Hello Everyone –

Here we are at the start of a new semester, which means it’s time for me to remind one and all: Research and Teaching Assistants, Technicians, Academic Counsellors, Contract Instructors, Permanent Instructors and Program Chairs—all can count on OCADFA for representation in grievances and at negotiations. So, if you have problems or questions, please get in touch with Connie Reid and she’ll direct your query to the right person. If something feels wrong, it quite likely is, and you should contact us.

Now, as I turn to the business at hand, let me say that while this email might be a bit longer than usual, it is important. Please take the time to read it all. The coming year will be crucial in defining OCADFA’s relationship with the Employer, and my comments focus on this key issue.

(1) Campaign-Based Bargaining. We’ve said this before, but  it’s worth repeating that OCADFA, like most unions, is a participatory democracy, not a representative democracy. This principle will be especially important for us this year, as we consider some big items. We will be calling on all of you to get involved, come to our information meetings, provide us with feedback and help us reach out to members who typically aren’t connected to OCADFA.  This year, the appalling treatment of contract academic staff is front and centre in our bargaining mandate—and so we need those who have secure jobs to stand up for the contract staff, so that the contract staff can feel secure in standing up for themselves.

(2) Campaign Assistant Craig Berggold. Following on the previous point, and as those of you who attended the AGM know, last fall the board created a new, temporary, part-time position of campaign assistant. I’m happy to announce that we have hired Craig Berggold into this position for the current round of bargaining. Coming to us with a wealth of union experience at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design and at Queen’s University, Craig will be heading up information and engagement campaigns concerning negotiations, and concerning the future structure of OCADFA.

(3) The shape of OCADFA’s future. In the coming weeks, you will be hearing more about this issue. In a nutshell, we have three options here. First, we could stay with the status quo, called “interest arbitration,” which relies on negotiation and arbitration (and in our case tends to end up in arbitration, as it has done for the last three rounds). Second, we could include strike/lock-out among our demands in this round of negotiations. If we do this, and we go to arbitration, we almost certainly will get the right to strike. However, a lot would have to happen in order for us to be able to exercise that right, including figuring out access to a strike fund (actually fairly easy to do, for example by joining with CAUT’s Academic Defence Fund). Finally, we could opt to join a larger union, such as OPSEU or CUPE.

Over the coming weeks, we will be organizing information sessions that will provide more background on these and other options. Please make a point of attending these sessions and encouraging your colleagues to attend with you.

(4) Cathy Lace on the legalities of financial collapse. Widely regarded as one of Canada’s leading experts in academic law, Cathy Lace has been OCADFA’s lead legal counsel for over thirty years. She will be at OCAD later this month to discuss what would it look like if OCAD experienced a financial meltdown and the Employer exercised its right to lay off faculty for reasons of financial exigency and/or curricular necessity. This situation may seem unlikely, but we have serious concerns about this administration’s financial acumen. For example, at a recent board meeting, it was revealed that thousands of dollars had been spent on the consulting services of a firm called Lord Cultural Resources, in part for an estimate of how much the construction of the new Onsite Gallery would cost. Lord estimated that the gallery will cost $200 per square foot—but the actual cost will be more than double that, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional fundraising. This kind of repeated financial carelessness makes us believe there’s value in a clear look at the worst case scenario.

Cathy Lace will discuss financial exigency on Wednesday, January 20, at 3:30 pm in room 600 of 100 McCaul.

(5) Clarifications regarding TIS situation. Finally, I must apologise for a lapse of mine that led to inaccuracies in Bill Leeming’s email about the TIS situation. First, Bill referred to “full unionization,” but it is important to understand that OCADFA is a union, with all of the standard rights to represent our members at bargaining and in grievance. The issue before us is do we want to stay as we are, become a different kind of union, or join another union. Second, the TIS reassessments left 9 of the positions without any increase, not 10. However, Bill’s larger point is correct: one increase was so small as to be meaningless. And in any case, the increases the Employer made don’t really help, since the all the positions are underpaid, and the positions that were the most egregiously underpaid before the adjustments remain so now. Finally, we will press the Employer on how they made these reassessments, but probably by document requests in bargaining rather than grievance (though we’ll continue the original TIS grievance).

It’s my responsibility to ensure that everyone has the right information, and I didn’t do that here, so I apologize for any confusion. And, of course, if anyone needs further clarification, they should contact Bill or me. 

That’s it for now. Thanks for persisting to the end, and I’ll be back in a few days with more, including some comments about workload complaints and about protecting yourself from hostile meetings.

Best regards, and best wishes for the new semester.