation on bargaining issues that could potentially constitute categories of goals to take to the table. There is broad recognition among faculty at Western that we need to build on gains made in the last round to address the precarious employment of our contract faculty colleagues. Western currently has a "teaching stream" in the form of renewable limited-term teaching contracts, but those contracts lack the job security to which faculty in teaching-focussed positions at other universities have access.

Fair compensation will no doubt also be a priority in this round of bargaining, as it was in the last round, considering that full-time faculty salaries at Western continue to lag behind those at comparator institutions.

In addition, we expect to bargain for improved benefits for full-time faculty, for example in the area of vision care and mental health care, and at the same time, to make benefits accessible to part-time faculty, who currently receive a level of pay in lieu of benefits that is inadequate to puchase a benefit plan.

Recent changes in Employment Insurance have introduced coverage for certain kinds of leave (e.g. family caregiver leave for children and adults) that need to be recognized in our collective agreement and for which we think it is appropriate that our employer provide top-up coverage, as is currently the case for pregnancy, parental and adoption leave. 

We are also hearing from our members that we need to address concerns about the way teaching is evaluated at Western, for example as regards the misuse of responses to Student Questionnaires on Courses and Teaching.

Fortunately, only a small number of our members find themselves in the stressful situation of facing allegations of misconduct. In the handful of cases (confidential of course) that have arisen, UWOFA has noted that improvements are needed so that the processes (e.g. for investigating academic fraud and misconduct, and discrimination and harassment) can be made fairer for all involved.

Another area where collective agreement provisions could be improved is retirement. For example, expanded eligibility for phased retirement could allow more faculty members to choose that option, and increased employer contributions to our defined contribution pension plan could help address the real concerns many of us have about our ability to receive an adequate income after we retire.

The bargaining goals, once approved by UWOFA's Board of Directors, will be presented to members of the faculty bargaining at a meeting on March 28, 9-11am, North Campus Building Room 117. After this meeting there will be an online vote to ratify the goals. Please feel free to communicate any thoughts you may have on bargaining issues, those mentioned above or others, to the UWOFA faculty representative in your unit or to us directly: Johanna Weststar (weststar [at] uwo [dot] ca), Jeff Tennant (jtennant [at] uwo [dot] ca).

Jeff Tennant is UWOFA's chief negotiator and an associate professor in the Department of French Studies





Johanna Weststar is deputy chief negotiator for UWOFA and an associate professor in the DAN Department of Management and Organizational Studies