Jan 022019

To our USFA colleagues, happy new year and best wishes for the coming year!

With the beginning of the winter term, we are setting up more meetings with the Employer. We continue to work toward conclusion of a prolonged, and occasionally contentious, process. Since we began negotiations with the Employer in July 2017, many of our discussions have proved difficult and complex, and often frustrating since a number of the issues we have raised are getting little traction at the table. Nevertheless, we have made progress.

Some agreement on issues

The good news is that we have come to agreement on several issues faculty members have identified concerning equity and stability at this university. We have agreed, for example, to update language on Non-discrimination (Article 7) and to add language regarding the commitment to diversity as set out in that article for the Appeal Panel (Article 16.3.1), College Review Committee (Article 15.8.3), University Review Committee (Article 15.8.4), and Nominations Committee of Council (Article We have agreed to add to criteria for special increases under the category of “unpublished research or scholarly work” (Article 17.2.2) in order to be more inclusive of our members’ diverse research, scholarly, and artistic work. We have agreed to define Conflict of Interest and to add procedures for committees to follow in situations where the potential for this arises. We have also agreed on language regarding the re-introduction of Instructors into the Collective Agreement, as well as some changes to Lecturer positions, and a number of other changes. On some of these issues we were very far apart at the outset, but after numerous conversations we were able to establish language agreeable to both sides.

Some acknowledgment of issues

The Employer has acknowledged the value of addressing some of the issues that our proposals aimed to remedy, but has adamantly refused to put language on these into the Agreement. One of the most significant concerns faculty members raised while we were planning for this round is spousal employment. We sent an email request for feedback on this issue last January and were overwhelmed by the many troubling responses we received. We learned of faculty members looking for work elsewhere because their spouses have been unable to find permanent employment in Saskatoon. Faculty members who had been assured when interviewed that the university would provide significant help to their spouses with finding employment discovered when they got here that resources available to them were little to none. We learned of the significant stress families have faced in these situations. We shared an anonymized 18-page document compiled from these responses with the Employer, and we learned last week that it has established Terms of Reference for a Spousal/Partner Career Support Program Advisory Committee. While we would have much preferred to arrive at a concrete solution in our contract, we hope the committee will help to mitigate this concerning situation. Another proposal of the USFA was to provide dedicated personnel to assist faculty members with finding childcare within Saskatoon. The Employer has declined to put language in the Agreement because the Employee and Family Assistance Program provides solutions for finding child care through the ComPsych company. We are looking into what is provided by ComPsych, and will monitor the effectiveness of this solution for members.

Undetermined issues

We have some tough issues yet to resolve. Our mandate for stability and equity is seen as averse to the Employer’s mandate to bolster management rights and to provide flexibility for management. We have proposed, for example, that teaching not be assigned to a parent of young children before 9:30 a.m. (if requested, and if possible). So far, we have not been successful in getting agreement on this. We have also tabled a proposal on employees’ right to a change of status (full-time to part-time) for compassionate care (Article Here too the Employer is unwilling to put such a commitment in the Agreement.

The Employer seeks changes to Management Rights (Article 3), and to processes for Discipline (Article 30) and Investigations of Misconduct (Article 12.3). We have no interest in changing Article 3. On the latter two articles, we have had a number of long discussions at the table and numerous discussions amongst USFA representatives to determine if we can find a shared interest that would make these processes better, with more clarity for everyone involved.

We have yet to discuss compensation. The Employer’s goals in this regard include making changes to the awarding of special increases. Salary creep is a stated concern for the Employer, as is assessing the current process. The Employer has stated it is aiming for salaries to be at the 60th percentile among the U15 (as opposed to the 75th percentile of their chosen comparators in previous rounds). Certainly we can appreciate the importance of financial sustainability, but there are many choices the Employer could make. Over many years we made slow and steady progress in terms of compensation. We are attracting good people, and we do not want to lose them. At a minimum, our goal is not to lose ground, and to maintain a competitive standing compared to other institutions in the U15. Our faculty are no less deserving of competitive salaries today than they were four years ago.

In the past year with no contract, however, we have slipped. Stats Can recently released complete information on the comparators chosen by the Employer, and analysis shows that we are losing ground. Full Professors have dropped from 3rd in the U15 to 6th; Associate Professors have dropped from 3rd to 5th; Assistant Professors have dropped from 4th to 5th.

Dec 202018

On Thursday, December 20th SK Federation of Labour (SFL) will be walking the picket line with UFCW 1400 members at the Saskatoon Coop Westview (33rd St W and Ave P N) from 5 pm to 7 pm. The SFL has invited affiliated unions, their locals, Saskatoon Coop members, and others to join them in walking the picket line.

This is a difficult time of year to be fighting for a fair collective agreement and these workers have been on strike since November 1, 2018. Take some time on Thursday between 5:00 and 7:00 to walk with striking UFCW members. Joining them, even for a short time, helps lift spirits and brighten days.

The USFA continues to hope the parties will reach a negotiated settlement.


Dec 102018

Faculty are advised to check the upcoming changes effective January 2019 in coverage limits for amounts reimbursed for individual visits to the various paramedical practitioners covered by the Sun Life Extend Health Benefits. While the overall yearly maximum coverage amount remains in effect at $500 per year, changes are occurring in the maximum per visit […]

Nov 272018

UFCW Local 1400 members have been on strike with the Saskatoon Coop since November 1, 2018. Saskatoon and District Labour Council will be walking the picket line with UFCW 1400 members at the Saskatoon Coop Attridge Drive location on Wednesday, November 28, 2018 from 5 pm to 7 pm, and invites affiliated unions, their locals, […]

Nov 152018

Recently, research employees and out-of-scope employees in the College of Arts and Science received an email regarding contingency planning “in the event of an emergency or if relief work is needed during a CUPE 1975 strike.” The message requested recipients to complete a “confidential” skills inventory form itemizing their credentials or experience in the trades, […]

Nov 132018

Labour relations are in a poor state at Canadian Universities and we are not immune here at the UofS. In July, some 3,000 contract faculty and graduate teaching and research assistants at York University were legislated back to work after 143 days on the picket line (the longest strike in the post-secondary sector in Canadian […]

Oct 022018

During the busy summer season, the USFA published an e-Letter about the Ryerson Arbitration on teaching evaluations, where the arbitrator ordered that student-based evaluations of teaching not be used to measure teaching effectiveness in tenure and promotion cases, effective immediately. The decision stated that the evaluations “are imperfect at best and downright biased and unreliable […]

Sep 212018

Recently, questions have arisen about CV formats for collegial processes. Should the 29 point version (current) or the 24 point version (revised) be used? The website for the Vice-Provost Faculty Relations includes the statement: “The university is transitioning to a new Standardized CV format. It is anticipated that the transition of received CVs to UnivRS […]

Aug 212018

We invite you to a Free Pancake Breakfast: Thursday, September 6 7:30 – 10:00 a.m. (or until food runs out) in The Bowl   Everyone welcome! Gluten free pancakes will be available.   Sponsored by: USFA ASPA CUPE 1975 CUPE 3287 St. Thomas More Faculty Union PSAC Local 40004

Aug 212018

USFA members are invited to submit an application to the Executive Committee for reimbursement of attendance at a conference/workshop/meeting related to the USFA including, but not limited to, labour relations, academic freedom, employment equity, and workplace health and safety. The USFA Conference/Workshop/Meeting Attendance Policy was instituted as a way to ensure that there is an […]

Aug 012018

The recent arbitration award at Ryerson University directed that Faculty Course Survey results are not to be used to “measure teaching effectiveness for promotion or tenure.” After USFA reported on this, members requested further details. The reports of expert witnesses R.L. Freishtat and P.B. Stark have been published by The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty […]

Jul 232018

Following the publication of a recent CBC News article that described the working atmosphere at GIFS (the Global Institute for Food Security) with strong language – “horror story”, “bizarre”, “complete disintegration”, “toxic environment” – several members wrote to USFA relating similar experiences in their own units. USFA cannot comment on the specifics of this or […]

Jul 192018

The following USFA table officers were elected at a meeting held June 22, 2018. Chair: Douglas Chivers, Department of Biology Vice-Chair: Susan Fowler-Kerry, College of Nursing Secretary/Treasurer: Mark Meyers, Department of History Senior Grievance Officer: Patricia Farnese, College of Law The terms of these officers began July 1, 2018, along with those of newly-elected members […]

Jul 112018

There will be a reduction applied to the cost of premiums for Sun Life Optional Life Insurance for the month of July only.  The University is making the adjustment to refund to members the provincial sales tax (PST) paid on the  premiums.  The Saskatchewan Government retroactively abolished the PST on life insurance premiums necessitating the […]

Jul 112018

An arbitrator’s decision at Ryerson University released July 6, 2018 has ordered that student-based evaluations of teaching not  be used in tenure and promotion cases, effective immediately. The decision stated that the evaluations “are imperfect at best and downright biased and unreliable at worst”. With respect to the evidence provided Student Evaluations of Teaching (SET) […]

May 282018

It has been a challenging two years for many Canadian faculty at the bargaining table. You may be interested in the following outcomes. Most recently, Carleton faculty have reached an agreement after hundreds of hours and one year of collective bargaining, with the assistance of a mediator. Details will be reported soon. Earlier this month, […]

May 082018

Several faculty members were surprised to receive letters at their homes from Connection Point advising them of benefit packages that will expire as they approach “normal retirement age”. The first round of letters contained references to a normal retirement age of 65; the subsequent letters changed this number to 67. The language of “normal retirement […]