Bargaining in the Pandemic

This November, college faculty from across Ontario gathered to elect the bargaining team you’ll send to negotiate with the College Employer Council (CEC) next year. In this inaugural bargaining newsletter, you will find short bios of your new bargaining team members, along with a timeline for bargaining cycle.

As part of the pre-bargaining conference, participants also heard more about the unique challenges presented by negotiating during the pandemic and under the shadow of government legislation (Bill 124) that set a cap of one per cent on any public service sector gains in wages and benefits. Charter challenges have already been filed to contest this blatant overreach. While those continue, there are even greater issues unrelated to salary and benefits that face college faculty.

Teaching online has highlighted the need for better workload conditions – the time required for online curriculum development/upkeep, delivery and evaluation is far greater than that for traditional face-to-face classes.

Indeed, supporting students in these conditions means greater and more constant contact, not just learning new technologies. Decisions about how to best approach the shift to truly online teaching and learning need to meaningfully include faculty at every stage of those discussions – we have never needed shared governance more than during this pandemic.

Similarly, the landscape for counsellors has shifted dramatically and heightened the need for a renewed class definition of duties and expectations, along with clear guidelines for recording workloads for both counsellors and librarians. The explosion in student mental health concerns highlights the need for every college to have adequate levels of full-time counsellors to support those students in getting the resources and services they need, and full-time, experienced librarians to support them academically in this new learning environment.

The recording of lectures, while often appropriate to support the needs of both our domestic and international students, needs to be accompanied by protections for faculty’s intellectual property. The creativity and innovation that faculty are encouraged to bring to our classrooms need to be balanced with the rights that allow us to ensure our work is not misused or sold to private interests.

Your contract faculty colleagues – both unionized and non-unionized – have experienced layoffs and heightened inequality in these times. The need for better job security, workload protections on par with full-time teaching faculty, and protection from contract manipulation that prevents paths to full-time positions must be central to all negotiations. The ability of the union to grieve violations of the collective agreement that are too risky for individual contract faculty to take on is another key element necessary to improve their working conditions. The issues faced by partial-load faculty set the bar for the system: We can only be as secure and strong as the most precarious of our faculty. Improving conditions for contract faculty protects us all.

In some ways, we can best measure the gains of our last round via the onslaught of employer attacks over the past three years. Equally, though, we can determine the language that they are most afraid of. We made substantial advances in our collective agreement following our historic five-week strike:

  • We doubled the speed with which partial-load members earn service credits and began the process of improved job security.
  • We added academic freedom language for the first time.
  • We began mandatory negotiations on pay equity;
  • And we convened a powerful multistakeholder provincial taskforce on precarious work/staffing, intellectual property rights, collegial governance and a review of the counsellor classification.

Make no mistake: From 2017 until mid-2018, we continued to build on the momentum we built during our negotiations. That momentum was founded on the unprecedented member solidarity we demonstrated and the resulting power we were able to exercise during that round. That solidarity is what forced the employer’s hand, and the strength of that power is measured in the pushback against us.

The groundwork laid in 2017 was done with an eye to the future. The provincial taskforce was based on our successful history in using similar models to affect system level changes around workload and partial-load members. The registry – though certainly imperfect – provides another step towards better job security for partial-load members. The ongoing counsellor and intellectual property subcommittees – all of these are steps. Negotiations are a long game, and for every step forward, the CEC and the individual colleges will try to push us two back.

What I can say with certainty today is that we are a stronger division now, and in a stronger position in relation to negotiations, than we were even in 2017. We have spent the past several years building and entrenching processes to improve engagement with the leadership and membership, through changes to our negotiations procedures, the establishment of new consultation/ engagement processes with our members, the annual divisionals and educationals, and the new Organizing for Faculty Power project. Our last round served as an inspiration to postsecondary faculty across Canada, and many – including the Brock University Faculty Association – are continuing to make gains in their own negotiations even now.

We never stopped bargaining at the provincial level, and while many faculty feel tired and beaten down by the employer and our new pandemic working conditions, we all know that change is needed. Are we tired? Yes, to a one, all of us are exhausted. Can we rise to this next set of challenges? Unequivocally, yes. We have the knowledge and the talent to move forward this round. And as we engage each other and start to demonstrate that there is a path forward together, we will tap into reserves of energy we cannot even anticipate.

Over the next few months, you will be asked to attend your local demand-set meetings to develop your local’s priorities for this round. Ahead of those, your team will also send out a general membership survey so that you have a sense of what faculty across the province see as important going forward. We will also be sending out updates and research on the key issues you identify. Please take the time to engage: Your participation and knowledge are crucial to all of our success. You, together with your colleagues, determine the course of the next several months.

We invite you to start thinking right now about the changes to your working conditions – your students’ learning conditions – that are needed in the face of emergency remote teaching. We ask you to keep an eye towards the future, as well, and to imagine what is necessary to support a high-quality public college system in Ontario going forward.

From our employer’s perspective, it is never a good time to bargain. There is never enough money, never the right moment to tackle precarity and inequality, never a good reason to improve working conditions. From faculty’s perspective, every round is the right time to bargain – there is never a bad time to make the system better.

Our power comes from our solidarity. It comes from the expertise of our colleagues, from our experience with our students, and from our belief that faculty know what it takes to make the colleges better. Together, we will bring that power to the table.

In solidarity,

JP Hornick, Chair
College Faculty Bargaining Team

What happens next?

How faculty proposals make it to the negotiating table

Step 1: Prebargaining conference

On November 20-21, delegates, alternates and observers from all 24 colleges met to elect a bargaining team, discuss bargaining procedures and hear updates on some of the larger challenges facing the sector. At this meeting, seven members were elected to the bargaining team, along with two alternate members to serve as replacements, as needed.

Step 2: Membership survey

A survey will be sent to all members to help identify common issues throughout the province. This information will be compiled and sent to the bargaining team. The team will then present the results at local demand-setting meetings to help inform decisions. The surveys must be returned to head office by January 15, 2021.

Step 3: Local demand-setting meeting

Each Local will have its own demand-setting meeting, where faculty will have the chance to suggest and vote on specific changes to the collective agreement. This is your opportunity to make proposals for how to improve working conditions in the colleges. The provincial demand-setting meeting will only consider proposals made by individual faculty members and passed by the union local at one of these meetings.

Step 4: Provincial demand-setting meeting

Elected delegates from each of the 24 colleges will meet again, this time to rank the demands submitted by locals and vote on which ones should be proposed. When  the bargaining team sits down with the employer they will bring forward the issues selected at this meeting. This meeting is currently scheduled for April 9-10, 2021

Step 5: Bargaining

After the notice to bargain is sent, the union and management bargaining teams will meet to negotiate changes to the collective agreement. The current collective agreement expires on September 30, 2021, and notice to bargain can be sent 90 days before the expiry.

Bargaining Team 2020-21:

 JP Hornick (Chair)

JP is chief steward in Local 556 (George Brown) and past chair of the 2017 CAAT-A bargaining team.

JP is the co-ordinator of the School of Labour at George Brown and a member and previous chair of the CAAT-A Divisional Executive.

In addition to teaching labour studies courses, JP has also been a delegate to the Canadian Association of University Teachers. JP has worked in the Ontario college system since 1997 as a contract and full-time professor and is a long-time social justice and labour activist.

An experienced educator and steward, JP is committed to bringing a socially progressive labour perspective to students and workers through workshops, training and community events.

Jonathan Singer (Vice-Chair)

Jonathan is the long-time president and current Vice-president, Equity, of Local 560 at Seneca College, where he has taught in the School of English and Liberal Studies for the last 13 years.

He has served the CAAT-A division in roles such as divisional executive member, delegate to the Canadian Association of University Teachers and member of the 2014 bargaining team.

His introduction to the Ontario college system was teaching partial-load at Centennial College upon his return home to Toronto from graduate studies in California. There, he had participated in the successful effort to create the first union of teaching assistants at a public university in the United States.

Jonathan is also the creator and manager of One Ontario College Prof’s Blog and has published in Workplace: The Journal of Academic Labour. Last year, he completed a certificate in dispute resolution at York University.

Ravi Ramkissoonsingh

Ravi has taught in the Ontario college system since January 2003. He was a part-time, partial-load and sessional psychology professor at Mohawk College from 2003 until 2006, before becoming a full-time professor at Niagara College in August 2006.

Additionally, he was a co-ordinator in the School of Academic and Liberal Studies from 2011 to 2017. Ravi served as vice-president of Local 242 from 2015 to 2019, and as president since 2019.

During his time on the Local Executive Committee, Ravi has served on the College Workload Monitoring Group, the College Employment Stability Committee, the Joint Health and Safety Committee and the Union/College Committee. At the provincial level, he is currently on the Joint Grievance Scheduling Committee and was a member of the 2017 CAAT-A Bargaining Team.

Ravi is excited to be elected to the 2021 bargaining team and is eager to face the challenges ahead in the upcoming round of contract negotiations.

Rebecca Ward

Rebecca is president of Local 732 and a co-ordinator/professor at Confederation College. She brings experience to the bargaining team in terms of fostering collective action in the northwest region of the province.

As an activist, Rebecca has been fighting for the principles of employment stability, equity and anti-Indigenous racism at the local level. She has negotiated numerous local agreements in the midst of a challenging political landscape. She has also led negotiations and arbitrations regarding remote teaching and workloads, and is experienced in using consensus decision-making.

Rebecca has been president since 2017 but has advocated for the rights of the most-targeted young people in the province for 20 years. She has chaired the Union College Committee, the Workload Monitoring group and the College Employment Stability Committee.

She is known to be a fearless leader with grit, integrity and passion. She has worked in the college system for 12 years as a full-time faculty member and also works within the university stream as a contract lecturer. Her skills and experiences will be beneficial as a bargaining team member.

Kathleen Flynn

Kathleen Flynn is a full-time professor, teaching social science courses in the General Education and General Arts and Science programs at Durham College.

She is the acting Vice-President for Local 354 and has embraced other roles, such as steward and chief steward, and is a member of the Workload Monitoring Group, the Union College Committee and the Joint Health and Safety Committee.

Kathleen has worked in the Ontario college system since 2012 as a part-time, partial-load and full-time faculty member. She has over a decade of experience teaching and developing curriculum in face-to-face, hybrid and online (synchronous and asynchronous) formats at every education level in Ontario as a K-12 teacher in both elementary and secondary schools, college professor and a Faculty of Education sessional instructor.

Kathleen’s experience in Ontario classrooms from kindergarten to postsecondary has provided her with unique insight into the educational gaps and pedagogical disruption occurring across the education system, resulting in new and continuing workload issues for college faculty.

Being an online teacher and enthusiastic union activist, she often finds her research interests combine her passion for equity issues and education with digital technologies.

Kathleen is looking forward to her continued role as a regional evaluator for the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence and her new role as a CAAT-A bargaining team member!

Shawn Pentecost

Shawn is the treasurer for Local 415. He was a member of the 2017 CAAT-A bargaining team and is a co-ordinator/professor at Algonquin College’s Pembroke campus.

Shawn brings valuable expertise to the bargaining team in the areas of financial analysis, interpersonal communication, group dynamics and conflict management.

As a union activist, Shawn has been fighting for members’ rights and union principles, both at the local and provincial levels, for close to 15 years.

He is known for his creative problem-solving and consensus-building skills. Shawn is excited to work with the team to build upon the gains achieved in the 2017 round of bargaining.

Michelle Arbour

Michelle is a lawyer and a member in good standing with Law Society of Ontario. She has been teaching in the School of Business and International Education for the last eight  years at Lambton College in Sarnia.

Michelle is president of Local 125. She was a union steward at the college prior to taking on the role of president.

Michelle has worked in the Ontario college system since 2012 as a contract and full-time professor, as well as a co-ordinator of various programs.

She has been serving on the College Workload Monitoring Group and the Union/College Committee since 2018, and more recently, the College Employment Stability Committee.

She is excited to be a member of the CAAT-A bargaining team and looks forward to the upcoming round of contract negotiations.

To contact your College Bargaining Team, please write to:

Visit us on Facebook:

Follow us on Twitter: @CAATfaculty