Western’s Administration Refuses to Discuss COVID-19 Letters of Understanding to Collective Agreements

John Ciriello, President

The following Media Release was disseminated on April 21, 2020.

Western’s Administration Refuses to Discuss COVID-19 Letters of Understanding to Collective Agreements

In the spirit of cooperation and mutual support and with a view to reducing anxiety about our Members’ working conditions and professional lives, UWOFA drafted several Letters of Understanding (LOU) to the Collective Agreements. These LOUs address matters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We shared information about these LOUs on our website.

On April 16, the Joint Committee responsible for overseeing the administration of the Collective Agreements met to discuss the proposals with the Office of Faculty Relations (OFR). Unfortunately, OFR refused to engage in any discussion, going so far as to say that it was “too premature to engage in conversations.” Provost Andrew Hrymak repeated this position at Senate the following day.

We have listened to our Members’ concerns about how the pandemic has impacted their work and lives. We know that they are facing immediate challenges and uncertainties and that is why we proposed LOUs that would help to support and protect them right now. The UWOFA proposals include:

  • Support and accommodations for Members with increased care-giving responsibilities.
  • Extensions to the probationary period so Members are not disadvantaged in the tenure or continuing appointment process.
  • The ability for faculty on sabbatical leave that has been disrupted to defer portions of their leave and the ability for librarians and archivists to defer impacted education and professional leaves.
  • Recognition of the extra workload that many Members have experienced and are experiencing, in the form of workload review or financial compensation.

UWOFA Members have done so much to meet the demands of this situation and deserve a respectful response to their concerns. Instead, they have been dismissed with empty promises of discussion only "when we know the impact of the pandemic on faculty".

We are in the midst of a crisis now and our Members are doing their best to support students while maintaining research, service and professional practice obligations. Our colleagues at many other Canadian universities have already signed similar LOUs including:

  • Brandon University
  • Brock University
  • Concordia University
  • Laurentian University
  • Mount Allison University
  • Mount Saint Vincent University
  • Northern Ontario School of Medicine
  • St. Thomas University
  • University of Ottawa
  • University of Victoria
  • University of Waterloo
  • Wilfrid Laurier University

This is in stark contrast with Western Administration’s apparent refusal to acknowledge that there has been a seismic change in the working environment.

We know our Members’ concerns are valid, especially for those on probationary and contract appointments. Too many sessional instructors at Ontario universities are already in precarious employment positions, and this situation only makes it worse.

UWOFA has set up an email writing campaign on their website and are mobilizing their members to pressure Western to discuss and complete these LOUs with UWOFA.

Media Contact

John Ciriello
President, UWOFA