Dear Students,

Ontario College Faculty (professors, instructors, librarians, and counsellors) are in a legal strike action called Work to Rule. How did this happen? What does this mean for you? How can you participate? 

The work completed by the Faculty Bargaining Team thus far (and beyond) sets a fair and just standard of employment in the Ontario College sector and serves as an example for other sectors and industries. This is important work that will change the employment landscape not only in our sector, but across Ontario and Canada. History has proven that this type of work inspires workers to defend their rights and hold employers accountable to safe, fair and inclusive working conditions.

To succeed, your faculty not only need the support of its Union members and allies, but also the College community. Faculty, staff, and – importantly – students create a support network that scaffolds an education environment that benefits all. As a college student, you have a voice and you can choose how to use it.

Learn more about the current round of bargaining, how this impacts you, and how you can get involved. Exercise your right to speak your mind and protect what you value! The gains made by faculty today will benefit current and future students and the education system.

Links:

 

Student FAQ (Under Construction)

Have a question? Ask us: info@opseu562.org. (Please let us know that you are a student)

"College Faculty" includes 4 classifications of college employees: professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians. Most faculty who fall into these 4 categories are unionized under Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). Our previous collective agreement expired September 30, 2021.

Professors include those who are full-time (permanent employees) and partial-load (non-full-time employees who teach 7 - 12 hours per week); they are unionized. There are also professors who teach 6 hours or less per week (designated as "part time") and those who teach 13 hours or more (designated as "sessional"), who are non-full-time and not unionized. As a student, you may not know which category your professors fall under. However, more than 75% of professors at Humber are non-full-time (part-time or partial-load) employees, meaning they have to re-apply for their jobs every 4 months. There are other vast inequities between the different employment statuses of professors (including pay, benefits, and job security), and is one of the main concerns in the last few rounds of bargaining. Collectively for professors, workload is a major concern.

Instructors are another classification of unionized employees, who do similar, but a smaller subset, of work as professors. At Humber, we have very few "instructors", and/or they are limited to certain specialized programs in the College. Similar to professors, they are either full-time or partial-load employees.

Counsellors (which include both mental health counsellors and accessibility consultants) and librarians include only full-time employees, although some of your counsellors and librarians are employed by contract ("sessional" and therefore, not unionized). Although counsellors and librarians do not teach, they are an essential part of the college system and support to students (and to faculty!). Did you know that only 10 out of the 24 Ontario colleges have faculty librarians? Thankfully, Humber is one of those 10 with faculty librarians remaining, however, we don't know for how long. Did you know that some colleges are outsourcing counselling work, and that at some colleges, students can't even see a counsellors face to face? Again, thankfully, Humber has counsellors at both the Lakeshore and North campus, but not enough. Sometimes it takes weeks to see a counsellor, and that is insufficient. We need more counsellors so that they can properly support students in a timely way. 

Work to rule is a form of strike action where employees follow the strict job duties as outlined on their contracts and/or job description. In other words, if an employee is scheduled to work 20 hours per week, they will work 20 hours - no more, no less. All volunteer work is taken off the table. This may cause a slowdown to the regular workflow and responses that you're used it, and that's because faculty have historically done an immense amount of unpaid volunteer work, for your sake. Faculty are participating in work to rule not to disturb your college experience, but to protest the imposed working conditions (and thus, your learning conditions), the College has imposed on them. 

Work to rule is an organized labour action where faculty will collectively undertake specific activities in escalating phases. The Faculty Bargaining Team determines those activities (also called “struck work”), and we follow their direction. Doing any work deemed “struck work” is the equivalent of crossing a picket line. Phase 1 of work to rule began December 18, 2021, while Phase 2 began January 3, 2022. The ultimate goal of this labour action is to pressure the College Employer Council to either return to the bargaining table to reach a settlement, or to accept 3rd-party binding interest arbitration. 

Work to rule will affect each and every student differently. Depending on what program you're in, the type of program, year of study, the type of course(s) you're enrolled in, how much you access the library or student services, etc. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. However, regardless of where you are in your post-secondary journey, there are some common goals to work to rule, including:

  • to raise awareness of the current working conditions of your faculty and areas where improvements are needed
  • to highlight the amount of unpaid volunteer work that faculty do on a regular basis
  • to put pressure on the College and the CEC to reach a deal with the Union, or to agree to binding interest arbitration

Remember that during Work to Rule, faculty are working only the hours for which they are paid. This means we won't be volunteering our time, as we have in the past, to serve students above and beyond what we are required to do. This is a protest against the CEC's aggressive tactics and their unwillingness to resolve our issues through binding interest arbitration - an option that removes the disruptions from your education. While we want to have minimal negative impacts on students, here are some examples of how you may be affected by Work to Rule:

  • Reduced access to faculty due to limited email availability (ie: Monday - Friday, 9 am - 5 pm; no weekends)
  • Reduced or delayed opportunity for 1:1 support from faculty, counsellors, and librarians
  • No bells and whistles on our Blackboard sites
  • Longer wait times to receive your evaluation feedback
  • Provided feedback that is more brief (we are only given minutes per student per week to perform evaluation)
  • Changes to course delivery mode (ex: previously synchronous classes may be changed to asynchronous)
  • More referrals of inquiries to the Associate Dean or manager

Working beyond our required time is effectively the same as crossing a picket line. And we won't do that. Please understand this is not about money. In fact, in 2019, the Ford government passed Bill 124 that prevents us from getting even a cost of living increase. So, while the minimum wage is (finally) increasing, the cost of living is projected to go up by 2.2% in 2022, but we will only get a 1% increase. No contract can change that because this injustice is a law.

If work to rule fails to make the CEC accept binding interest arbitration, we may be forced to go on full strike. The changes we’re fighting for are too important to abandon in the face of aggression. Your futures are at stake.

If you have concerns about how Work to Rule is impacting you in your classes or through college supports, please talk to the faculty member directly. This is a new process for all of us, and communication is essential.

In the bargaining process, there comes a point in time with either party (the Union or the College) can call for a "No Board Report" if and when they feel negotiations can go no further. In this round, the College called for a No Board Report in late November 2021. After 16 days, the College is in a legal position to unilaterally imposed terms and conditions - which is what they did on December 13, 2021. Imposed terms and conditions means that the College can make amendments to the collective agreement in any way, shape, or form that they see fit. Faculty, then, are subject to these terms if they continue to be employed by the College. This has only ever happened once before this round, which was in 2009.

As you can imagine, the imposition of terms and conditions prevents the possibility of good labour relations, because it eliminates faculty consent. It is the exact opposite of negotiating an agreement between two parties. And because it’s not a negotiated agreement, the Colleges can change the terms and conditions at any time. In a unionized environment, where we are supposed to bargain as equals, this is not ok.

Thankfully, the faculty Bargaining Team held a successful Strike Mandate Vote in early December 2021. A successful vote meant that the faculty Bargaining Team could give notice to be in a legal strike position - which they did - and beginning December 18, 2021, faculty have been engaging in a legal form of strike action called "Work to Rule". Without a successful strike mandate vote, faculty would not have any legal method to push back against the College's imposed terms and conditions.

For more information on the bargaining process, you can watch this video.

Binding interest arbitration is when both sides agree to have a third-party arbitrator select proposals from both side's offers, choosing the portions that they believe are the most appropriate. It is a clear way out of the current situation and would have prevented any disruption to your education. It’s unusual for teachers to offer this, but we did it because we know you’ve been under tremendous stress and need a clear shot at this semester. The Faculty Bargaining Team has proposed binding interest arbitration many times before, and that offer remains on the table today.  However, the CEC (representing the 24 Ontario Colleges) has continually turned down this option. They CHOSE to continue fighting knowing this would disrupt your year.

A strike is within the realm of possibilities, but we hope it will not reach that point. Through the collective action of faculty, and the support of allies - most importantly, students - we hope that the College will do the right thing, and either reach a settlement with the faculty Bargaining Team or agree to binding interest arbitration. 

The work-to-rule strategy is just the first step in our job action activities. Before a full strike is considered, the Bargaining Team will consider other forms of job action. A rotating strike is a strategic series of work stoppages of all bargaining unit members for fixed periods of time (e.g., one day or one week) at various colleges or campuses. Another example of job action is targeted work stoppages, where specific duties are stopped for a limited period of time. Unlike work to rule, this action involves the refusal to do a portion of assigned work, and therefore, would typically be accompanied by a proportional reduction in salary. The level of escalation required is entirely determined by the Colleges’ willingness to engage with faculty demands, to refer outstanding issues to binding interest arbitration, to impose further terms and conditions, or to force a final offer vote.

Regardless of how negotiations unfold, we will do our best to keep you informed. If you have questions about the state of negotiations, don't be afraid to reach out to your professors, counsellors, and librarians. 

  1. Workload: for full-time faculty, the workload formula that accounts for preparation and evaluation has not changed since 1985! That's before the internet - before the start to any online courses, BlackBoard course sites, or emails. The formula that calculates our workload does not account for the technological changes to the education system over the last 35 years, nor the increased number (and complexity) of student accommodations, professional and legislative requirements, and changes to pedagogy. For partial-load faculty, the number of students in their class isn't even a factor in their workload. The College is refusing to make any changes to the workload formula. When teachers don’t have the required time to prepare classes and grade assignments, you suffer. When class sizes get out of control, you suffer. When teachers have so many students each term they can’t remember who needs accommodations and they can’t possibly answer emails in a timely manner, you suffer. For all faculty, volunteerism is becoming the norm. 
  2. Job Security: there is minimal job security for partial-load faculty. Imagine having to re-apply for your job, term after term, year after year. Some faculty have been in this position for decades - and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Did you know that during Reading Week, most of your professors are technically not employed? The inequity that precarious faculty face goes far beyond the lack of job security; for example, in between terms (and therefore, in between contracts), faculty do not have health benefits. The College wants to maintain faculty in uncertain and precarious positions. 
  3. No Contracting Out: Faculty work, especially with librarians and counsellors, must remain faculty work. We need more librarians and counsellors, not less. We need more full-time faculty, not fewer. With the imposed terms and conditions, the College can contract out faculty work.
  4. Intellectual Property: no sale or reuse of faculty's course materials without consent. The College has not agreed to this demand but has failed to explain why.
  5. Dispute Resolution Mechanisms: faculty would like meaningful dispute resolution mechanisms for workload and equity committees; and Indigenization, decolonization, and Truth and Reconciliation round tables. The College has not agreed to this demand but has failed to explain why.

The CEC claims they can’t afford to pay teachers for the work they do. However, the 24 colleges have together amassed an incredible $1.5 Billion reserve fund just in the last five years. We want them to use this money to hire more full-time faculty to share the load, especially racialized faculty so that our professors, counsellors, and librarians can better represent our student body. But they claim they can’t afford it. What is that $1.5 Billion for, if not serving student needs?

Speak to your professors. During Work to Rule, faculty have the right to change delivery modes (for example, change a synchronous class to an asynchronous class). No matter the delivery mode, all the learning outcomes of the class will be met. Communication is key, and if you have a concern with a particular class, please discuss your concerns with your professor.

If you require an accommodation, please speak to your Accessibility Consultant and discuss your needs with your professor.

So glad you asked! Solidarity from you, the students, means the world to us. Here are some simple tasks that you can do to help support your faculty:

  1. Use our Bargaining For Better background in your virtual classes and meetings.
  2. Talk to your friends and family about why college faculty are engaging in work to rule.
  3. Email Humber President Chris Whitaker and Graham Lloyd (CEC's CEO) and ask them to reach a settlement or accept binding interest arbitration.
  4. Follow us on Twitter @opseulocal562 and Instagram @opseulocal562, and re-share our messages!
  5. Connect with your student leader groups: @ShareIGNITE, @hStudentsUnited and show your support for faculty.
  6. Let your professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians knows you support them. A little love goes a long way!