Happy New Year! We hope that 2019 is a good one for all of us.

As we begin the new year and new term, there are just a few items that we want to remind you about:

Workload Referrals

Although you have already signed and agreed to your SWF for the Winter Term (for full-time faculty), it does not mean that you cannot still refer your workload at any point during the term. If there is a change in circumstances which results in an increase in your workload, you have the right under Article 11.02 A 6 (a) of the collective agreement (CA) to complain (by asking for a revised SWF that reflects this change) to your supervisor, and, if no resolution is agreed upon, refer your complaint to the Workload Monitoring Group (WMG). If a manager tells you that you cannot do this, they are simply incorrect.

One change of circumstance we have been seeing with increasing frequency over the past couple of years is a significant difference in class size from the time that members sign their SWF compared to the actual student numbers when their classes begin. The class size on their SWF is being underestimated by a considerable amount and the member may even end up in overtime that they have not had the opportunity to consent to. Article 11.01 J 3 of the CA states that:

“All such voluntary overtime agreements [emphasis added], which shall not be unreasonably withheld, shall be set out in writing on the SWF for that period by the College and filed with the teacher and Union Local within ten days.”

We have seen numerous situations where faculty are not in overtime when they sign their SWF but then increased student numbers result in the member being put into overtime without having had a chance to consent. We suggest watching your student numbers closely as the Winter Term begins and not hesitating to ask your associate dean for a revised SWF with the accurate student numbers, as well as the opportunity to consent or not to overtime. If you are not consenting to overtime, have a rationale prepared as to why you do not want overtime (e.g., it would be too onerous of a workload, you have responsibilities outside of work which prevent you from working overtime, the class size is too large for you to be able to meet your course/learning outcomes).

Faculty members on the WMG are Terry Poirier (Co-Chair, from School of Community Services), Herb Hill (School of Media), Lois Johnson (School of Technology), and Ravi Ramkissoonsingh (School of Academic and Liberal Studies). Feel free to email these WMG members with any questions you may have.

Academic Freedom and Supplemental Evaluations

Academic freedom was, by far, the top demand among both Niagara College faculty and college faculty across the province in our last round of bargaining; it was also the reason why the College Employer Council needlessly extended the strike by two weeks because they did not want us to have it. Arbitrator Kaplan awarded us academic freedom as part of Article 13 of our new CA.

Article 13.04 states that:
“Every faculty member is able to exercise academic freedom in the performance of his/her duties. Academic freedom at the College includes the right to enquire about, investigate, pursue, teach [emphasis added] and speak freely about academic issues without impairment to position or other reprisal.”

We are hearing from members who are being pressured to provide supplemental evaluations to students who were unsuccessful in their classes in the Fall Term. While the College grading policy states that supplemental evaluations are offered at the discretion of the academic administrator, this is in conflict with Article 13.04 of the CA. In cases like this, the CA takes precedence over College policy, so it is up to faculty to determine whether a supplemental evaluation will be provided or not.

Also, the development, administration, and evaluation of supplemental work is not voluntary on the part of faculty. If the College wants this work to be done, then it should be on the full-time faculty member’s SWF — and a revised SWF generated; for partial-load faculty, you should be compensated appropriately for this additional work.

Academic freedom means, among other things, that you have the right to teach your course as you see fit as a professional, as long as you are meeting course and learning outcomes in a pedagogically sound manner. You have the academic freedom to structure your teaching and learning plans and policies around missed tests and assignments as you deem appropriate, and you can also choose the textbook and learning resources that you, as a professional, believe is most appropriate for your students. Academic freedom provides faculty with authority over our classrooms and courses.

Do not be afraid to assert your academic freedom; indeed, as Article 13 states, it is our responsibility to support and protect this fundamental principle.

If you have questions about academic freedom, please feel free to contact the Local Union office.

Update on Grievances

A more complete update will be provided in our upcoming newsletter; however, we can report that 30 local grievances were filed during the 2018 calendar year. Very few of these grievances were settled through discussion with the College, so we have a substantial number awaiting arbitration dates during the Winter and Spring/Summer terms. OPSEU also filed some provincial grievances on our behalf regarding the partial-load registry and new partial-load seniority language that Niagara College is not honouring.

In the spring of 2018, the College promised to let the Union have access to the partial-load registry — so far, this has not happened. In other words, we have a registry with no transparency. Several partial-load members have filed grievances asserting that their seniority rights have been breached. We await arbitration hearings and decisions on those cases in the coming months.

Seniority Lists

The College must provide updated seniority lists for both full-time and partial-load members by the end of January. When these lists are published, please review to ensure their accuracy. If you have any questions or concerns, contact the Union office.

Sick Leaves and Return-to-Work

If you have to take a sick leave of any kind, or are returning to work from one, please contact the Union office first before speaking with anyone in Human Resources (HR). Members often assume, incorrectly, that HR exists to look out for your best interests; this is simply untrue. We have seen it demonstrated time and time again that HR’s priority is looking out for the College’s best interests and not yours.

The Return-to-Work Letter of Understanding is on page 110 of the CA. The College is supposed to provide any necessary accommodations for returning to work; however, this isn’t always the case. We have ongoing grievances over this issue because we believe that HR is failing in its mandate to best serve our members.

We strongly suggest that you not agree to any arrangement with HR until you have spoken with a Union representative.

Unchained Clause

Article 11.01 G 1 states that:
“Where preparation, evaluation, feedback to students and complementary functions can be appropriately performed outside the College, scheduling shall be at the discretion of the teacher, subject to the requirement to meet appropriate deadlines established by the College.”

Article 11.08 has similar provisions for non-contact periods.

This means that, as a professional, you are not “chained” to your office or desk; you have every right to determine where you will spend your time outside of classes and required meetings. Some members prefer doing all or most of their work at the College while we are seeing increasing numbers — due, in part, to toxic climates in their departments — who prefer to perform these duties elsewhere.

Where you do this work is up to you and protected by our CA.

New OPSEU Local 242 Website

We have created a new website that houses valuable information for all members. Memos and newsletters will be available for easy access and consultation at this website.

In solidarity,
Your OPSEU Local 242 Executive Committee