by Lois Johnson
Former WMG Member (recently retired)
In light of the recent Unfair Labour Practice (ULP) claim by Local 242 against management, I thought it would be good to write an article about the potential working atmosphere for Niagara College faculty if there was no union.
If there was no union at Niagara College, there would be no collective agreement (CA). If there is no CA, the following could happen:
- There would be no SWF and therefore no limits on workload for full-time members.
- We could be teaching 5 or more different courses each term. Currently Article 11.01 D 2 limits us to 4 courses with a voluntary agreement to teach 5 or more courses.
- We could be teaching more than 18 hours (post secondary) or 20 hours (non-post secondary) in the classroom in a week. See Article 11.01 I.
- Full-time faculty members could be teaching on Saturdays and Sundays with no extra compensation. Currently, if these members are scheduled to teach on the weekend, the CA ensures that they are paid at 1-1/2 times their normal credit hours. See Article 11.01 L 3.
- We may be obligated to be in our office during non-teaching times. Currently Article 11.01 G 1 allows us the freedom to do our preparation and marking outside of the College if we so choose.
- Our SWF is broken into preparation, delivery, and evaluation time. With no CA, the College could assign courses and expect the outcomes to be met regardless of the time given for preparation, delivery, and evaluation.
- There would be no Academic Freedom (see Article 13). This would give management the power to dictate how we teach and the textbooks we use.
- Our pay would be significantly less (see salaries of faculty in the private colleges).
- We would have reduced or no benefits.
- We would not have Short Term Disability.
- We would not have Article 2. Article 2 allows the Union to file grievances in order to replace full-time faculty that have left the bargaining unit. Most full-time faculty members have our jobs because of Article 2 in the CA. If management did not have to deal with the CA, they could hire all part-time faculty. On a side note, we lost our Article 2 right to grieve for unfilled positions in the 2014 round of bargaining and full-time hirings slowed to a trickle prior to the 2017 strike. We regained our Article 2 grievance rights due to the 2017 strike, which led to the hiring of more than 40 full-time members over the next two years.
- Management could hire part-time, partial-load, and sessional faculty forever. There would be no roll-over provisions to full-time for sessional faculty.
- We could be limited to 2 or 3 weeks of vacation that is mandated by the provincial Employment Standards Act. This would enable the College to have us teach year-round.
- Article 16.01 B would not exist without a CA. This would mean that the college is not obligated to pay full-time faculty over the Christmas holiday period.
- There would be no seniority rights. In the event of layoffs, management can pick and choose to lay off those that they don’t want.
These are just some of the things that would happen if there was no union at the College. The many rights that we have are due to decades of collective bargaining and standing up for our rights, including through four strikes.
I know some faculty say things are great in their division and have no problems with their managers. That is wonderful but I want to remind all faculty that you are only one bad manager away from such a scenario. I worked as a faculty member at the College for 20 years full-time in the bargaining unit and many years part-time. In my time at the College, I have had some of the best managers and I have had some of the worst. The turnover of managers at Niagara College is incredible. Your “good manager” could be gone tomorrow and your “dream job” shattered. I had more than 20 different managers during my time at the College. Having union support helped me get through some of the rough times that I encountered here.
These are all of the things that would happen if we had no union and therefore no CA. Keep in mind that partial-load members do not have many of the same advantages and deserve better working conditions themselves. This is why it is so important to pay attention to what is happening in bargaining, as your future working conditions in the years ahead are at stake.