Dear Members,

It has been quite a while since I updated you with news of “progress” concerning OCADU/OCADFA Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) negotiations. This is, in part, because of a lack of progress. However, I feel I must provide a follow-up to the recent “Message from Interim, Vice-President Academic, Dr. Gillian Siddall” on current bargaining” (March 23, 2016).

I share with the VPA a hope that “bargaining will continue to progress.” It is, nonetheless, not clear to me that we are moving towards “achieving a negotiated settlement.” April 1st is looming. After that point, in accordance with the MoA, either party can move the process into mediation/arbitration. In the absence of a strike mechanism, our only recourse to a failure to achieve a negotiated settlement is to take our disputes to an Ontario arbitrator and have him or her mediate – and failing mediation – arbitrate an agreement to which each party must comply. That is what has happened in the last three rounds of negotiations.

I agree with the VPA that the OCADFA Negotiations Committee is “working diligently towards moving [your] priorities forward.” But I am not so sure that “the bargaining issues are complex, with competing priorities among the various employment categories within the OCADFA bargaining unit.” It is my impression that the University is greatly concerned about the flurry of activity that has been going on among our members about “strike/lockout” and union affiliation. They are certainly concerned about the mobilization of the Sessionals that is currently going on.

One of the points that we are trying to drive home to the employer is that the “various employment categories” are unwavering in their belief in and support of the pursuit of practice-based education at OCAD University. Much of the “competing priorities” discussed at the bargaining table have to do with differences with the University about what we teach at the University – and how what we teach will be supported in the future. This is both with respect to how Faculty – all Faculty – teach, and how they are supported by our Technicians and other Academic Staff. There is no lack of agreement that practice-based education is expensive compared to what Ron Srigley recently described in “The Walrus” (April 2016 issue) as “the retail scam known as the modern university.” Nonetheless, we are making it clear that our Members are united in upholding our goal in providing the quality of practice-based education at OCAD U.

That said, we have also been clear that are Members are no longer prepared to pay out of our pockets to uphold our goal – particularly in view of the immense outlays of cash that the University is spending on Administrative salaries and the bloating of their numbers. (Have you seen the recent “Sunshine” lists?) You might also consider the hemorrhaging of money going out to pay off the mortgages on buildings that are not zoned for educational purposes and consultancy fees spent on the Administration trying to figure out why its employees are unhappy. Also have a think about why it is necessary for the Administrative to have a new “skin” put on it. This money, we propose, would be better spent on accommodating the needs of teaching professionals, including fair wages and workload.

The OCADFA Negotiations Committee will continue to bargain in the immediate future. In the meantime, I would strongly urge you to be involved in the current discussions concerning “strike/lockout” and union affiliation. The clarity of OCADFA’s “priorities” at the bargaining table is only as clear as the message that our Membership sends to us.

Bill Leeming,

OCADFA Chair of Negotiations