From Grant Currie, President, OPSEU Local 417:

At our Annual General Meeting yesterday, the members of Local 417 had some business to attend and decisions to be made.

Firstly, by-laws were passed that are in-line with the OPSEU constitution and provides for the executive to better manage the financial affairs of the Local.

Secondly, a budget was passed that ensures that our members have the resources available to them in case of a work stoppage in this year of collective agreement re-negotiation.

Lastly, a confidence motion was presented to the members that would see the current executive, stewards, trustees, and members of the of the three Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSC) in place for one more year. Elections will be held at our next Annual General Meeting in May of 2022. This confidence motion was passed unanimously.

Thank you to all those that took time to carry out your responsibilities as members of our Local.

President’s Report

Thank You. Thank you to all of our members for the work that you do for students. This past year has been absolutely incredible in every possible way you can imagine. Incredible in good ways and in bad. We have all struggled with our own lives and seeing that our students have struggled while we try to support them while needing support ourselves.

Personally, I have had so much loss over the past year. It’s not been an easy year. The loss of seeing loved ones, grieving loss in such a different way and missing family takes its toll. I am so thankful for the support of the executive; they are all amazing.

Professionally, I have learned from my students, grown with them and believe it or not, I think I am a better teacher for the things I have gone through. But no question it is has been a tough go.

When this started last year, we had one message for college management when the “alternative delivery” decision was made. Reduce the workload. They did … sometimes, reluctantly, when asked but never as a broad message to say, “We understand that you and your students are overwhelmed, let’s not max out the SWFs”. Wouldn’t that be grand?

Our JHSC’s have been busy inspecting the in-class processes, doing their best to ensure that the college is fulfilling their responsibilities to ensure the safety of faculty, counsellors in the college who have to be there.

As Local President, it is my responsibility to make decisions with the assistance and guidance of the Local Executive Committee on how to navigate the relationship between the College and all of the members that we represent.

I think it’s important to state here that what we have is a legal relationship, where the collective agreement is our employment contract between you the members and the college as the employer. Everything is negotiated on your behalf by OPSEU and our divisional executive. Our employment contract, the collective agreement is up for renewal this year. I know everyone is nervous because of the strike of 2017. I can tell you that no one wants a strike.

What we do want is less precarious work, more control of our teaching and assessment methods and improvements to academic freedom and collegial governance.

Our elected bargaining team is prepared to bargain, as they are every year. Financially, as you have seen, we are prepared to support our members no matter what happens. Earlier this year, the College Employer Council submitted an “offer”. For many reasons that was rejected. You will remember from the last round of bargaining that the employer has the legal right to put an offer directly to the membership. You will recall from 2017 that the members soundly rejected it when they did, forcing the province to legislate us back to work. (Which is the subject of an ongoing Charter Challenge). If the CEC wants to bargain, they need to bargain, if they want to present their offer as is their legal right let them do it. Our division did the right thing by soundly rejecting it.

Locally, I can tell you that I believe that we are doing exactly what we need to be doing representing all the faculty and counsellor members of Local 417.

We are acting on your behalf, speaking on your behalf ensuring that your rights under the collective agreement are being respected.

The Collective Agreement provides for “management functions,” recognizing that it is the exclusive function of the college to “maintain order, discipline and efficiency.” Several weeks ago, we shared a survey asking our members essentially how are your managers doing with respect to the colleges values. Essentially respecting management’s right to manage, just what is your opinion on how are they doing? It was not received well, and I made the decision to take it down pending discussions with management. Aside from some misunderstandings about the security of surveys on Survey Monkey, I don’t believe that management wants an anonymous survey. I’m sure every member here has been surveyed anonymously by students. It is a fact of life. Opinions are important and information is as well. I want to tell you that we will be reinstating the survey for our members with some additional security aspects to address some of management’s concerns. We do want to hear your thoughts and opinions on management’s role and how it affects your job. To be clear, many other colleges perform the same sort of survey.

Lastly, I want to talk about grievances and full-time jobs. I don’t have to tell anyone here about the lack of opportunities for full time work and the increasing number of part time and partial load work. For anyone wondering, our membership in Local 417 representing Partial Load Faculty and Full-time Faculty as well as Counsellors at St. Lawrence College (according to OPSEU) is 183 full-time members (signed a union card and eligible for strike pay), 133 partial load members, 22 full-time who are not members (not signed a card) and 318 partial load who are not members. That’s 155 full-time to 451 partial load. Yes, that is 74% of our membership that are partial load. If we had all of our partial load faculty engaged, they could be running the Local Executive Committee.

Every term, the college is obligated to provide us with a list of Partial Load Faculty. Our collective agreement states that “the College will give preference to the designation of full-time positions as regular rather than partial-load teaching positions…” Mind you there are a bunch of qualifiers that the college uses to get out of any semblance of “preference,” but it is up to them to prove that a partial load is preferable over a full-time job. We meet with the college management and ask questions and listen to them explain “economic viability”, “sustainability” “specialized skills” as their justification for so many partial load jobs.

So many of our members that are now full time are full time because of a grievance or an arbitration. We have several grievances filed now and we will continue to fight for good full-time jobs through grievances and arbitration.

We will not forget that our members are partial load and have rights as well. Gillian and the rest of the LEC review the 27:12 list and do our best to ask the right questions looking for ways to increase full time faculty. In future we will be looking to our members for support and sharing these lists and management’s justification to ensure accuracy and provide us with the ammunition we need to fight for full time secure jobs.

In closing, I want to say that it is an honour and a privilege to serve as your Local President. I try. I know that I make mistake. I know that I cannot please everyone. I am and will always be learning from my mistakes. My motives are simple: I believe in the College system, I believe in good full-time jobs, I believe that students are best served by faculty who are committed to their future. Our partial load faculty deserve full time jobs; those that wish to remain partial load deserve stable long-term commitments from the college, not a semester-to-semester lifestyle.

That is the President’s report respectfully submitted.