Hello members of OCADFA,

Ontario College of Art & Design Faculty Association (OCADFA) represents Faculty (Tenured and Tenure Track, Continuing, CLTA, TIS and Sessional) and Academic Staff (Technicians, Academic Counsellors and Teaching Assistants).  Every month 1.6% of your base salary goes to support the work of OCADFA.  Our faculty association membership mirrors the class stratification of today’s university with stark disparities in compensation and job security.  We are unusually diverse in our composition.  Across most Canadian campuses, permanent faculty and library staff are members of a faculty association and sessional faculty & academic staff are members of unions like CUPE or PSAC. The challenge and opportunity we have, as an organization, is to ensure the experiences of all our members are reflected equitably in the work we do: grievances, bargaining and advocacy.  All three channels should inform each other and work best when they are informed by an activated membership. This message provides information about OCADFA’s Board of Directors composition and what’s ahead in 2020, including Flow’s Curricular Transformation Initiative and OCADFA’s review and considerations for structural changes, including grievances.

OCADFA Board of Directors: 

Long-standing OCADFA Board member, Bill Leeming has stepped down as Member at Large of the OCADFA Board.  Bill will remain on the OCADFA Negotiations Committee as the elected representative of tenured faculty. We are fortunate to have his expertise on this Committee as he brings forth invaluable experience to labour negotiations. Eric Nay has resigned from his post as Grievance Chair. The OCADFA Board will make interim appointments to fill these two vacancies until our next annual meeting where elections will be held to fill the vacancies. 

As OCADFA embarks upon activating the membership, we seek your input and will continue our efforts to represent all members. If you’d like to be involved or learn more about work OCADFA is doing, please reach out to me, Min Sook Lee, or any member of our Board of Directors: Vice President, Surendra Lawoti; Secretary Treasurer, Chris Bennell; and Members at Large: Maria Belén Ordóñez, Eric Steenbergen (Negotiations Chair), Bogdan Luca and JJ Lee. 

What’s ahead in 2020: 

Strengthening and Building Labour Rights Through Unionization 

To strengthen our work, OCADFA has formed a working committee to explore the benefits of affiliation with a national union like CUPE, PSAC or a provincial one like OPSEU.  Union affiliation does not mean higher dues, the erasure of hard-won gains, nor does it mean strike action.  We are continuing on some excellent work that has been done by our previous leadership on the question of affiliation with a larger trade union.  

In 2016 OCADFA hired Craig Berggold to research the pros/cons of affiliation.  This booklet was produced.  When reading this document please understand that when the question of affiliation was presented to the OCADFA membership, it was tied to securing the right to strike.  We don’t have the right to strike; our contract disputes are settled by binding arbitration. If we secured the right to strike, we would need a sizable strike fund to support the action.  This is why the booklet is framed around strike action.  

Today we are exploring affiliation for a multitude of different reasons. Currently, we are members of CAUT and OCUFA, federations comprised of academic associations.  These relationships provide national and provincial support for research, policy and advocacy.  Our intention is to continue these memberships and pursue the possibility of joining a larger trade union to tap into the democratic structural, political, and regulatory frameworks that have been developed by decades of worker rights organizing in Canada.  This article by Craig Heron provides some historical context on the role of faculty associations in Ontario and some insight into why OCADFA’s Board of Directors is considering affiliation.  

OCADFA and Flow

The OCADFA Board has formed a working committee to review concerns related to the Flow: Curricular Transformation initiative.  Conceived in the spring of 2019 in response to fiscal concerns, the majority of OCAD U programs will complete the Flow process within the next three years.  We recognize the financial pressures our institution faces and acknowledge the necessity to build a response that gives OCAD U the maximal opportunity to thrive in tough economic times.  And we have seen some positive, creative and long-overdue ideas emerge from Flow.  However, concerns have been raised: increased class sizes, increased workload, job losses, reduced course offerings and weakened studio-based learning.  We will be convening a Town Hall in February 2020 to discuss Flow with our membership.  Stay tuned to this space for details. 


We are reviewing how grievances are handled and will be writing new policy to ensure the process is transparent, accountable and equitable.  OCADFA is seeking members from all labour categories to join our Grievance Committee.  We especially encourage members from equity-seeking groups to join.  Equity-seeking groups are communities that face significant collective challenges in participating in society. This marginalization could be created by attitudinal, historic, social and environmental barriers based on age, ethnicity, disability, economic status, gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation and transgender status.  If you are interested in joining please contact me at minsooklee@faculty.ocadu.ca


Our Memorandum of Agreement expires June 2020.  The Negotiations Committee put forward a bargaining mandate to our membership and received unanimous support at a member’s meeting in November.  We expect to begin bargaining in January.  For questions on the process and our mandate please contact: Negotiations Chair Eric Steenbergen at ocadfanegotiations@gmail.com

Bill 124

A coalition of unions representing workers in the educational sector launched a charter challenge of the Provincial government’s Bill 124.  This piece of legislation undermines our constitutionally protected right to free and fair collective bargaining, threatens pay equity and benefits for marginalized workers, and will erode labour relations in the public sector.  Thus far OSSTF, ETFO, OECTA and ONA have all launched separate challenges of the Act. In addition, there is a large coalition of unions coordinated by the OFL that announced its intention to challenge the Act.  There is a growing sense that OCUFA should either launch a challenge of its own or join one of the existing challenges. OCADFA Board Members will be attending an Emergency Meeting called by OCUFA to discuss this.  The OCADFA board is in support of a court challenge as a constitutional infringement on the right to free and fair collective bargaining.  

Students VS Ford

Led by the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario (CFS-O) and the York Federation of Students, Ontario students won an impressive victory in the Ontario Divisional Courts against the Ford government’s ‘Student Choice Initiative’ (SCI).  The initiative forced universities to end the mandatory collection of fees for services deemed ‘inessential’ by the Ford governments, such as student media, food banks and student unions.  The political motivation behind SCI was made clear in a fundraising letter to Conservative Party supporters. “I think we all know what kind of crazy Marxist nonsense student unions get up to,” Mr. Ford said. “So, we fixed that. Student union fees are now opt-in.”  SCI, as intended, compromised the capacity of student groups to carry out political campaigns and build student voice on campus.

This Provincial government has announced they will appeal the court’s decision, draining further funds and energy from student organizations.  The OCAD Student Union will be organizing actions on campus in the winter term. OCADFA stands in solidarity with OCAD SU and will keep you informed on action and ways to support.

Moving Forward

The political landscape governing our sector warrants a politicized response – internally and externally.  Funding cuts, legislated wage caps and performance-based funding underpin many of the labour, curricular and workplace challenges we see at OCAD U at this moment.   When the Ontario Division Courts ruled in support of student unions’ challenge to SCI, they recognized the political interference of this Provincial government as an attack on the autonomy of universities.  In its decision, the court called the autonomy of universities “fundamental to the academic freedom that is their hallmark,” saying the directives by the province are “not authorized by law and are inconsistent with the autonomy granted universities, bedrock principles on which Ontario universities have been governed for more than 100 years.”

As we see changes introduced at OCAD U in response to government policies and funding shifts, OCADFA’s role in the governance of our institution will be particularly important.  Now more than ever we need an activated and engaged membership to ensure OCADFA can be an effective voice, for labour and human rights, equity and a vigilant advocate for studio-based learning, academic freedom and institutional autonomy. 

We look forward to working with you in the coming year!  If you have questions, comments or would like to join any of the initiatives we are taking up, please get in touch with myself or any of our board members.  

In Solidarity,

Min Sook Lee

President, OCADFA