Update (March 14, 2022): As you may know, over 16,000 college faculty across Ontario have been engaged in a legal strike action called Work to Rule since December 18, 2021. For three months now, we have gradually escalated this action in an effort to get the College Employer Council (CEC) to negotiate a deal or agree to binding interest arbitration. As of today, the CEC is still unwilling to budge. We need this to change.
Our Bargaining Team has announced that if the CEC does not agree to interest arbitration by Friday, March 18 at 12:01 a.m., faculty will stop all work and begin picketing. It is not the decision we wanted to make, but we hope it gives us all a path forward to finishing the winter term. This week, we need you to tell President Whitaker and the CEC to resolve this dispute with arbitration and save your semester. Binding interest arbitration is not a win for faculty. It’s not a win for College Presidents. It’s a win for you – the students.
For a detailed explanation, please read this letter – Letter to Students: What are we fighting for.
How Students Can Help
- Write to President Chris Whitaker, and ask him to do his job and resolve this.
- Write to your MPP and make them understand that they need to step in and resolve
- Follow us on Twitter @opseulocal562 and Instagram @opseulocal562, and re-share our messages!
- Let your professors know you support them. The stronger the strike is (with everybody participating), the shorter it will be. Come to our rallies. Join the picket lines and walk with us for a bit. Students are always welcome where faculty gather. And we usually have snacks.
- Ten things Ontario College students should know about their professors’ current bargaining with the Colleges
- Students in solidarity with Ontario College Faculty | Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario (cfsontario.ca)
- Student’s Guide to WTR
Student FAQ (Under Construction)
Have a question? Ask us: firstname.lastname@example.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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Use our Bargaining For Better background in your virtual classes and meetings.
- Talk to your friends and family about why college faculty are engaging in work to rule.
- Write to Humber President Chris Whitaker and Graham Lloyd (CEC's CEO) and ask them to reach a settlement or accept binding interest arbitration.
- Contact your local MPP. Tell them you want this matter settled or sent to arbitration.
- Follow us on Twitter @opseulocal562 and Instagram @opseulocal562, and re-share our messages!
- Connect with your student leader groups: @ShareIGNITE, @hStudentsUnited and show your support for faculty.
- Let your professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians knows you support them. A little love goes a long way!
Phase 3 of Work to Rule began on March 2, 2022. This is an escalation of our current strike action, as the CEC/Colleges have STILL not returned to the bargaining table, nor agreed to binding interest arbitration.
Part of the action in this phase is to not post grades on BlackBoard or Banner (MyHumber). Any grades you may have on BlackBoard may be temporarily removed. But don't worry! Your grades are still safe with your professor. You can also continue submitting work for grading to your professor, as per usual. Your professor will continue to grade/offer feedback, as per usual. The only change is that your grade won't be posted onto BlackBoard/Banner.
Each professor will decide how best to communicate your progress with you: it may be a direct email; a course message; sharing a list of grades with anonymous names; etc. At any time, you may also reach out to your professor to request your grade/feedback.
This is one tactic to create additional pressure on the colleges, to force them to either negotiate a deal or agree to arbitration.
Though it is unlikely, it is technically possible for the colleges to lock faculty out (meaning they are forcing us to be out of work). If all your grades are posted and accessible to them, the college could end the semester early and assign each student the grade that they currently have as their final grade. This is both unfair to students and unfair to faculty: the college should not be making decisions about students’ advancement without faculty's participation.
We want them to let us do our job. The colleges can end this strike action by accepting binding arbitration.
I've been told by the Associate Dean that we're going back to in-person class on March 7, but my professor has told me we're staying online. What's happening?
When Phase 3 began on March 2, 2022, the Bargaining Team gave the decision-making power to faculty. Specifically, faculty who have been teaching online thus far but have been told to return to campus now have the ability to decide which mode of delivery is best for their classes. As the subject matter expert and as the person who knows you the best, we trust that your professors will use their best professional judgement regarding your course’s delivery mode.
When making this decision, faculty consider many factors, including but limited to:
- Faculty's Workload (especially during Work to Rule): pivoting from an online to a face-to-face delivery mode may be a substantial increase in prep work (varies course to course); note that during Work to Rule, faculty have their workload hours capped at a maximum that they cannot go over.
- Health & Safety concerns (for both faculty and students)
- Logistics/Accommodations: some students have already raised concerns to faculty and to Associate Deans regarding their ability to find suitable living arrangements, conflicts with work schedules (which may lead to financial impacts), commuting time and costs, etc. There are also some students who are living out of the city/country taking part in the course because of the fact it is online.
- Pedagogical rationale: some courses/content makes so much more sense being taught face-to-face rather than online. And then, there are some courses that work perfectly fine online. Again, this will vary faculty to faculty, course to course.
Regardless of the decision that is made, we have asked all faculty to communicate their decision re: delivery mode with you. Please check your Blackboard Announcements section as well as your emails for a message from your professors.
Since December 18, faculty have been engaging in work to rule. In this case, “faculty” means full-time and partial-load professors, instructors, librarians, counsellors, and accessibility consultants. Part-time faculty (those who teach 6 hours a week or less) are not part of the union and therefore cannot participate in work to rule safely (they are not
legally protected by Union membership).
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.
While our goal with work to rule has been to focus on impacting College management, and each phase has been designed to increase the impact and pressure on the College, it is also impossible for work to rule not to impact students. We are doing our best to minimize these impacts, but some are still (unfortunately) inevitable.
In Phase 3, “delivery mode choice” means that our provincial Bargaining Team has told full-time and partial-load faculty who have been teaching line so far that they can choose whether to stay online, return in person, or some combination of the two. This also means faculty may choose to return in person, but also that deciding to stay online can be legally supported by the Union.
In “normal times” (i.e. not in a pandemic but also outside the bargaining process), it makes sense that everyone — faculty AND students — needs to know what type of course they are signing up to teach or take before it starts. In this sense, yes, it’s generally the College that decides on delivery modes and assigns work accordingly (though we always want faculty to have input into how courses are run and into their own workloads).
These aren’t normal times, though: between the pandemic and work to rule, there are many reasons why we believe faculty should be able to decide how to finish the last 7 weeks of a term that has so far been delivered online for most students. There is also a specific legal context in a job action like work to rule that is different: in other words, because the Bargaining Team has declared “delivery mode choice” to be part of work to rule, there are specific legal protections for faculty decisions that apply right now.
First, it’s important to acknowledge that just like there are many different needs and preferences among students, the same is true for faculty. There are good reasons that faculty might decide teaching on campus makes the most sense for their classes, just like there are also good reasons students may want to return to learning on campus.
One “big picture” answer, then, is that part of what we are always pushing for—during bargaining and beyond—is more meaningful input from faculty into College decisions (this is sometimes called “shared governance”). We believe faculty are the experts on our own courses and teaching, so it makes sense that we would trust faculty’s expertise
in deciding how to handle their own course.
In other words, if we were to tell all faculty to do the same thing, we would essentially be behaving in the same way as the College: assuming that one top-down decision is the best one for every single course.
Another part of the answer is that over 75% of faculty at Humber are precarious workers, meaning that they work on four-month contracts term by term. While Phase 3 gives partial-load faculty choice as well as full-time faculty, it’s still important to understand that precarious work makes workers inherently vulnerable. While we hope that everyone who would prefer to stay online feels able to make this choice, we want most of all for faculty to make as free a choice either way as possible.
If the Bargaining Team said all faculty must stay online, that would mean that all unionized faculty (full-time and partial-load), including those who want to return to in-person learning, would be forced to choose between disobeying their managers (by staying online) or in essence crossing a picket line (by performing work declared
“struck” by the Union). Neither outcomes have students’ learning as the centre of the decision.
Choice is not a perfect answer either, but ultimately, it allows many faculty to make the decision with students in mind. It is our position that the College’s actions this semester have created this situation. We are all trying to navigate the context they have created as well as we can.
I want to stay online, but my professor has said nothing, or has said they don't have the ability to choose. What should I do?
Many faculty are part-time professors, meaning they are not unionized, and will not have the ability to make this choice. As students, you will likely not be able to tell whether your professor is a full-time, partial-load, or part-time professor. Since part-time faculty are not unionized, and therefore not legally protected to participate in work to rule, they will not have the ability to choose their delivery mode. If your professor has not changed the mode of delivery even though you would like to, this may be the reason.
If your professor tells you that they do not have a choice about whether to remain online or not (rather than explaining why returning to in-person learning makes sense for your specific course), we ask you to take this answer seriously. Please avoid pressuring faculty directly given the context we’ve described here.
What you can do if you are told your professor has no choice—especially if you know that many students in your specific course want to stay online—is email your Associate Dean to express your support for any faculty who choose to remain online and copy your professor on the email. This way, your professor can see how many students
would be prepared to support a different choice, but the pressure is being applied to the right person (the Associate Dean/boss). This will not guarantee a change, but it is the best way to balance all the different factors we are describing here.
They should; We (the local) shared this letter with President Whitaker, the Senior VP Academic, the Associate VP Academic, and all the Senior Deans and leaders of the different Faculties and departments, and IGNITE. Our expectation is that they will pass the information onto the relevant Associate Deans and managers who oversee faculty.
Under normal circumstances, binding interest arbitration is not a solution that the union would propose during bargaining. But because we know how difficult these few years have been for everyone - students and faculty - the Bargaining Team proposed it in November (and remains an offer today) in hopes of ending this round of bargaining quickly.
As you know, that hasn't been the case. Faculty have been in an active strike action (Work to Rule) for 3 months now, and Colleges continue to be unwilling to negotiate. Further actions are needed to end this strike. Our Bargaining Team has announced that if the CEC does not agree to interest arbitration by Friday, March 18 at 12:01 a.m., faculty will stop all work and begin picketing. You can find a full explanation of this decision in this letter. Binding interest arbitration is not a win for faculty. It’s not a win for College Presidents. It’s a win for you – the students.
The College Employer Council is the bargaining agent for the 24 Ontario colleges. Our friends at Local 110 (Fanshawe College) have created this excellent FAQ page: What is the College Employer Council? - OPSEU Local 110 (opseu110.ca)