Along with the election, the weekend included informative workshops on staffing grievances and organizing for bargaining. Joining our comrades from CAAT-S, College Support Staff, the group was given an exciting keynote address by none other than organizer, negotiator, author, and scholar Jane McAlevey. The Organizing for Power workshop was legendary!
You can watch a video clip of OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick’s introduction of McAlevey here.
At the end of October, delegates for the CAAT-A Pre-Bargaining Conference elected a new bargaining team for the upcoming round of negotiations with the College Employer Council (CEC) that will take place beginning in July, 2024 (see below for the new team and bargaining timeline).
We are currently seeing a resurgence of the labour movement. The pandemic raised the awareness of workers’ rights everywhere. Workers are demanding more, including better wages and benefits, and better and more equitable working conditions. Workers are exercising their power and making historic gains in a wide range of sectors!
As college faculty, we are no different. We have made significant gains recently, despite being hampered by the Doug Ford government’s unconstitutional Bill 124, which prevented fair and free collective bargaining. In our most recent round, we achieved notable gains in job security for partial-load members (who comprise over 40% of our bargaining unit), improvements in the areas of equity and Indigeneity, and the establishment of a Workload Task Force to address our workload formula that has gone mostly unchanged since 1985.
Further, after Bill 124 was ruled unconstitutional in November, 2022, we negotiated – with the help of a mediator – the largest wage increases we have seen since 2006 along with substantial benefit improvements.
We united to overcome obstacles! However, many challenges still exist including unsustainable workloads. We also need to achieve further gains in wages as they have not kept up with inflation. We are no longer (and have not been for some time) at the midpoint salary between university professors and high school teachers (our established comparators). This is contributing to the escalating problem of recruiting and retaining college faculty.
The colleges – which made a collective profit of over $668 million this past year – remain far too dependent on precarious contract faculty, who comprise over two-thirds of all faculty and do the majority of the teaching (from the College Employer Council’s own numbers). They have also become far too dependent on other non-unionized post secondary systems (OntarioLearn and Public-Private Partnerships [P3s]) with limited quality assurance mechanisms. Increasing the numbers of counsellors and librarians is also crucial to ensure that our students have the necessary supports.
Your input in early 2024 will shape priorities for bargaining. We look forward to your engagement!
You will see frequent communications from your bargaining team over the coming months and we look forward to hearing from YOU as we proceed through this process. By standing strong together – professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians – we have the opportunity to make necessary improvements to the college system to create the workplace that we need and the learning environment that our students deserve.
Ravi Ramkissoonsingh, Chair
College Faculty Bargaining Team
Update on Letter of Understanding re: Indigenous Knowledge Definition
One important addition to our Collective Agreement (CA) awarded by Arbitrator Kaplan, was a letter of understanding (LoU) regarding the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge as a factor impacting starting salary step, alongside formal education and work experience.
Our new CA dictates that the “College may grant up to 10 points [in salary calculations] in recognition for Indigenous Knowledge on hiring of an applicant who is Indigenous and whose teaching and/or other assigned duties are partially or entirely related to Indigenous Ways of Knowing, Being, and Doing”.
Arbitrator Kaplan also directed that the work of arriving at an appropriate definition of Indigenous Knowledge, “requires respectful consultation with Indigenous Elders.” Consequently, the union sought the guidance and direction of an Indigenous Elder and three Indigenous and Metis faculty members, to collaborate with the CEC’s representatives on an appropriate definition of Indigenous Knowledges. Unfortunately, our vision for this Indigenous-led working group was not supported by the CEC. Subsequently, both parties felt that the support of Arbitrator Kaplan was needed to provide a path forward.
On Oct 30th, 2023, both parties finally met with arbitrator Kaplan, resulting in an agreement to invite the support of a facilitator, as contemplated in the LoU.
Arbitrator Michelle Flaherty (the neutral Chair of the workload task force) was chosen to facilitate this process with the support of co-facilitator Claudette Commanda. Commanda, who is from the community of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, is an Elder, Traditional Teacher and Alumnus of the Faculty of Common Law and Arts in the University of Ottawa, which reports that she has dedicated “35 years promoting First Nations people, history, culture and rights in various capacities as a University of Ottawa student, professor, member and chair of the Aboriginal education council, and via public speaking events”.
Your CAAT-A Divisional Executive is optimistic that this facilitation will further the work of reconciliation by enabling the parties to achieve a definition of Indigenous Knowledge, through respectful consultation. We remain committed to ongoing consultation and dialogue with Indigenous faculty members, to ensure that their unique contributions are recognized in our Collective Agreement and respected by the colleges.
Call for Applications: The Bargaining Advisory Committee
The bargaining team is supported by the five elected members of the CAAT-A Divisional Executive and by the 24 Local Presidents. For the last two rounds of bargaining, it has also successfully been supported by a Bargaining Advisory Committee (BAC).
The BAC is comprised of one member appointed or elected by each Local. It will also include eight partial-load faculty members, two instructors, two counsellors, and two librarians from around the province; these individuals represent the interests of members in those job classifications, provincewide.
This structure improves member engagement, communication, transparency, and decision-making. It draws on the collective knowledge of our division, while recognizing concerns that are unique to regions, locals, and job categories.
The mandate of the BAC is to act as an advisory resource to the bargaining team during negotiations, providing advice and insight when needed and when requested by the Bargaining Team. The Divisional Executive, which also remains active during negotiations, will coordinate communication among the BAC, the presidents, and the Bargaining Team.
BAC members will be expected to participate in scheduled training, and to take part in roughly 3-5 scheduled meetings with the bargaining team throughout the bargaining process.
As well, the BAC, along with all local presidents, will review any proposed contract language before the bargaining team agrees to the proposed language. Of course, voting for or against a settlement (as opposed to a Collective Agreement that is awarded by an arbitrator) rests with the full membership.
Consultations with the BAC are intended to gather the widest scope of representation on the issues on the bargaining table, and to provide additional energy for mobilizing.
If you are interested in representing your Local on the BAC, please consult your Local President or steward(s) to learn how your Local will be selecting its representatives.
If you are interested in applying to the BAC as a representative of Partial-Load faculty, counsellors, or librarians, please fill out the application form at https://tinyurl.com/d3dru9pe, by January 19, 2024.
Consistent with our approved Negotiations Procedures, the Divisional Executive will be selecting applicants, with regard to diversity, interest, background, and experience, as well as representation from Ontario’s regions and from small, medium, and large colleges.
Your Bargaining Team for the next round:
Ravi Ramkissoonsingh (he/him) – L242, Chair
Ravi has taught Psychology in the Ontario public college system for 20 years, with the past 17 in a full-time capacity at Niagara College. He has been very active in his Union Local since 2014, having served as Local President for three years and, currently, as Vice-President.
At the provincial level, he has been on the Joint Grievance Scheduling Committee for the past three years, providing him with further insight regarding the many challenges that faculty are facing. He has also served on the past two CAAT-A bargaining teams, including in the roles of Co-Chair and Chair during the most recent round. Ravi is committed to working towards a college system where all faculty members’ contributions are both valued and respected; he believes that through a culture of value and respect faculty members can best serve students and provide the education and resources that students deserve.
In his spare time, Ravi is an avid Toronto Argonauts football fan and a proud parent of multiple cats. He is grateful for being elected to the 2024 CAAT-A bargaining team and looks forward to the upcoming negotiations.
Michelle Arbour (she/her) – L125, Vice-Chair
Michelle is a lawyer and a member in good standing with the Law Society of Ontario. She was a member of the 2021 CAAT-A bargaining team. Michelle has worked in the Ontario college system since 2012 as a contract and full-time professor, as well as a coordinator of various programs in the School of Business and International Education. Michelle was in private practice as well as in house counsel positions prior to 2012. She is in her third term as president of Local 125. She has served as Chair/Co-Chair on the College Workload Monitoring Group, Union/College Committee, and the College Employment Stability Committee. Michelle brings valuable expertise to the bargaining team in the areas of legal analysis, mediation and arbitration and conflict management.
Michelle is excited to be a member of the CAAT-A bargaining team and looks forward to the upcoming round of contract negotiations.
Chad Croteau (he/him) – L110
Chad has taught full-time at Fanshawe College since 2013, and worked at St. Clair College briefly prior to that. Chad carries an extensive history of union membership and activism and believes strongly that everyone deserves fair working conditions, job stability and respect. Chad sits on the Union College Committee and the Joint Health and Safety Committee at Fanshawe, and is a member of the Constitution Committee with OPSEU/SEFPO.
When not teaching and being a union activist, Chad likes to make homemade candy and desserts, host parties and get out in nature.
Bob Delaney (he/him) – L237
Bob (he/him) is a passionate advocate for Partial-load participation in CAAT-A, and is the first Partial-load Faculty Member to be on the CAAT-A Bargaining Team. He has extensive experience in establishing relationships in the education sector, having worked as a faculty member (starting in 1998), vendor and consultant.
Bob has a unique combination of experience in Education, Human Resource (HR) Management and Union Activism (VP Local 237). Through his publishing (Canadian HR Press) and consulting work (Earning Through Learning), he has had the privilege to influence an entire generation of HR practitioners in Canada. He has worked with thought leaders in the area of HR and Industrial Relations (IR), including work with U of T’s Centre for IR/ HR (cofounder of the Weekly Labour Review (PWR)), and Cornell University’s eCornell series of management/ leadership development programs.
Bob is the proud father of an awesome daughter.
Martin Lee (he/him) – L415
Martin is an immigrant from New Zealand where he was politically active with the Labour Party while studying his Ph.D. in Chemistry/Biochemistry before coming to Canada for his post-doctoral work. He has been proudly teaching in Algonquin College’s Biotechnology program since 2012, becoming Full-Time in 2017. He is active in his local, serving as secretary, on the WMG, among other roles, and has brought a data-driven lens to all the work of the local.
Provincially, he works on the Joint Grievance Scheduling Committee, the CBIS committee, and has led workshops on data-weaving for the CAAT-A meetings. Most recently, he was selected to work with the College Employer Council (CEC) for the Provincial Workload Taskforce, whose work will inform this round of bargaining. From his teaching roles, through to his labour activism, he brings a lens of equity as a primary focusing tool for all that he does, believing strongly that any collective action must work for all members, equity deserving members included. Where possible he believes that his role should be one of amplifying voices that need to be heard, or using his position to create a space for those who are not at the table.
In the community, he has worked with Max Ottawa and the AIDS Committee of Ottawa.
Sean Lougheed (he/him) – L657
Sean teaches Mental Health and Addiction Worker at Canadore in North Bay. In 2016, he completed his Ph.D. in Rural and Northern Health Policy at Laurentian in Sudbury.
Since 2017, he’s been increasingly active in political and union work, and currently serves as OPSEU/SEFPO Local 657 President. Sean’s professional background includes psychotherapy, addiction counselling, and child and youth care.
In addition to labour organizing and activism, his passions include paddling with family, and fishing.
Rebecca Ward (she/her) – L732
Rebecca is president of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 732. She is a current member of the CAAT-A Divisional Executive, a current member of the CAAT-A Provincial Workload Taskforce, and a past CAAT-A bargaining team member. She brings strong skills in fostering collective action. As a labour activist, Rebecca has been fighting for employment stability, equity in the workplace and anti racism/anti-oppression. She has experience negotiating agreements in the midst of challenging political landscapes, having negotiated during COVID and under the Ford regime.
Rebecca has been president since 2017, but has advocated for the rights of the most-targeted young people in the province for 20 years. She is known to be a fearless leader with grit, integrity and passion.
Anna Ainsworth (she/her) – L560
Anna Ainsworth is the President and former Vice-President of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 560 at Seneca College where she has taught in the School of English and Liberal Studies since 2007. Prior to that she was an active member of CUPE 3903. She has also served as an Executive Board Member for Region 5 between 2019 and 2020. She then served as a Divisional Executive Member for CAAT-A. While doing graduate studies at York University, she made a choice to pursue a path to employment at Seneca College, preferring to serve in the College system over the University system because it was designed to serve working-class students. She has not regretted that decision once.
Gillian Axten (she/her/elle) – L417
Gillian is a Professor of Psychology at St. Lawrence College Cornwall campus. She trains seeing eye dogs for the Mira foundation. She is Chief Steward of Local 417, Co-Chair of the Joint Grievance Scheduling Committee and a member of the Disability Rights Caucus. Gillian has been a Union steward since 2009, the Secretary of her Local from 2010-2012 and has been Chief Steward since 2012. She is actively involved with the health coalition to fight against privatization of our healthcare system. She is a strong advocate for all members to ensure that the rights in the Collective Agreement (CA) are upheld. Gillian believes that good full-time jobs are key to providing good education and continues to fight using Article 2 of the CA to secure full-time faculty positions at St. Lawrence College.
Other Bargaining Updates
It’s no secret that colleges and universities urgently need more funding. As the union representing 45,000 staff and faculty in all 24 of Ontario’s colleges and 16 universities and other postsecondary institutions, we have been sounding the alarm for years. Our...
Click here to download a PDF of the bulletin The Kaplan Award affects areas including: • Equity; • Indigenization; • Partial-load job security; and acknowledges workload associated with multi-modal courses. This is an historic moment in CAAT-A’s continued fight for...
Toronto – Fifteen months after the commencement of a round of bargaining that included the largest work-to-rule faculty job action in the history of Canadian Colleges and Universities, labour negotiations between OPSEU/SEFPO’s college faculty division and the College...
OPSEU/SEFPO CAAT Academic and the CEC participated in a mediation/arbitration September 7-9, 2022. Following the mediation part of the proceeding, an arbitration occurred on September 9, 2022. The arbitrator’s award will form the new collective agreement and it is...
The college faculty bargaining team has issued the following statement: Arbitrator William Kaplan has imposed a media blackout on the upcoming voluntary mediation-interest arbitration between the colleges’ and college faculty bargaining teams. There will be no further...
OPSEU/SEFPO’s college faculty bargaining team and the College Employer Council have issued the following statement: The parties have reached an agreement to enter binding interest arbitration and the strike that was scheduled to commence at 12:01 am on March 18, 2022,...
Toronto – With some 16,000 college faculty set to go on strike at 12:01 Friday morning, the College Employer Council (CEC) and the faculty bargaining team have agreed to meet Thursday. “We were encouraged that the CEC replied to our letter and have agreed to meet...
TORONTO – Some 16,000 faculty at Ontario’s 24 public colleges say they will go on strike at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, March 18 if the College Employer Council (CEC) does not agree to voluntary binding interest arbitration. The faculty bargaining team sent an open letter...
Started 12:01am, March 02, 2022 Focus Work-to-rule must impact the functioning of the colleges in order to work as a bargaining strategy to bring the Council back to the table to discuss faculty’s needs. The colleges and CEC have chosen to abandon negotiations and to...
TORONTO – Ontario college faculty have rejected a contract offer from their employer, and OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas hopes the result will trigger a return to the bargaining table. “I am convinced a negotiated settlement is there and within reach,”...
Throughout this round of bargaining, the College Employer Council (CEC) has repeatedly refused to negotiate significant issues regarding workload, staffing, or fairness for partial-load faculty. They have justified their obstinacy by claiming that changes to these...
Information for OPSEU/SEFPO members in the CAAT-Academic Division about the February 15-17 forced-offer vote
A forced-offer vote will be held in February for college faculty members represented by OPSEU/SEFPO starting February 15. The vote was scheduled after the College Employer Council (CEC) asked the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) last week to schedule the online...