The following is email message below sent from Local 242 President Ravi Ramkissoonsingh to Niagara College President Sean Kennedy today that clarifies the Union’s legal work-to-rule actions and expresses concerns over recent communications from the College Employer Council that have been forwarded to all employees of Niagara College.

Dear Sean: 

I am writing to you on behalf of faculty to clarify what we are doing during the legal work-to-rule action and to ask that you cease and desist from circulating the coercive, intimidating, and union-busting messages from the College Employer Council (CEC) to our college community. 

First, faculty are engaged in a legal work-to-rule action. The CEC may have a different interpretation of the language governing assigned duties during a work-to-rule, and the application of the SWF. Their interpretation is not shared by the Union.   

For our full-time professors, Article 11 is not “notional”—it is the foundation for work-to-rule. Article 11 is clear that workload must adhere to the provisions of that article. For coordinators, the CEC, as directed by you, has imposed terms and conditions that oblige the Colleges to reduce duties to writing prior to the acceptance of the designation.  

In addition, Article 11.08 stipulates that activities in non-teaching periods be undertaken by mutual consent that shall not be unreasonably withheld. It is perfectly reasonable for coordinators, and all teachers, to withhold consent for assigned activities outside of the SWFed period during legal work-to-rule action, and/or activities that are not reduced to writing on their SWFs, and/or activities that do not have time attributed on their SWFs.   

Second, I was disappointed to receive an email from Human Resources Director Rob Burwash on December 17th, 2021 – the day before our work-to-rule action began – that stated the following: 

It is the College’s expectation that faculty do not engage in conversations about bargaining with students during class time. Should a student express interest in having such a conversation, the faculty member should indicate they are unable to do so during class time.   

Further, with the exception of direct communication to your membership or to members of management, the College does not permit its various communication systems, such as email, LMS, Blackboard, etc., to be used to actively or passively to [sic] communicate messages that are related to matters associated with the collective bargaining, labour disruptions, etc. This includes but is not limited to messaging that encourages students to take specific actions, or making statements about the status of bargaining other than to your membership or members of management. 

As I subsequently informed Rob, if the College wanted to provide such a directive, as opposed to this “expectation,” it would be up to administration to do so themselves and that such directive would violate the academic freedom of faculty members.  

Since that time, several colleges have acknowledged that the work-to-rule message used in faculty members’ email signatures during this work-to-rule period is covered by Article 13, and is a part of faculty academic freedom.  As such, I hope that there will be no further attempts from Niagara College to interfere with either faculty’s academic freedom or work-to-rule actions.   

Finally, the Colleges’ bargaining team, which you direct, is engaged in a campaign of coercion and intimidation against college faculty. The impact of this campaign compounds the effect of your imposing Terms & Conditions of Employment and erodes any possibility of good labour relations at our college now and for years to come. I call on you to direct Niagara College not to distribute the CEC messages. As I have written previously to you, staying silent is no different than being complicit with and approving of the CEC’s behaviour. Further, I ask that you direct the CEC to either return to the bargaining table or accept the Union’s reasonable proposal to refer any outstanding issues to binding interest arbitration.   

The CEC will not have to live with the consequences of their actions in their workplaces: you and I, as well as the entire Niagara College community (including all faculty and students), will. Bargaining may occur provincially, but the effects are lived at home.   

It is within your power to determine what our future labour relations will look like at our college. You speak often of the “NC DNA” but, in order for that to be anything beyond an empty corporate slogan, it needs to be exemplified in how management treats its employees. It is our hope that Niagara College management will understand, if not sympathize, with Local 242 members’ principled and legal labour action.  

Sincerely, 
Ravi 

Ravi Ramkissoonsingh 
President, OPSEU Local 242 

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