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 22.214.171.124). We have agreed to add to criteria for special increases under the category of “unpublished research or scholarly work” (Article 17.2.2) in order to be more inclusive of our members’ diverse research, scholarly, and artistic work.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.
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 126.96.36.199). 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.