Oct 312017
 

Our collective agreement expired June 30, 2017 and we have begun negotiations with the employer. We do not anticipate this being an easy, or a quick, round of negotiations.

While our theme for negotiations planning has been “equity and stability” including issues of scope and rank for academic clinicians in the College of Medicine (see Minutes of the USFA Spring General Meeting, April 1, 2017), we will be facing some hurdles in terms of the Employer’s stated interests in this round of negotiations.

We have heard at the table that these key interests translate into goals to give Deans more authority, including disciplinary authority, to implement measures for increased accountability for faculty members, and to ease back on the growth of our salaries in comparison to other universities in the U15. There is also interest in reducing the role of the USFA in collegial processes.

The USFA and the Employer have both committed to interest-based bargaining, but the beginning of negotiations this August showed significant tensions. For example, the Employer has stated that it has little interest in discussing the College of Medicine, and has been reluctant to provide requested information about new hires of clinical MDs to the faculty, and about the nature of their relationship with the university. That said, we recognize that the Employer is facing a difficult mandate, and so we are both working to get to points of agreement where we can find solutions to meet one another’s interests. There is no doubt that the process will pose some challenges, and will be time consuming. In the meantime, our current Collective Agreement still applies, including the awarding of special increases and the implementation of regular career development increases (Articles 17 and 18 of the Agreement).

Finances and Compensation

Financial issues will certainly be at the forefront for this round, and the Employer’s expressed desire to give Deans more power seems to be in part stemming from the university’s new system of “Responsibility Centre Management” wherein resource allocation to “Revenue Centres” (otherwise known as Colleges and Schools) is determined by the so-called transparent, activity-based budget system (TABBS). In this system, budgetary responsibility is placed at the local level (“Empowerment”), and decisions and planning leading at the local level will result in the teaching and research activities that formulaically determine the budgets distributed to units (“Accountability”). But how can Deans ensure activities of faculty translate into dollars? We have already seen some attempts to use goal-setting by faculty members for their planned achievements, including desired research output, number of publications, and grant applications, as concrete assignment of duties and tied to merit awards.

To compound some of the troubling aspects of this system appearing at the bargaining table, the Provincial Government’s austerity budget is also contributing to a challenging round of negotiations. The university’s operating funds have been in the government’s crosshairs for some time now, translating into the goals to reduce inflation of faculty compensation, and to reassess our merit system to better reflect accountability as a means to reward “excellence.” As a reminder:

  • For the 2015–16 fiscal year, the Government of Saskatchewan withheld $20 million in targeted funding.
    This was followed by, last year, the university receiving a 0% increase in base funding from the provincial government for 2016–17. The provincial government also implemented a second $20 million reduction in targeted funding for the College of Medicine.
  • Last January, the Minister of Advanced Education gave a Directive to the Board of Governors, which stated that “All public sector employers are expected to ensure that there are no increases to the total cost of employee compensation as a result of any ongoing negotiations or negotiations for contracts yet to expire.” It went on to request that the U of S would “share in the effort required to contain and control compensation costs,” and for 2017–2018, total compensation costs “will be no greater than in fiscal 2016–17. In order to achieve these goals, negotiations will need to commence immediately. There may be a need to consider such things as freezing in-range increments, general wage increases and performance/bonus pay, … in order to meet the requirement to contain and control the total cost of public sector compensation.”
  • Then, in February, of this year, the Saskatchewan Party government announced its $1.2 billion debt. The government’s position was that “everything is on the table” and that “very deep cuts” to education, health care, municipal revenue sharing and civil service salaries would be possibilities.
  • When the 2017–18 provincial budget was announced in March, it outlined a 5.6% budget reduction for the University of Saskatchewan. Adding to the difficulties this reduction poses, the province was requiring the university to provide $20 million out of this operating grant to the College of Medicine.
  • With $20 million to the College of Medicine reinstated this fall, the picture is a little more promising, and while the university has asked the Board of Governors to approve a budget with a $17 million deficit, the closing balance of the university’s General Fund is projected to be $151,795 million (see Minutes of University Council, and Operating Budget Fact Sheet 2016–17).

All this said, when we are in negotiations, we can sense that the government is very much “there” in the room with us, and accountability and austerity will likely continue to be themes of this round.

Our expectation is that once again, our work at the bargaining table will include trying to understand expenditure choices the Employer makes in comparison to its stated mission to address the financial deficit. A hiring freeze is one option that might be considered, for example, that has not yet been mentioned. Last year, 2016–17, our faculty complement was 1,013, after reducing our numbers from 1,072 in 2014–15. This fall our faculty complement is up by 22, to 1,035.

The Employer is also looking into ways to fund the School of Architecture initiative by assuring start-up funding and ongoing operating resources to support the program, without depleting resources from other units. A feasibility study projects that renovation costs will be approximately $20 million. With a Director, Program Director, approximately 11.5 FTE instructors (faculty and sessionals), administrative staff, and a half-time librarian, the School would operate on a “direct cost” budget of $3.2 million per year, and a total yearly operating budget of $4.4 million, offset in part by tuition revenue of $1.44 million (see October 19 Council Agenda).

It should be stated clearly that the USFA is not in any way opposed to hiring faculty, or embarking on such ambitious projects as a new School of Architecture. However, any message at the bargaining table of the need for belt tightening in the face of a fiscal crisis will have to be reconciled against other expenditure choices.

The Employer has indicated it will be moving to a compensation strategy where it is aiming to be at the 60th percentile in the U15, still a lead pay strategy but lower in response to the current fiscal context. The Employer is interested in looking at pay programs and structures beyond base pay, and merit is on the agenda for discussion. We both agree that greater transparency is important in the process of awarding merit—but the Employer asks, is it achieving what we want? Is it sustainable and does it meet needs?

“Any merit is intended to recognize high achievers” is the message we are receiving, but we will be wary of any premise that suggests running a tight financial ship means rewarding certain kinds of work as meritorious while ignoring others such as teaching and administration.
U of S faculty are at a good place in terms of compensation. We feel we are compensated fairly. The Employer has achieved and surpassed its goal of reaching the 75th percentile among the comparators it chose when it adopted its lead payer strategy, but remember that goal was achieved through slow and steady progress, after years of being among the lowest paid. It is worth noting that the Employer’s lead payer strategy has begun to show results, as this year the U of S led the country in research income gains, with an increase of 27.8%—the largest of all Canadian universities. We are attracting good people to the university, and we do not want to lose them. Accordingly, at a minimum we are aiming not to lose ground and to maintain our standing among other institutions, and continue with our stated objective to maintain a position in the top quartile in the U15.

College of Medicine

Regrettably, too much of both our and the employer’s resources have focussed on the restructuring of the College of Medicine, but we continue to attempt to negotiate some of the salient issues that might otherwise result in costly consultations with lawyers through grievance processes and arbitration. Our Certification Order stipulates that we represent full-time faculty, and historically, since certification, a number of clinician faculty have been appointed as full-time academics in scope of the union.

As previously reported at our annual meeting, the employer has decided that all new hires of academic clinician faculty are independent contractors who are out of scope. This is not necessarily a unique situation in Canada, but at the U of S, hiring these faculty out of scope via processes described in the College’s recently approved Procedures Manual does disregard the provisions of our Agreement, and our Certification Order. We continue to maintain that these new hires, who are guaranteed a significant percentage of time for academic work, should be in scope of the Collective Agreement. Like contracting out too much of our teaching (see Article 10.8 of the Collective Agreement, Employment of Non-Members), contracting out our research is unacceptable, and we are hoping that we can convince the employer to have some productive discussions at the negotiations table about these issues.

Mar 292017
 

Saskatoon – The recently announced provincial budget will have substantial negative consequences on post-secondary education in Saskatchewan.

The dramatic reduction in operating funds after multiple years of provincial government cut backs and claw backs is jeopardizing the quality, affordability and accessibility of advanced education in Saskatchewan. Our Universities and post-secondary institutions serve the public good, add to the economy and are cherished by the people of the province. They must be appropriately funded to maintain and grow what we have.

Ziad Ghaith, President of the Graduate Student’s Association at the U of S, said “The reduction to the base funding for post-secondary institutions, the elimination of tax credits for education, the cut in scholarship funding, and the suspension of Saskatchewan Advantage Grant for Education Savings will further impoverish students.” The costs associated with high quality degree programs have been increasing, and students are already offsetting those costs through higher tuition. Average tuition at the U of S has increased more than 18 percent since the 2012-13 academic year. This year it was the highest in Western Canada and next year it will increase yet again by a further 2.3 per cent.

“Our students represent the future of business and entrepreneurship, health and research, in a prosperous, caring and creative Saskatchewan. Operating funds from the provincial government are an investment in them,” said U of S Faculty Association Chair Len Findlay, adding, “But it’s about more than students. Public post-secondary institutions thrive only as a result of stable, adequate public funding. Any departure from this model harms the universities and harms us all.”

– 30 –

The Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) is a non-for-profit organization representing the over 4000 graduate students at the University of Saskatchewan.

The U of S Faculty Association is the certified bargaining agent for approximately 1100 academic employees at the University of Saskatchewan.

For further information:
Len Findlay, Chair USFA, 306-966-5609
Zaid Ghaith, President GSA, 306-966-8471

Feb 292016
 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 29, 2016 Two pre-election forums on the issue of post-secondary education in Saskatchewan are being hosted by the Saskatchewan Association of University Teachers (SAUT) in conjunction with the University of Regina Faculty Association, St. Thomas More Faculty Union and the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association. Saskatoon: Regina: Tuesday, March 1 Thursday, […]

Sep 292015
 

(Saskatoon – September 28, 2015) Leading up to the October 19 federal election, scientists and researchers are meeting across Canada to discuss the need to address the crisis of research and science policy and funding in Canada. The University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association (USFA) is hosting two discussion events in Saskatoon: Louis’ Loft (on campus): […]

Dec 112013
 

Don’t forget that on Tuesday, December 17th at 4:00, we have a member social planned.  Stop by the Windows Room on the main floor of the University Club for some holiday cheer. It will be a chance to connect with other USFA members from across campus and to speak with Executive members about the TransformUS […]

Dec 092013
 

Please join us for our next social in the Windows Room on the main floor of the University Club on Tuesday, December 17th at 4:00 PM.  Stop by for some holiday cheer and a chance to chat with other USFA members from across campus.  All USFA members are welcome to attend. Please contact Tammy Stieb […]

Oct 222013
 

USFA members who have a combined age and years of service equal to or greater than 85 are eligible to apply for the Incentive Plan for Retirement (IPR). The application deadline is October 31, 2013. See http://www.usask.ca/vpacademic/collegial/index.php for application form and additional information. Members are reminded that they may withdraw an application for the IPR […]

Feb 222013
 

Dear members: Today, the Negotiating Teams for the USFA and Employer signed off on a tentative agreement for the period July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 (attached).  The agreement  provides for an extension to the terms of the current collective agreement with a 1% scale increase to all salaries and salary scales, plus the […]

Sep 212012
 

Preparations for the next round of bargaining are well under way. The current collective agreement expires on June 30, 2013. Through preliminary discussions with the Employer, we expect to begin bargaining early in the new year with the goal of having a new agreement ratified before the expiry of the current one. The Executive of […]

Sep 212012
 

Each fall for the last half dozen years the USFA Executive has hosted lunches for relatively new USFA members who are still in the first few years of their appointment. That tradition continues and invitations have gone out. For many new faculty, their appointment here is the first of their career and it is their […]

Sep 212012
 

In 2010-2011 the USFA Executive created the Member Development Committee. The purpose of this committee is to create initiatives to increase the participation of USFA members in the work of the USFA. Last year, the Committee held monthly member socials to create a regular opportunity for USFA members to connect with each other, with Executive […]

Sep 212012
 

The 2012-2013 academic year is starting out as a busy one for the Association Grievance Committee (AGC). Two arbitrations are scheduled for the fall. One concerns the assignment of duties in the Library and the other is a continuation of the legal issues raised when the former President overturned a decision of a Renewal and […]

Sep 212012
 

The 2012–2013 year is already shaping up to be an interesting one. The recent special meeting of the General Academic Assembly was history-making and those of you who attended should give yourselves a pat on the back for being a part of it. Your participation in University governance is important to ensuring a vibrant institution. […]

Mar 272012
 

The USFA Scholarship was established in 2004. Each year scholarship awards are made to eligible students of USFA Faculty members. The University of Saskatchewan makes an annual contribution to the fund of $250,000. In 2010/2011 a record number of 208 applications were received. Of these applicants, 196 students were eligible for partial tuition reimbursement. For […]

Mar 272012
 

For the 9th year in a row, VGLI members will receive a contribution holiday. The duration of this year’s holiday is four months. The VGLI premiums for the months of March, April, May and June, 2012 will be paid for by the USFA VGLI Trust Fund. The USFA is the sponsor of the VGLI plan […]

Mar 272012
 

Our first experience with the new salary review provisions in the Collective Agreement is nearing completion.  Departments and Colleges have awarded their portions of the merit pool and the President’s Review Committee is in the final stages of its deliberations.  The USFA has received an enormous amount of feedback regarding the new salary review process, […]

Mar 272012
 

Our current collective agreement expires on June 30, 2013.  Both the USFA and Employer are committed to settling the next agreement prior to expiry of the present one, so it is likely that we will be at the table in early 2013.  As a consequence, preparation for the next round of bargaining by the USFA […]

Mar 272012
 

It’s that time of year again. The process for the assignment of duties is underway. It is an open and transparent process that requires your participation and it is through your participation that transparency and fairness are ensured in the same manner as other collegial processes. Duties are assigned by your Department Head, or in […]

Mar 272012
 

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) currently has underway a campaign to protect Library and Archives Canada (LAC). The Campaign, launched in November 2011, is in response to funding cuts and internal managerial decisions that are threatening the quality and integrity of Canada’s only national public library and archives. The changes in the name […]