Resources to Inform and Support Students During Work-to-Rule

Resources to Inform and Support Students During Work-to-Rule

Support the only option that puts students first

Help us send a message to College Presidents and Boards of Governors Chairs. As college leaders, their primary responsibility is to put students first and build community. Right now, that means supporting the only option that puts students first and allows faculty to focus on student success. They need to direct the College Employer Council to return to the table and bargain faculty’s demands in good faith, or failing that, to agree to binding interest arbitration, so that students can continue their studies without distraction or added stress.

Your email will be copied to: Linda Franklin, President & CEO Colleges Ontario; Graham Lloyd, CEO College Employer Council (CEC); Laurie Rancourt, Chair, CEC Bargaining Team; Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities; Premier Doug Ford and your OPSEU/SEFPO college faculty bargaining team.

Write Your College President | OPSEU (collegefaculty.org)

Support the only option that puts students first

Help us send a message to College Presidents and Boards of Governors Chairs. As college leaders, their primary responsibility is to put students first and build community. Right now, that means supporting the only option that puts students first and allows faculty to focus on student success. They need to direct the College Employer Council to return to the table and bargain faculty’s demands in good faith, or failing that, to agree to binding interest arbitration, so that students can continue their studies without distraction or added stress.

Your email will be copied to: Linda Franklin, President & CEO Colleges Ontario; Graham Lloyd, CEO College Employer Council (CEC); Laurie Rancourt, Chair, CEC Bargaining Team; Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities; Premier Doug Ford and your OPSEU/SEFPO college faculty bargaining team.

Write Your College President | OPSEU (collegefaculty.org)

Video: This one is for the students. It’s about why you should care about these issues and what you can do to support Ontario College Faculty.

Here’s a quick guide to help students unfamiliar with union terminology, bargaining, and work-to-rule:

What is a “union”? 

  • A union is a group of workers, usually in the same or similar trade or profession, who come together to negotiate their terms of employment with their employer (like wages, benefits and working conditions).
  • By negotiating as a group, instead of as a single person, unions can often get better terms of work for their workers. This group negotiating is called “Collective Bargaining.”
  • The result of Collective Bargaining is a “Collective Agreement.” A Collective Agreement is like a contract between the union and the employer and sets out the rules under which the workers work and managements manage.

What is St Lawrence College’s Union? 

  • St Lawrence College is one of 24 public colleges in Ontario. Most of your professors are members of a union called “OPSEU” (which stands for Ontario Public Sector Employees Union.) Other types of organizations are also members of OPSEU, e.g., everyone who works for the Ontario government is a member of OPSEU.

Does OPSEU do Collective Bargaining? Does it have a Collective Agreement for Professors? 

  • Last year, the professors’ union and the colleges’ representative (called the “College Employer Council” (CEC)) started meeting for Collective Bargaining to re-negotiation the terms of employment in the Collective Agreement.  This happens every four years, because that’s how long each Collective Agreement lasts.  The latest Collective Agreement expired on September 30, 2021.

What’s happening now? 

  • Unfortunately, Collective Bargaining in 2021 was not successful. When that happened, it set off many other events. The latest events (in December 2021) included something called “imposition of Terms and Conditions” by the CEC and colleges’ presidents; in response, the Union of professors across Ontario (who already had a vote in which the majority of those who voted, voted in favour of a labour action) chose a labour action called “Work To Rule.”

What does “Work To Rule” mean for students? 

  • Right now, in January 2022, the majority of your professors (full time and “partial load”) are working to rule.  That means that we are only doing work that we are paid to do, and only for the number of hours that we are paid.  In normal times, your professors do a lot of extra things to prepare for our classes and to take part in activities outside of class time.  We do it because we care about our students and the experience they have while at the college.  But we are not given enough time. That’s not fair to professors (who, nevertheless, would normally volunteer their time to do extra work) and it’s not fair to students, who study hard to be successful and work hard to pay tuition. Some professors who want to join the union cannot join.  The union is working hard to negotiate so that ALL professors can join the union and receive the benefits and protections of the union that other OPSEU members/professors have.
  • For example: full time professors, like me, have a weekly schedule of work that they are given by the college. For each course that I teach, this schedule (SWF) sets out the number of minutes/hours for each activity: preparation, teaching hours, grading, meetings, etc.  Currently, most professors’ schedules give them about 2 minutes each week to evaluate each student’s work.  For some courses, it’s closer to 3 minutes per week per student. During the collective bargaining, the Union has been asking for professors to be given 2 additional minutes per week per student.  That would mean that instead of getting 45 minutes over the whole semester to evaluate each of your work, I would get 90 minutes all together. The CEC will not accept this proposal. This formula has been in place since 1985.
  • Your professors who are not full time (80% at SLC) do not have a schedule.  They have a contract and they get paid according to a formula called “teaching contact hours.” They teach you for 42 to 45 hours of classes. They do not get paid for preparation or evaluation or meetings. Their contracts imply that they do get paid for these things, but if that is true, then their hourly wage is very, very low, given their experience and education. All they get paid for is to stand at the front of the classroom (or in front of their computer camera) and read to you from a text book.  As you know, or will soon find out, they do much more.

What will happen during Work To Rule? 

  • During work to rule (“W2R”), professors will be protesting by only doing work that they must do under their schedule or contract, and only working for the number of hours in their schedule or contract. If professors do more than that, it will be just like crossing the picket line during a “strike” (another type of labour action that the Union is trying hard to avoid.)
  • HOWEVER, we will be giving priority to you, our students, and we plan to save time by giving less time to managers.  This might mean that you don’t hear from us right away when you send us emails, so it is extra important that you attend class to stay in touch with us.  We will do everything that we can to support you during class time and during the limited time that we have for meetings.  If we cannot help you, you should contact our managers, who are the “Associate Deans” in each department.  In your program, the Associate Dean is [name].

What is the goal of Work To Rule? When will that goal be reached so that Work To Rule will end? 

  • The goal of W2R is to get the CEC to return to collective bargaining and continue to negotiate the terms of the Collective Agreement.  We hope that W2R will not last too long.  If it is successful, will mean a new Collective Agreement better teaching conditions for your professors.
  • Remember: Professors’ teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions. Hopefully, by later this year, W2R will mean that you will have more time and attention from your professors, as will the students who come after you.

FAQ

Dear Students, 

 

As you may be aware, faculty (academic employees) at Ontario’s 24 colleges, represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), and the College Employer Council (CEC), on behalf of the province’s colleges, have been working to negotiate a new collective agreement, which expired on September 30, 2021. 

 

The purpose of this ‘frequently asked questions’ (FAQ) document is to provide you with an update on contract negotiations. If you have further questions, contact one of your professors or  your college’s faculty Union Local, or visit collegefaculty.org. 

 

Q. What is the back story on this?  How did we get here with these negotiations? 

In response to escalation on the part of the CEC, college faculty held a strike mandate vote in December.  A majority of faculty voted ‘yes’ to authorize the faculty Bargaining Team to engage in labour action—up to and including a strike—if necessary.  Nonetheless, faculty left open an offer to return to the table or settle remaining issues through binding interest arbitration. 

 

Unfortunately, the CEC and college management have chosen to impose terms and conditions of work on college faculty, rather than agreeing to extend existing terms while the faculty and employer bargaining teams negotiate a Collective Agreement.   

 

This has left College faculty with no choice other than to engage in labour action, in this case a work-to-rule campaign. 

 

Q. Does the ‘yes’ vote to a strike mandate mean there will be a full strike for sure? 

No, there are options available, such as the current work-to-rule.  Other options are targeted strikes, rolling strikes, etc.  Work-to-rule is a form of strike action, to be clear.  But, unlike a full strike, faculty have not entirely withdrawn their labour (more on that below).  

 

Q. What exactly is ‘imposition of terms and conditions’? 

The imposition of terms and conditions is the exact opposite of negotiating an agreement in which both the voices of the employer and employees are heard.  It is toxic for labour relations because the terms of work are imposed on employees. It is generally considered a ‘union-busting’ tactic.  The Ontario Colleges are the only employer in Ontario history to impose terms and conditions twice.  

 

And it means the voices of faculty – the educators in post-secondary education – are completely ignored when it comes to the College system and student learning conditions. 

 

Q. What are my professors and other faculty (librarians, counsellors, instructors) doing now, and why? 

Faculty are now engaging in a labour action known as ‘work-to-rule’.  The purpose of this action is to pressure College management and hold it accountable for the consequences of its decisions, which right now are harmful for both students and faculty.   

 

Work-to-rule means that faculty will do their jobs to the letter, following their exact job description.  They will not engage in additional unpaid activities that often assist administration in managing the Colleges. 

 

Q. How does work-to-rule affect me as a student? 

The goal is to minimize the impact on students.  Faculty will continue to focus on supporting students, within the parameters of the time that they are provided by the Colleges to do so.  They will continue to teach their courses and work with students. The work they are not engaging in (what’s known as ‘struck work’) will largely impact College management.  Students are not the direct targets, and if students wish to receive assistance that faculty are unable to provide under work-to-rule, they should reach out to their program chairs or other managers 

Talk to your professors about your concerns.  It’s important for faculty and students to communicate at this time. 

 

Q. Will classes run as scheduled under work-to-rule? 

Yes, they will.  Again, check with your professors for any information you need about your courses, but they will run as scheduled. 

 

Q. What are faculty fighting for? 

Faculty proposals are modest but much-needed, and would improve working conditions, student learning conditions, and the stability of the College system. 

 

The workload formula for full-time faculty hasn’t changed since 1985 (no, that’s not a typo). 

Right now, that formula gives faculty 5.4 minutes per week to grade the work you submit. Faculty are asking that this be increased to 7.2 minutes. 

 

Yes, we are asking for more time to grade your work.  The Colleges for some reason are claiming that we are asking for a reduction in workload—a 40% reduction!  This is simply false. We do not know why they are making this claim or where such a number comes from, but it is simply not true. 

 

Faculty are also asking for a revised workload formula that would acknowledge the prep time for an online course (remember that the current workload formula was created before the Internet and before the revolution in online and hybrid learning). 

The Colleges state these are proposals they can never consider.  Why?  Again, you will have to ask them to explain. 

 

Another key issue: about 70% of all faculty who teach you are employed on short-term contracts — usually for only one semester at a time.  They have been doing their jobs for years, and so we are seeking greater job security and a chance at a full-time position for more faculty.   

 

More faculty with stable jobs isn’t some great luxury.  This would be better for the sustainability of the College system and for the student learning experience—and surely dedicated long-time teachers have earned a right to a bit of security. 

 

Q. Why won’t the Colleges agree to binding interest arbitration or continue to negotiate? 

We don’t know, to be honest.  Remember—faculty have offered to refer all these issues under dispute to binding interest arbitration. What the Colleges are currently doing is disruptive for all students and faculty, but it doesn’t have to be this way.  The CEC is a separate corporate entity with its own CEO, so we don’t know what their agenda might be. 

 

This is why it’s important for students to make their voices heard and to ask the Colleges about these things directly (see more on that below). 

 

Q. What can I do to support my professors and other faculty? 

You can make it clear that you would like management to resolve all this bargaining stuff without any disruption.  The College presidents direct the CEC, so you can let your College president know how you feel by writing them directly. 

 

Write to your College president here: 

www.collegefaculty.org/write-your-college-president