A Southern Ontario Prof Shares their Thoughts

…as we prepare for next week’s forced offer vote.

I’m grateful to have received this e-mail at ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com, and also grateful that the writer chose to share not just their thoughts, but their thought process with us.

Please feel free to share your own. I may not agree with it; I may not agree with everything published below, but I’m happy to share opinions that are respectful and directed towards an audience of Ontario college faculty.

Well, here we are, staring down the barrel of a loaded gun once more, a forced offer vote.

One thing I can’t tell you is how my colleagues are reacting to all this. The voices I hear certainly seem vocal enough against the offer, but I also know how few I interact with these days. Not too many people have dropped by my office on their way somewhere else in the last 2 years.

I can only share my thoughts on this current offer, and hope that it resonates with you and others.

At first glance the offer doesn’t look like it’s terribly far away from a deal. I think that’s the scariest thing in this round, many of my colleagues may look at this and say “meh, close enough”. There are many things in this offer that don’t excite me personally. The progress on Indigenous participation in our system? Intellectually I can connect that it’s certainly worth having, and from the point of view of social justice I absolutely support it, but I don’t identify as indigenous so … in a contract where I get one vote to represent my point of view, maybe this doesn’t resonate with me.

Hey, they’re going to add medicinal mary-jane to the contract. Again, not something that vaguely excites me. Legalizing pot went a long way to getting Trudeau elected though. Yes I know, medicinal marijuana isn’t street pot, but it’s also not something near and dear to me.

I have to say, as a full time faculty member, a tremendous amount of the “progress” in the offer leaves me nonplussed. There’s the miserly 1% Bill 124 raise, that will wind its way through the court sometime before retirement – still waiting on the challenges to the back to work legislation by the Wynne Liberals and the cancellation of the arbitrator awarded report from the Ford Conservatives to work themselves out.

That last one though … that seems important though. In this current offer there’s the commitment to study a bunch of stuff that might be important to me as a faculty member. I see the word recommend, not the word “will implement”, but we can trust them right? They’re interested in studying the probl…. oh wait, they’re not, that’s why the last one just got canceled as a waste of taxpayer money.

They claim that the intellectual property provisions violate and are inconsistent with the Copyright Act. It seems to me that someone so certain in this position would be happy to have an arbitrator come to the table and slap our noses with a rolled up copy of the Act right? I mean, the Copyright Act wouldn’t have any specific wording in it to manage this situation since it’s so ridiculous? Now, I’m not a lawyer, but section 13(3) “Work made in the course of employment” and the discussion about “in the absence of any agreement to the contrary” is just something for the lawyers to get a kickback from “big printing” kickbacks right? I can trust that I should put my very best efforts into course materials because they’d never be given freely to Continuing Education to be delivered under a different course code by non-union employees right? There’s no chance at all the college would “accidentally” leave a copy lying around with one of these new private-public partnership deals right? I mean surely TriOS and the like have their own course that perfectly matches the learning outcomes of my courses, which allows them to deliver the under the same course code and credential right? There’s absolutely no chance that their non-unionized workforce is taking jobs out of the public system using my efforts…. right? They’ve never, ever, bundled up an entire program and wholesale sold or licensed it to an overseas institution, right? Right? Oh.

I know that their claim about less jobs if they use more partial load instead of part time employees has absolutely nothing to do with part time being classed as non-union and therefore not protected by the Collective Agreement, right? I mean a fully loaded partial load staff member, operating as part of the union, and earning a supporting wage is no more stable or reliable for either them nor for students who will know the instructor has taught the course a few times and knows the ins and outs right? That stability won’t result in less of my work day going to voluntarily training and onboarding new people who rotate in and out every 4 months, right? I mean, just look at the librarian and counselor positions that they’ve created, instead of 1 full time job, we got a bunch of lower paid, more duty, short term contract jobs. That was a big gain, right?

Ok, ok, ok. You see where I’m going. This contract is far less about “what’s in it for me?” and far more about “what’s missing that affects me?”. I firmly believe that the “concessions” made by the CEC in this round would not exist without OPSEU pushing at the bargaining table. Just like last round though, they put the poison pill buried deep inside. Last time they made us walk a picket line for 5 weeks to recover Article 2 protections that they were abusing to high heaven. The result? A lot of full time positions got backfilled the way they should have always been. This is the thin end of the wedge for them. If we don’t force them to come and negotiate then they never will. I didn’t think that the work to rule campaign was working until I saw the bully tactics and the heavy handed threat to dock pay for an illegal walk out. If they really felt our work to rule campaign was this then they could and would seek an injunction in the courts. Instead they go for the scare tactic.

Remember last round when Kaplan released his decision, it was highly critical of the CEC’s tactics. Let’s get another one of those reports. After the strong NO vote last time the arbitrator very largely said that the faculty demands WERE reasonable and awarded a lot of what we were looking for. THAT’S why they don’t want binding interest arbitration. THAT’S how we scare them back to negotiating a contract.


The Ontario College Podcast: Episode 6 Now Available!

Just a note that Episode 6 of The Ontario College Podcast is now available.

In the episode, I offer a bargaining team member’s view of where we’re at right now, between the start of our work-to-rule strike action and the Feb. 15-17 forced offer vote.

I also have the pleasure of interviewing our three first-time members of the bargaining team: Michelle Arbour, Kathleen Flynn, and Rebecca Ward. We talk about their first impressions of CAAT-A’s first-ever experience with work-to-rule, plus the status of member mental health and impact on bargaining, as well as a consideration of the fiscal health of the College system.

I hope that you check it out! As ever, your feedback is welcomed at ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com.

The CEC’s Long-Term Vision for Faculty Workload

So, this post is inspired by a question in last Tuesday’s provincewide meeting organized by the OPSEU CAAT-Academic Divisional Executive, coupled with a member discussion that my teammate Ravi Ramkissoonsingh shared with the team last week.

It’s about the CEC’s long-term goal for system, and what they hope to achieve through bargaining, and what we can predict for the future by the way that they’re setting up the pieces in the current round of bargaining. As team Chair JP Hornick said on Tuesday night, ignore what the CEC says; pay attention to what they do.

So now I’m going to talk about one thing that they did a while back — it was on September 15th. Now to provide some context, management’s proposals had trickled in fairly slowly since bargaining started — a proposal on the Counsellor class definition on August 10 (over a month after bargaining had stared); a proposal on a Workload Task Force; a proposal to limit the ability to create new full-time positions through grievances on September 9…

September 15th is when things got interesting. On that day, management proposed five submissions — the first had housekeeping amendments and the fourth concerned monetary proposals (salary and benefits). What were most interesting — and enlightening — was the “Balance of Management’s Non-Monetary Submissions” that was divided into two parts (numbered M10A and M10B — the “M” represents management submissions).

Let me be clear: Those proposals are NOT the offer of settlement that you’re being asked to vote on in February 15-17. You’re being asked to vote on an offer of settlement that was tabled on January 17, 2022, which is virtually unchanged from the one that was tabled on November 23, 2021.

But back to M10A and M10B — Those proposals were striking. I’m going to attach them here if I can figure out how to do it. But they were really the first time that the curtain parted and provided a glimpse of where the Colleges — through the CEC — truly want to take staffing at the Colleges.

And generally, it painted a picture of new faculty having way fewer rights than established faculty, and of faculty in some areas having way fewer workload protections than faculty in other areas.

Some “highlights” from those proposals include:

  • No SWFs for faculty in academic upgrading programs
  • Up to 20 teaching hours [2 more than the current limit of 18] for faculty in academic upgrading programs
  • Four additional weeks of teaching annually for faculty in apprenticeship programs
  • Up to 200 contact days and 880 teaching contact hours annually for faculty in apprenticeship programs [an increase of 20 days and 152 hours]
  • Zero preparation time attributed for teaching “a purpose-built online course” unless “the College determines that [it] should have augmented or additional materials…”
  • The separation of “Routine” and “Assisted” forms of evaluation, with a 1/3 reduction in attributed time for grading courses with “Assisted” (i.e., online or mechanical) evaluation (from 0.015 to 0.010)
  • College approval needed for Professional development, with a new standard that such approved activities “will enhance the ability of the teacher to perform their responsibilities”
  • Unlimited overtime
  • Extended length of work day for new faculty and faculty in apprenticeship programs
  • Expectations to work on weekends for new faculty
  • Added restriction to the seniority rights of PL faculty over courses they have taught
  • 1008 hours Probation for partial-load faculty prior to which they would not have access to the Partial-Load Registry
  • Ability to hire sessional faculty for more than 12 months in a 24 month period without making the position permanent full-time, if the faculty is replacing a faculty member on leave

That’s not an exhaustive list. I’m not counting some truly frightening proposals around vacations, job security bumping rights, and ownership of “Pandemic Emergency Conversion Electronic Materials”.

Anyway, that above list of proposals is all about whittling away at the edges of our rights and our membership. Why target apprenticeship? Why academic upgrading? To pick off the outliers — to get a foothold in, to drive in a wedge of inequity. And once you get a wedge in, then it’s all just a matter of time and leverage.

So, what happened to proposals M10A and M10B? They were supplanted on that very same day by an offer of settlement, which CEC Bargaining Team Chair Laurie Rancourt described as “an enhanced three-year collective agreement extension”.

So… rejoicing all around? The bad proposals were taken away and sent to bed without dinner?

Ummm… not quite.

The fact is, you’re now being asked to vote to support some of the proposals on the above list, and to help incorporate them into our next Collective Agreement.

How? Through the details of the CEC’s current proposal for a Workload Commttee, in the current proposed offer.

To illustrate what I’m talking about, M10A had the following proposals (with proposed new language for our Collective Agreement indicated in boldface and/or underlining) that explicitly targeted the workload protections of faculty in Academic Upgrading programs.

Now we certainly could be relieved that management has ‘set aside’ those proposals in M10A in favour of their current (Jan.17) Offer of Settlement, but before faculty in academic upgrading programs breathe a sigh of relief that their workload protections are secured, it’s worth noting that the current Offer of Settlement includes an proposal for “the creation of a Workload Committee” that “shall discuss and examine” issues including…

Hmmm…. now what on earth might they have in mind? If only there was some way of knowing what the CEC was attempting to accomplish through a Workload Committee.

Oh right. There is a way to know this.

It’s by looking at what they did.

Similarly, if you were in an apprenticeship program, you might be relieved that the CEC has withdrawn the following proposal (in M-10A, with proposed changes indicated in boldface and underlined):

But you might want to hold off on celebrations once you realize that you’re being asked to vote in 10 days to approve an offer that includes a proposal for a Workload Committee that “shall discuss and examine”

Hmmm… changing the workload formula. That might impact… teaching hours? Preparation Time? Attributed time for evaluation of and feedback to students? Time for out of class assistance to students? In short, faculty in Apprenticeship programs could be targeted for an elimination of protections even broader than the increased number of teaching weeks and teaching hours explicitly proposed in M-10A.

But if you’re not in an apprenticeship program or academic upgrading, you’d be safe from the CEC’s proposed targeting of workload protections, right? The CEC is just hoping that faculty in postsecondary programs will vote to target the weekly or and/or annual workload protections for their colleagues in non-postsecondary programs, right?

Wrong. Let’s remember that the current Offer of Settlement also includes an explicit proposal that a Workload Committee examine:

Hmmm… do you think they might be planning to propose giving faculty who supervise field placement courses additional time for preparation?

But… if you don’t teach in academic upgrading or apprenticeship programs, and you don’t teach field placement courses, then your workload is safe from being targeted?

Not quite: You’re also being asked to vote in favour of a Workload Committee that would be explicitly obliged to examine:

In case it isn’t obvious, the dangerous words right there are “programs such as”. This is no longer about targeting the workload of faculty in specific individual programs, but rather wide swaths of a College’s offerings.

And, speaking of targeting wide swaths of faculty — increasing the workload of many faculty at one fell swoop — let’s turn back to M-10A’s proposal to separate the factors provided for Routine and Assisted evaluation, reducing by 1/3 the amount of time attributed for the “Assisted” evaluation of assignments graded online or with Scantron — from 2.7 minutes per student per week (in a 3 hour course) to 1.8 minutes:

Of course, 1/3 less time attributed for grading on the SWF means… considerably more students that can be assigned on the SWF, without putting a faculty member past the 44-hour maximum.

Which is why we should all be… relieved?… that the CEC ‘set Proposal M-10A aside’, and replaced it with the current Offer of Settlement, which doesn’t propose to reduce the evaluation attributions of thousands of faculty by separating the evaluation factors of “Routine” and “Assisted” grading, but instead only proposes to have a Workload Committee examine…

Feel better yet?

But wait! There’s less!

However many few librarians and counsellors may be remaining in the Ontario College system, it wasn’t enough for the CEC to attack their autonomy over their own professional development activities (in M-10A) by adding the following language that would give management the power to veto their proposed activities

Just in case it wasn’t clear, the professional development activities (or “pursuits”) would be subject to managerial approval — it’s only the arrangements for such activities that are subject to mutual agreement.

That’s a pretty staggering attack on the academic freedom of counsellors and librarians, and again, it’s important to caution that M-10A was indeed ‘set aside’ by the CEC. We’re not being asked to vote on it now. Instead, like all other faculty, Counsellors and Librarians are being asked to vote on a CEC Offer of Settlement that includes a Workload Committee to examine


In other words, instead of M-10A’s attack on their professional development, Counsellors and Librarians are now being asked by the CEC to vote for an offer that opens up every aspect of their workload — including their professional development activities — by having a Workload Committee “discuss and examine” the application of the entire portion of “Article 11 – Workload” that currently applies to Counsellors and Librarians.

In the earlier days of this blog, I often used the language of addiction to describe College management. It feels like that language remains applicable now.

Faculty have spent most of the last two years trying to keep the College system afloat (and, apparently, more profitable than ever). And all that the CEC can do is, on the one hand, spout platitudes about their respect for the “hard work and dedication” of college faculty, while on the other hand working to increase the hours and days that faculty could be assigned to work each week and each year.

As their formal tabled proposal M-10A uncontrovertably indicates, CEC’s long-term goal is to attack and erode workload limitations that currently offer protections to:

  • Faculty who teach in academic upgrading programs
  • Faculty who teach in apprenticeship programs
  • Faculty who teach field placement courses or supervise field placements
  • Faculty who teach in Aviation programs
  • Faculty who teach in specialized programs
  • Faculty who evaluation includes online or Scantron grading
  • Counsellors
  • Librarians

And the CEC’s short-term goal?

To get us to do it to ourselves.

On February 15-17.

Ten things Ontario College students should know about their professors’ current bargaining with the Colleges

1. The faculty union represents over 15,000 professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians at the 24 Ontario public Colleges.

2. Because College management refuses to present an offer that addresses faculty’s main concerns in this round of bargaining, faculty will begin “work to rule” in January. That means that faculty will do their jobs exactly as outlined in their contracts and work assignments. For example, they may stop volunteering extra time or working outside of regular hours.

3. The amount of time that faculty are given to prepare classes and evaluate students hasn’t changed since 1985.

4. Right now, this workload formula gives faculty a maximum of 5.4 minutes per week to grade the work that you submit. Faculty are asking for that maximum to be increased to 7.2 minutes.

5. Faculty are asking for more time to grade students, but the College Presidents are saying that faculty are asking for a reduction in workload. (We don’t understand it either. We wish they would stop lying to you.)

6. A professor typically receives less than two hours to prepare a three-hour class each week, even if it’s online.

7. Bargaining doesn’t need to keep going: The faculty union has already offered to have an arbitrator decide all issues on which the two sides can’t agree

8. Over 70% of all professors and instructors in the Ontario College system are on 14-week contracts. Some have been doing their job for decades, but their Colleges will only hire them for 14 weeks at a time. These faculty members have fewer rights than full-timers.

9. Professors are given as little as four hours each week to help students out of class – that includes both office hours and e-mails.

10. If you would like management to resolve bargaining without labour disruption, please let your college President know, at: https://www.collegefaculty.org/write-your-college-president/

A GTA Prof Recollects Our Last Two Years…

In a recent provincewide meeting, a question came in about why workload had become a major issue in this round of bargaining, when it wasn’t as prominent in, say, 2017.

Now, at some level that’s a simple question — it was the membership that determined that workload was the #1 priority. They did this via pre-bargaining surveys, 24 Local demand-setting meetings, and the provincewide final demand-setting meeting (that delegates of each Local attended). So the simplest answer to why workload was the new top priority in this round of bargaining is “democracy”.

The question of why faculty determined that workload was the top priority is a bit more nuanced, and a Zoom chat boxes wasn’t necessarily the best place to provide thoughtful analysis, but I speculated that the issue was set up for crisis by the increasing tendency of supervisors to max out the SWFs of full-time faculty to the 44-hour limit, coupled with the (obviously related) increase of class sizes, and that the switch to emergency pandemic learning tipped workload into a crisis situation, generally.

I received an e-mail yesterday that supported that interpretation (and that highlights the little-discussed concern regarding academic integrity during emergency remote teaching). I’m happy to share it below — I’ve edited it for length and clarity, and to remove potentially-identifying information.

Hi One College Prof,

Your recent post resonated with me and I thought I’d share my experience over the last 2 years of online education.

As the pandemic opened, none of us expected to still be in this situation, including administration. Mistakes made in the early days of this can easily be forgiven. As March became April, and the Winter semester became the Summer semester it became more and more obvious that this was not going to be a quick pivot back to the classroom. At this point, I turned to my department leadership for advice on things like delivering assessments that we could have some confidence in. There was a stunning lack of support for doing any sort of proctoring or attempting to enforce integrity standards. It is indeed a thorny issue, but that’s why leadership was needed, so that we didn’t have ad-hoc solutions being deployed. The advice I received was, “Don’t proctor, it’s not worth it”.

I suppose in a short term crisis we can accept this, and support the notion that we want to reach the students we can, and those that choose not to engage honestly will bear consequences when we return to face to face or when they reach industry. Smacks of kicking a problem down the road, but again, short term crisis measures can be forgiven.

In those early days there were many requests to overload the number of students beyond the typical 40 per section. Without physical limitations of the classroom, and with potential layoffs being discussed, many felt they needed to do their part to help out. The budget savings were found by not renewing part time contracts and by minimizing factors such as total contact hours on the SWF by increasing class sizes instead of opening and staffing new sections. Once more, crisis measures can be forgiven for their aggressiveness, and we certainly felt the pressure to make this work. One side effect of this increase in students was an increase in email support for panicked and disconnected students. That was volunteer work. We stepped up to be professional and support our students as much as possible because we do indeed care.

Enough history, however–let’s get back to the present day! These conditions still exist. Some students who have never faced a proctored assessment are nearing graduation and lack the skills their diplomas claim they have. Contract cheating is running rampant in many classes. There is still no solution for delivering assessments online being promoted by “leadership”, indeed permission must be given to proctor, and then only for the largest assessments. While some students have done well in their studies and have learned a great deal, these are often the self-motivated students we know would do well regardless of the format. My experience doesn’t suggest these are the majority of students. These students are worried that when they graduate, their diploma will be looked at with skepticism. They are worried that their cheating classmates who have obtained higher grades may edge them out of jobs. They are discouraged and frustrated with the institution of higher learning’s abdication of its responsibility to assess learning …. and they are justified in their feelings.

As always, the faculty are bearing the brunt of this, and what do we do about it? We counsel, we listen, we suggest things like out of class projects that they can put in a portfolio to set themselves apart, or practicing their interviewing skills so that employers will be able to perceive the validity of their education from their answers. We certainly don’t shrug our shoulders and walk away.

[. . .]

What about those in the middle? Many are floundering. Many are getting the fully reasonable consequences of not being diligent students. Yet with whatever compassion we have left in our bag of tricks we are working with them, trying to support them, trying to keep them away from further depression and anxiety, trying to cram those essential bits of learning outcomes into their heads so they can try to pick up the pieces of their semester. It’s that time of year where the emails are normally a deluge, and with increased class sizes, it’s become a tsunami.

In the midst of all this, Doug Ford says we don’t have the right to bargain for a wage increase above 1% as inflation soars around us. (Probably not going to buy the teacher’s vote anyway, better to find a few bucks in the budget on the backs of the public service to pander to “the base”.)  The CEC says, “Everything’s fine, here’s our offer–take it or leave it”, but lacks the backbone to force a vote on it … they know full well that the system is running on volunteer labour.

[. . .]

It seems once more that there’s an attack on the people who actually do the work that the institutions provide – be they nurses or professors. Organized labour has always been the enemy of management that wishes to take advantage of workers because employers have always wielded a disproportionate amount of leverage on individuals. As management asks us to be compassionate towards our students, and towards their challenges at maintaining their budgets, it’s about time they turned their gaze back to the front lines and recognize that we are tired and we are fed up with demands from both students and from administration to make this online environment work with the modicum of support that’s been given. Stop trying to figure out how we’re going to go hybrid in the fall, or offer half the classes online through Continuing Education until you figure out how to restore the quality, in collaboration with faculty. Come down out of the Ivory Tower and strike a fair deal that recognizes the value of the work that is being done to support your lifestyle.

I encourage everyone to endorse the strike vote and send a clear message that we’re tired of “figuring it out” month after month without support.  Send the message that we’re tired of being asked to demonstrate compassion without some acknowledgement of the cost of that compassion. Send the message that it’s not ok to keep trying to find ways to use non-union workers to do our work by contracting out and skirting the rules

As sure as god made little green apples, if they impose a contract, it will lack article 2 that protects the creation of full time, meaningful positions.

Give the union [members] the power to say, “When we’ve hit our limit on administrative hours, we’re forwarding the emails to management to deal with”.  Give them the power to find many, many creative job actions other than a picket line to make the point that we are worth every cent [the colleges] spend on us.

A very tired [. . .] College faculty member.

One Meeting Attendee Responds

The following was sent as a comment to the previous video by a meeting attendee who teaches at a college in the GTA:

It was a good meeting. Over the last two weeks I’ve had the chance to gather more information on the issues. We have been starved for details. The position I had two weeks ago that I was going to vote “no”. I cast my “yes” vote today. I hope a majority do the same.

JP’s Closing Remarks…

At the start of the strike vote (lasting until Saturday at 3:00 pm), I’m posting JP Hornick’s closing address from Tuesday night’s provincewide meeting on partial-load issues.

Before I do, let me remind any contract faculty who may be working at more than one college that they should only vote once, even if they receive two distinct PINs at each workplace. (Because hey, contract faculty are disenfranchised enough, not least of all through the active efforts of the College Employer Council to prevent their unionization ballots from being counted.)

Just a reminder that this vote is very simply a vote on whether you wish to tell the Employer to do one thing that they have yet to find the motivation to do so far: Meaningfully negotiate the demands that were selected by faculty at 24 Local demand-setting meetings, and that were ratified at a provincewide demand-setting meeting at which delegates from all 24 Locals participated. The strike authorization vote means that faculty demands are not simply requests–that we are collectively serious enough about them to back them up with our labour. Giving the Bargaining Team a strike mandate is, simply, how we “walk the talk” about our needs and our students’ needs in our workplaces.

Overheard at a General Membership Meeting…

The CAAT-A faculty bargaining team has attended membership meetings at 17 Locals over the past two weeks. The following was one member’s contribution to the Zoom chat. I am printing it with their permission:

I’m all for students, but I can’t volunteer anymore. It turns into hours and hours of extra grading and contact, with ballooning class sizes. I love my students and my job, but my students also deserve someone who is mentally healthy and recognized for the work [they’re] doing. I think our students–many of whom are precariously employed and dealing with the same issues–understand more than we often give them credit for.

As a reminder, Ontario college faculty can register for one of the two CAAT-A Provincewide bargaining update meetings (in advance of the strike authorization vote) here:

Upcoming Dates

Just a note that the following dates (relevant to the bargaining process) are now confirmed:

  • December 7th (6:30-8:00 p.m.): Provincewide information session hosted by the CAAT-A Divisional Executive, featuring the faculty Bargaining Team. This session specific to partial-load faculty.
  • December 8th (6:30-8:00 p.m.):  Provincewide information session hosted by the CAAT-A Divisional Executive, featuring the faculty Bargaining Team. This session open to all faculty, including partial-load.
  • December 9th @ 9:00 a.m. – December 11th @ 3:00 p.m.: Online strike authorization vote, conducted by the Ontario Labour Relations Board
    • This vote is needed to authorize the faculty bargaining team to organize any work action, which may or may not include a strike
  • December 13th: The first day that either party may take labour action:
    • The first day that management may lock out CAAT-A faculty members
    • The first day that management may unilaterally impose Terms & Conditions of employment, affecting such areas as workload, pay, benefits, labour rights
    • The first day that unionized faculty members may, with a successful strike vote, organize labour action

As a reminder, the faculty bargaining team has proposed referring all issues that remain unresolved (following negotiations) to voluntary binding interest arbitration, as a means of resolving bargaining without disruption to our work or our students’ academic year.

A Seasoned GTA Prof Writes

One of the things that I found as soon as I got involved in academic labour issues is that my sense of time changed, and I started looking at change in terms of different time frames. For example, the degree to which our class sizes are impacted by a decision that someone made in 1985, or the fact that both teams are already writing potential recommendations for the next round of bargaining into this round’s Collective Agreement (in a nutshell, the faculty team’s proposal provides for mechanisms that would guarantee such recommendations; the CEC team’s proposal would let the Employer prevent recommendations from being put forwards).

So you start to think of it as something like a chess game, only there’s a gap of years between each move. (The metaphor breaks down when you consider that arbitrator’s rulings can redefine the meaning of negotiated language, in between rounds of bargaining.)

And in the last round of bargaining, I think that I e-mailed the bargaining team’s chair and vice-chair, when I thought that the Employer was proposing a reasonably innocuous bit of language that could end up having problematic effects about a decade later, if specific other things were to happen in the meantime.

All of which is to say that you start to value institutional memory. Right now, for example, in the face of the Employer’s ability to unilaterally Impose Terms & Conditions of Employment (16 days from now), many of our members experienced the Imposition of 2009; many did not.

So it’s in that spirit that I welcomed the following letter from a professor who leads with their experience. I have redacted any identifying information:

I started work as a full time faculty [in the late eighties]. I’ve been through the 2006 strike, the 2009 imposed terms & conditions, and the 2017 strike. After 32 years  as a faculty member, I am more than frustrated with the College Employer Council – their actions, their communication mistruths, and their callous disregard for both students and faculty. 
Given the CEC behaviour in the past, I am not surprised – but I am frustrated for everyone who has poured their heart and soul into doing their best for students during the pandemic. Doing their best for students has often been at the expense of faculty well-being and more so since March 2020. Working in a [Centre for Teaching & Learning], I’ve noted how tired faculty have become but the past 18 months, it’s been beyond tired. It’s an exhaustion that goes bone-deep. What an unfortunate time for our employer to take this adversarial stance.
It strikes me as absurd – working in a [CTL] and talking to faculty about learner-centred education, UDL [Universal Design for Learning], pedagogies of care, humanizing learning – and, especially authentic assessment – knowing full well that implementing any of these things is often beyond the scope of what SWFs allow–if, in fact, the people I’m working with are lucky enough to have a SWF. 
New faculty don’t know what they don’t know. They’re afraid–as are many faculty–of where we are heading if there is a strike. After 32 years, I’m afraid of what will happen if we don’t take a strong stance. What will happen to those new faculty? What will happen to future faculty? Will Apprenticeship and Academic Upgrading faculty be treated differently? 
In closing, let me say how much I appreciate your insightful emails and your podcast. Thank you.

In return, thank you for the kind words and also for the questions at the end, which will hopefully give me material for an upcoming post. As ever, readers are welcome to reach me at ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com — all letters will be kept strictly anonymous.