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Volume 4, Issue 4

OCUFA REPORT is also available en Francais. | Don't miss an issue! Subscribe to OCUFA Report.

In this issue:

Ontario students working more to pay for their education
Ontario students are working more to make ends meet while faculty worry about declining educational quality, according to new research by OCUFA.

Arbitration gives nursing home workers sector norm, 2% wage hike
Ontario arbitrator says he cannot accept government’s demand for wage freeze; strike votes being scheduled at Carleton, Western

The Bargaining Wire: Conciliation

One of the tools unions can use when the employer is foot dragging at the bargaining table is a process called “conciliation.” 

Data Check: The arithmetic behind Ontario’s declining university quality
As the saying goes, “Follow the money.” Or in this case the lack of money.

Stay connected with OCUFA

Along with OCUFA Report, there are a variety of ways to get the latest news and insight on faculty issues in Ontario.
     
                                        
Ontario students working more to pay for their education
 
Ontario students are working more to make ends meet with serious consequences for their academic success, according to new research by OCUFA [Press release | Read the report].
 
A faculty questionnaire distributed by OCUFA found that 64 per cent of respondents agreed that paid work during the academic year hindered academic achievement, while 33 per cent of respondents said that the amount of paid work outside the classroom has increased over the past year.
 
“Ontario students are caught in a bind. Many need to work during the school year to meet the rising costs of their education, but that paid work is often a barrier to their progress and achievement,” said Prof. Mark Langer, President of OCUFA. “For the 2010/2011 academic year, the average Ontario undergraduate tuition bill is up 5.4 per cent to $6,307– which is almost $1,200 more than the national average of $5,138. Successive Ontario governments have allowed tuition fees to increase at double the rate of inflation over the past decade, while operating grants have not kept pace with expanding enrolments. The result is that today close to 50 per cent of the cost of university education is borne by Ontario students and their families.”
 
Read more about OCUFA’s findings on student employment in:
 
·   The Toronto Star
 
The student employment report accompanies research released last week by OCUFA on faculty perceptions of educational quality. The questionnaire found that 57 per cent of professors and academic librarians believe quality at Ontario universities declined over the past year, citing growing class sizes, the lack of new faculty hiring, and declining availability of out-of-class assistance as key concerns [Press release | Read the report].
 
“We are expecting more from our universities with ambitious participation targets, research mandates and a continued role in our broader society. Yet, our frontline faculty and librarians are telling us that we are in a downward spiral,” said Prof. Langer. “This is a disturbing result and a clear warning bell for our universities, our governments and our students as we attempt to deliver quality education to an ever increasing number of Ontarians.”
 
Read more about OCUFA’s quality findings in:
 
·   The Globe and Mail
·   The Toronto Star
·   MacLean’s OnCampus

Arbitration gives nursing home workers sector norm, 2% wage hike
 
In a ruling seen as a major blow to the Ontario government’s demands for zero compensation increases in the next two years, an arbitrator has awarded 17, 000 nursing home workers a one-year wage increase of two per cent. 
 
The employees, members of the Service Employees International Union, work in 100 facilities across the province. Wage increases in that sector have been running at about two per cent, which is what guided the arbitrator’s award.
 
Wage increases at faculty tables in 2010-2011 have been tracking at about 2.6 per cent.
 
In refusing to award zero increases, arbitrator Norm Jesin noted that no legislation was in place mandating zeroes. He further noted the government has said it would honour collective agreements reached before 2010, even though many of these contracts contain wage increases over the next two years.
 
Finance Minster Dwight Duncan, in response to media queries about the potential impact of the nursing home award, repeated his assurance that the government is not going to legislate zero compensation.
 
But, as Ian Sakinofsky, chair of OCUFA’s Collective Bargaining Committee, points out, “The government’s policy is affecting bargaining tables in all sectors. In this award, for example, the arbitrator gave a one-year agreement and did not address any of the many non-monetary issues the parties wanted to resolve.
 
“And in faculty bargaining, we continue to face employers refusing to consider anything but zero compensation increases.”
 
Strike votes at Carleton, Western

At faculty tables, bargaining is heating up.
 
The Carleton University Academic Staff Association is heading for conciliation (see Bargaining Wire below) and has scheduled strike-vote meetings for October 4 and 5.  At a membership meeting of the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association, faculty gave the association’s board the green light to organize a strike vote and to begin mobilizing the membership.
 
Members of the Ontario College of Art and Design Faculty Association approved a list of bargaining proposals last Monday, and bargaining sessions will be scheduled with the employer this month. At the University of Toronto, mediator-arbitrator Martin Teplitsky asked the parties to meet over this past weekend.
 
“The bargaining climate is anything but usual,” says Sakinofsky, “as the government is weighing in on the side of the employers. What I’m observing in reaction, I believe, is that faculty associations are becoming more determined, not less. ”


The Bargaining Wire: Conciliation
 
Two weeks ago, Bargaining Wire described how important Ontario’s notice-to-bargain law is for ensuring that unions can force reluctant employers to the bargaining table. The Wire also noted how this crucial legislation is thwarted by the Ontario government’s demand for a “pause” in public sector bargaining.
 
Unfortunately, forcing an employer to a bargaining table is only half the battle. Unions also need employers to bargain, and that can be a struggle as well.
 
One of the tools unions can use when the employer is foot dragging at the bargaining table is a process called “conciliation.” 
 
How conciliation works

If a union asks the Ministry of Labour to provide conciliation services, Ontario labour law requires that the Ministry do so. 
 
Conciliation can help unions whose employers won’t engage in meaningful bargaining in two ways.
 
First, the labour ministry, once asked, will assign a conciliation officer to help the parties reach an agreement. Conciliation officers are trained and experienced in mediating labour disputes. They are provided free of charge by the government.
 
The second way conciliation can help unions with balky employers is that conciliation is required by law before a union can strike (or before an employer can lock employees out).  If a conciliation officer cannot bring the parties to a resolution, he or she writes a report, known as the ‘’no-board report.’’  The no-board report encourages parties to bargain in earnest. Why? Because 17 days after the report is dated a union can legally strike or an employer can legally lock workers out.
 
Occasionally, one of the parties will ask the conciliation officer for a “no-board report” immediately, without trying to bargain, and the conciliation officer will acquiesce.  But more often than not in faculty bargaining, both parties in conciliation make a good faith effort to reach agreement and often succeed.

Data Check: The arithmetic behind Ontario’s declining university quality

More than half the Ontario faculty and librarians surveyed this year reported the quality of education at their institutions had declined in the last year. As many reported teaching larger classes than the previous year, and half reported that courses and programs had been eliminated.
 
Here’s the math behind the survey results.
 
In 1990, Ontario universities enjoyed a ratio of one faculty members for every 18 students, which is just a shade below the average student faculty ratio of 19 to 1 in the rest of Canada, today.
 
And where is Ontario? Dead last in the country, with a ratio of 26 students for every faculty member. And we are dead last by a lot. Our closest competitor for being tail-end Charlie is Quebec, with a ratio of 21 to 1. Meantime, in British Columbia, it’s 18 to 1 and in Newfoundland, 17 to 1.
 
As the saying goes, “Follow the money.” Or in this case the lack of money.
 
Among Canadian provinces, Ontario ranks last or near the bottom in university spending.  Ranking, again, dead last, Ontario invests about $250 per capita yearly in the province’s universities, while other Canadians average about $300.  
 
Ontario government funding for university operating expenses amounted to 0.56 per cent of the province’s GDP, in 2008-2009, compared to 0.62 per cent for Canada and ranking ninth of all the provinces.
 
The arithmetic of under-funding is relentless: result: larger classes, fewer courses and programs, less essay writing, more multiple choice, less time for students to meet with faculty.

 
Stay connected with OCUFA
 
Along with OCUFA Report, there are a variety of ways to get the latest news and insight on faculty issues in Ontario. You can follow OCUFA on Facebook or through our Twitter feed. OCUFA’s home page and Quality Matters website are always great sources for new developments and analysis. And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to OCUFA Report to make sure you never miss an issue.                       


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