Hello Everyone –
Most of you will have seen Wednesday’s message from the interim VP Academic, Gillian Siddall, regarding a temporary change to the performance review mechanism. There is some background to this interim mechanism, and some important details that may not be immediately apparent. So I’d like to spend a few minutes going through those details. (I’ve attached the legal description of the process to this email for your reference.)
However, there is an important caveat: this system is interim only. The grievance settlement that generated it commits OCADFA and the Employer to discussion of performance review in negotiations, which is already happening (and which includes the sessional situation, although that isn’t part of this interim measure as it wasn’t part of the grievance). Further, OCADFA is involved in implementing this interim process. So we need your questions and your thoughts about this interim process, as this information will be important for the faculty association as the process unfolds and contract negotiations continue.
Who does this interim change affect?
This change affects all non-sessional faculty: TIS, CLTA, continuing and tenure track/tenured. For those categories, the performance review process described in the MoA is suspended and replaced on an interim basis by the process described below.
Why is this interim change being made?
OCADFA has two jobs: to represent its members in bargaining, and to represent its members in grievances. On both those tracks, we have been hearing for years that performance review needs to be changed.
What do those member concerns look like?
At the previous round of negotiations and in the current round, OCADFA’s members made clear that they wanted this item on the bargaining table. And in terms of grievances, this issue is volatile and perennially active. As I mentioned above, this interim change grows out of a settlement that addresses grievances by multiple members regarding the performance review process.
Why does OCADFA think this interim step is the right thing to do?
The previous process was widely experienced as unjust and sometimes punitive—as OCADFA knows from the volume of complaints that we normally would be gearing up for at this time of year. (And I suspect that some of you reading this will already have had this experience this semester.) This interim process is better for two reasons. First, it largely replaces the previous system with progress through the ranks. If you meet basic expectations, you move up a step every year. Second, if you feel that your performance warrants more than a single step, you have the option of addressing that by making an application to the merit pool rather than, as was the case under the old system, through a stressful, confrontational and time-consuming appeal.
Every summer, OCADFA’s grievance level explodes as people react to their performance evaluations, so we wanted to get ahead of that conflict-ridden, anxiety-producing time. And as the interim system uses the same annual reports as the old system, it made sense to undertake the transition now, using reports that are completely current.
Why was there not broader consultation?
The settlement that generated this process followed from a grievance resolution and thus involved matters that needed to stay confidential. Furthermore, and importantly, this is an interim situation. This means that OCADFA members will have to ratify whatever might permanently replace the current performance review mechanism. That said, this is our first time with this approach to dispute resolution and, should a similar situation arise again, we will explore whether a mechanism that better balances the need for confidentiality with the desire for community consultation.
What changes for me?
Let’s start with what doesn’t change: two of the mechanisms for pay increase—negotiated across-the-board raises and application for promotion of rank—stay the same, and the process for appeal remains substantially the same as well. But two important things change. First, the old performance review/merit increment is replaced by progress through the ranks (everyone who meets basic expectations goes up a step every year) and the option of applying for a further merit increase. Second, the obligation to attend performance review meetings, visit classes, and the conflict that often accompanied that process—all that goes away, along with the oft-seen complaints that the members of a committee did not really know the person they were reviewing, that they had a conflict of interest, and so on.
I’m being reviewed this year. What should I do?
If you feel you’ve had a good but not extraordinary year, and you’ve submitted your usual performance review materials, then do nothing further, and you’ll automatically get a 1.0. However, if your year has been above average, then you should apply to the merit pool.
What is the “merit pool”?
The merit pool is a pool of money that all non-sessional faculty can apply for if they feel that their performance merits more than a 1.0 step increase. A cross-university panel modelled on the panel that adjudicates sabbatical applications will adjudicate applications to the pool, and the process for applying to the pool will be introduced shortly. Together, these two processes—progress through the ranks with optional merit pool—give us a principled process, which is more just and equitable than the suspended process and has greater opportunity for advancement.
How much money is in the merit pool? For this year, the merit pool holds approximately $40,000, which will pay for slightly more than 30 merit steps.
How do I apply to the merit pool?
The application process, which will be introduced within the next week, is simple. You will send a brief form to your associate dean, on which you will indicate that you wish your performance review file to be entered, and supply a short narrative that directs the merit review committee to the aspect of your performance you wish them to consider. In other words, while your annual report covers all three areas of faculty responsibility—creative practice/research, teaching and service—a successful application to the merit pool likely will focus on just one of those areas (an exceptional exhibition, publication of a major book, etc.) and your narrative points the merit committee to that specific accomplishment.
What about the committee work that’s already been done?
The old performance review process went ahead, even with the likelihood that it would be suspended, because the settlement that prompted the interim system involved sensitive matters that required time for negotiation and appropriate legal due diligence. Unfortunately, that work is more or less redundant. However, the work that has been done in performance review committees of course still counts as service. And, as someone whose work on a performance committee has been rendered moot, I can say that, for me, the sacrifice is worthwhile.
Why is this process only interim?
While this new process improves on the suspended process, that doesn’t mean it’s the best possible process. Looking ahead, we want to create something that goes even further in accurately reflecting your personal growth and your contributions to the University—and that’s why your responses to this interim process will be important information for the Faculty Association.
I have further questions. Who can I contact?
No doubt, the introduction of this interim process will cause some uncertainty. Or, you may feel that you’re a good candidate for the merit increase, and would like some guidance on that. In either case, please contact OCADFA’s executive assistant, Connie Reid, and she’ll direct your query to the right person.
I want to emphasize that this measure is interim only: it expires when the current MoA expires, on June 30, 2016. It was a response to extreme dissatisfaction with the performance review process, manifested through multiple grievances. However, any permanent change to the performance review process will be ratified through the MoA ratification process.
Because this interim measure followed from grievances that were specific to the process for non-sessional faculty, this measure only affects that group. It affects neither sessionals, technicians nor TAs, for example. However, we know that there are problems with the review processes (or lack thereof) affecting other groups as well and we are raising those issues in bargaining.
In terms of the interim process itself: under this measure, all non-sessional faculty who meet basic expectations get a one-step career progress increment applied to base salary. How much is one step worth? Depending on where you are on the grid, it’s between 1.35% and 1.9%. What are basic expectations? According to the MoA (Appendix B, p. 191), it’s such things as submitting your annual report, submitting your course outline to your Faculty Office two weeks prior to semester, arriving on time for classes and submitting grades on time.
Beyond that, under the interim system, all non-sessional faculty who feel they’ve done exceptional well in the last year or last two years also can apply to the merit pool. (A good guide here would be to look at the requirements for “Significantly Exceeds Expectations” MoA p. 193; I described the application process in my previous email and you’ll hear more on this soon.)
Finally, because the Employer is bound to spend the same amount on this interim process as they had budgeted on the suspended process, there are no cost-savings for the Employer associated with this measure except whatever savings follow from having a more efficient process). This is why VPA Siddall called the shift “cost-neutral.”