President’s Message: Pre-bargaining Dispatch #1 (January 2024)

Let the games begin!

The 2024 round of (pre-) bargaining – apparently our nineteenth since 1969 – has kicked off. Considering that the 2021 round only officially concluded in late 2023, more than a few twists and turns could be in store for the 2024 edition. In this series of personalized dispatches, I’m hoping to keep everyone informed about the issues in “real-ish time.” More generally, I’m hoping our outreach efforts will inoculate everyone if or when the CEC (Humber’s bargaining agent) starts sending direct e-mails advising what they believe we reasonably deserve, as has happened in the past.

Be on the lookout too for short videos from me, as well as drop ins and bargaining touchpoints. The more we understand what’s at stake in this round – and there’s a lot at stake – the more effectively we can pressure the employer to do a deal at the bargaining table, where it should be done, rather than in front of an arbitrator (as has happened for the last two rounds).

The General context of bargaining (…for those new to colleges…)

Unlike at universities, where tenured profs, adjunct faculty and TAs bargain with individual universities, we bargain collectively. This means that full-time and partial-load professors, librarians, counsellors and accessibility consultants at all 24 colleges are represented by a single OPSEU bargaining team made up of faculty members. For this round, the chair of the team is Ravi Ramkissoonsingh (Niagara College), replacing JP Hornick (ex George Brown, now President of OPSEU), who brilliantly helmed the 2017 and 2021 teams.

Humber and the other colleges are in turn represented by the College Employer Council (CEC), an organization at arms length from any one college, but with ties to Colleges Ontario, the colleges’ political lobby. So in some respects, our bargaining situation resembles those of primary- and secondary-school teachers: our bargaining cycles affect the entire province. That’s an important piece of leverage to keep in mind.

A General timeline from here

We’re currently in the “Local demand-set” phase, during which ideas, priorities and proposals are tabulated at each of the 24 locals. A link to a survey for the bargaining team will be sent to all members in the falling weeks, and here at Humber, we will be holding two demand-set meetings next month: a hybrid meeting in B101 on February 13 @ 11am-2pm (lunch from 11-11:30) and an online only follow-up on February 20 @ 7pm. Members of the bargaining team will be in attendance at both meetings.

The demand-set “data” then gets collated and ratified into a final set of demands at the end of March. As the President of Big OPSEU, JP gets to notify the CEC at the beginning of July that we want a new Collective Agreement, which is 90 days before the expiry of the current agreement, on 30 September 2024. The bargaining teams will meet throughout the summer and September, but even if there’s no agreement by the expiry date, they can and will continue talking into October and beyond. In that scenario, we would want to put collective pressure on the CEC to settle sooner rather than later.

The immediate issue: the Workload Taskforce survey.

The acronym may be unfortunate, but the work of the WTF will be crucial to this round of bargaining. To refresh your memories, in 2021 we fought for new evaluation factors on SWFs (standard work formulas for full-time faculty) on the grounds that the existing formulas, which were set in the 1980s, are woefully out of step with today’s realities. At the very most, SWFs currently only acknowledge 1.8 minutes/week/student/TCH (i.e. teaching contact hour) for feedback. Since most Humber courses are 3 periods long, this amounts less than five-and-a-half minutes per week per student. And remember, this is only when a course is factored at 100% “E” (i.e. “essay”). Because the vast majority of courses are a mix of “E” and lesser evaluation factors (“Routine” and “In process”), the actual time credit is less.

The CEC’s reaction to our demand to renegotiate workload was basically – and I’m taking artistic liberty here – “Hogwash! It’s your opinion that there’s a crisis in workload, not a fact, so we’re not even going to entertain this nonsense!” Luckily, Arbitrator Kaplan forced them to entertain it, which is why the WTF exists. What’s more, Kaplan placed partial-load workloads under the purview of the WTF, a massive win which could serve as the first step towards a SWF for partial-loaders.

Made up of three college administrators on the CEC side, three faculty members on the OPSEU side plus a neutral chair, the WTF is responsible for presiding over a survey on faculty workloads – separate from the aforementioned bargaining survey – after which a report with agreed upon recommendations will be released. The survey, prepared and administered by York University’s Institute for Social Research (ISR), is going live as I write this (mid to late January 2024).

It’s crucial to take the time to fill the survey out because the recommendations – whatever they will be – will not be binding. This means we’ll most likely have to fight in bargaining to make them reality. There was a similar taskforce some 10 to 15 years ago, but we unfortunately failed to mobilize collectively to ratify the recommendations. For the sake of future generations of college professors, we cannot and will not make the same mistake again. Supporting our students today, at a time of severe systemic austerity coupled with seismic technological shifts, requires a considerable individual investment of time, effort and emotion. All too often, we “pay” with our health, mental as well as physical. Our employer must be made to acknowledge this fact formally.

And to be sure, the wording of the questions may not be perfect from a faculty perspective; after all, the questions were arrived at through a process of compromise on both sides. Nevertheless, the toll of successively creeping workload is real because we all live it. As such, it’s important to answer the questions from that point of departure.

Immediate steps

1. Complete the WTF survey. You should receive the link to participate from York U’s ISR very soon, if not already. It will be delivered to your Humber e-mail address. Back in the first week of the semester, Humber’s Human Resources sent you a CEC-approved message introducing the survey. OPSEU Central sent analogous message to our Humber e-mails, but for some reason Outlook filtered most of them out (thanks Microsoft!). In which case, we strongly recommend that you regularly check the “Junk” folder in Outlook going forward. If you don’t have the link, you can reach out to from your Humber e-mail address.

2. Complete the BT survey. This is the demand-set survey destined for our bargaining team, which should go live towards the end of January. You will receive more information about this survey at your personal, non-Humber e-mail address.

3. Attend one of the February demand-set meetings. Have your say about the issues, talk to the local officers and members of the bargaining team. Again, more information will be delivered to your non-Humber e-mail address.


Miloš Vasić, President, Humber Faculty Union – OPSEU Local 562

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