Nigmendra Narain takes baton as UWOFA president

Vanessa Frank

For Nigmendra Narain, being active in the union is like participating in a relay race. Each length of the race, or role within the Association, is slightly different and multiple team members are required to reach the finish line.

“UWOFA is teamwork-oriented where nobody is just going to run the whole miracle mile all the way through,” Narain said. “We’ve got to work as a team.”

Narain, who has taught political science for over 20 years, took the baton as UWOFA president on July 1 for the 2021-22 academic year. He expects a busy year ahead continuing to redress issues members are facing from the coronavirus pandemic such as health and safety in the classroom; workload; research; and sabbatical leave. The Faculty Association will also ramp up preparations for the next round of faculty collective bargaining in 2022. Narain speaks passionately about “the three Ms” that will guide bargaining preparations: Members, Mandate, Mobilization -- member engagement, developing a bargaining mandate from the membership, and mobilization to support bargaining. 

“Bargaining surveys are important for us in order to be able to know what the membership would like us to prioritize, and we will then organize and inform the members accordingly so that everybody can be aware,” he said. “But I think those things are intimately connected – member engagement, mobilization, and mandate and I think those will be a priority as we get organized to go into negotiations.” 

The 3 Ms

As it becomes safer to gather in larger groups in the coming months, Narain hopes UWOFA can host outreach activities so members engage with opportunities to touch base with colleagues, meet new ones, and learn more about UWOFA. The second M, in Narain’s view, is to ensure UWOFA has a bargaining mandate from members – a list of priorities that are important to them; the mandate comes, in part, from bargaining surveys and conversations with groups of members. Mobilizing the membership is an important culmination of the first two Ms, especially for bargaining, Narain said, in order to show the employer faculty members are engaged, interested, and willing to stand up for particular issues and their colleagues.

“I think the three things are interconnected. If members are mobilized and informed about what’s going on, and can connect with each other as members, then they can tell us in terms of a mandate what types of things matter to them,” Narain explained.

Narain has been an active member of the Association for nearly a decade. He has served on the Board of Directors, Committee for Contract Faculty, and the Strike Action Committee (SAC). He counts 2014 and 2018 as two critical years in his union involvement. The SAC was heavily involved in mobilizing members and preparing to take strike action if necessary. Ever the union booster, Narain implores members who are interested in becoming involved to contact him or a member of the Board of Directors. He is always encouraging more people to join the relay.

“I think the journey to get involved with the union is not just making a choice to get involved, but it’s also realizing that you’re part of a collective effort to do things,” Narain said. “It doesn’t ride on any one individual; it rides on all of us folks working together, which is another thing that attracted me to the union: I like the teamwork aspect of being involved in UWOFA.”