UWOFA past presidents remain involved in the academic labour movement

Several UWOFA past presidents continue their work in the academic labour movement. There are currently four former presidents who hold positions with the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). Both organizations support local faculty associations throughout collective bargaining and advocate for the professional interests of faculty members and academic librarians and archivists. Here's what Ann Bigelow, James Compton, and Jeff Tennant have to say about their work beyond the Western campus.

Ann Bigelow - OCUFA treasurer and member of the CAUT Collective Bargaining & Economic Benefits Committee

Ann Bigelow was president of UWOFA in 2016-2017. She is a lecturer in the DAN Department of Management & Organizational Studies and was the first contract faculty member to be president of UWOFA.

Since I came to Western, first as a part-time faculty member, and then later as a full-time contract lecturer, I have worked to improve job security, pay and benefits for all contract faculty members. In my term as UWOFA president, OCUFA was very helpful to us in taking some steps to improve the mobilization of Western faculty around many issues, but in particular, I have been impressed by its work for contract faculty and for precarious workers in all sectors of the economy. I wanted to be involved in the continuation of this work.

I have filled a number of roles for UWOFA - negotiating team member, treasurer and president. I have learned a lot about union work, the meaning of solidarity, and the very difficult issues that some faculty members can face in their day-to-day work. This expanded awareness of the issues of working in academia has hopefully prepared me well for taking on these new roles.

James Compton - CAUT president

James Compton is an associate professor in the Faculty of Information & Media Studies. He served as UWOFA president in 2010-2011.

The main reason I continue to serve in the academic labour movement is because it is the principal defender of the academy's core values. After decades of corporatization, post-secondary education has been fundamentally transformed. 

As austerity policies gripped provincial and federal governments beginning in the 1980s, state subsidies for post-secondary education plummeted. This prompted universities to compete in a global market for students and attention - a worldwide "reputation" economy. Corporate values of goal-centered profit maximization, entrepreneurialism and efficiency began to crowd out broader social commitments and the non-instrumental pursuit of knowledge. Universities are not private businesses pursuing profit; they are public institutions that produce and disseminate knowledge in the public interest. And the main way one can contribute to the defence of what we hold dear as academics is to become involved in one's faculty association.

My work at UWOFA was a wonderful training ground for being CAUT president. What many people may not know is that UWOFA has a very high profile among faculty associations across Canada. UWOFA's work defending faculty independence, academic freedom and collegial governance is widely respected. It seemed like a natural step to transfer that work to the national level.

Alison Hearn - CAUT Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee member

Alison was president of UWOFA in 2014-2015. She is an associate professor in the Faculty of Information & Media Studies. Ironically, we could not reach Alison for comment in time for publication! But we still want to acknowledge the external work she does for CAUT.




Jeff Tennant - Chair of OCUFA Collective Bargaining Committee

Jeff Tennant is an associate professor in the Department of French Studies. He served as UWOFA president in 2013-2014 and is currently the chief negotiator for faculty collective bargaining.

I have always been of the view that strong labour unions are essential to ensuring a vibrant democratic society. They contribute to advancing social justice in workplaces and beyond. Being involved in the academic labour movement allows me to engage with the main issues that faculty and librarians across the province face. It allows me to apply the experience I have acquired in service roles in UWOFA to a broader movement advocating for quality post-secondary education for the public good.

My work as president and especially as chief negotiator for UWOFA has allowed me to get a solid knowledge both of the issues that faculty associations face in the province, and of how collective bargaining is effectively planned and carried out in our sector. This gives me reference points for working with my counterparts across the province as we share experience and provide mutual assistance in negotiations on our campuses.