ANSUT (Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers) by Bruce Sparks
As the AUT’s representative to the Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers (ANSUT) I attended the three regular meetings held during the academic year 2015-2016. Unlike last year (the year of Bill 100) there were no obviously dramatic issues. Meetings continued to be very useful forums to exchange information about conditions and concerns at other Nova Scotia universities.
All of us are experiencing some degree of financial pressure and this is being passed on to academic staff, sometimes egregiously, as in the attempt to open the lay-off clause at CBU. The association was able to limit the damage there when an independent audit of CBU’s finances showed that the administration’s austerity measures were not supported by the financial status of the university. NSCAD will face extraordinary challenges of another kind when the downtown campus is sold in the next three years and the school moves to a yet-to- be-determined location. Through the grievance procedure, St. Mary’s was able to prevent the attempt to establish closed searches for senior administration positions.
More generally, contract gains in recent settlements for ANSUT unions have been very modest, and maintaining the status quo sometime seems to qualify as a victory. ANSUT also continued its lobbying efforts with government on a variety of issues, and was involved in a “Get Science Right” forum in Halifax.
As a result of increased costs resulting from the hiring of a full-time communications officer for ANSUT, the mil rate for individual association dues was raised. Currently that position is vacant and has been advertised. ANSUT also supported a research project conducted by Dr. Karen Foster of Dalhousie on the casualization of academic work; her final report is imminent.
(Peter McInnis also served on ANSUT Board during 2015-2016 as ANSUT elected member-at-large.)
Chief Grievance Officer by Charlene Weaving
The Executive has asked me to provide some context to the workings of the Grievance Committee in this report. Working on the Grievance Committee (CG) has involved the most challenging and emotionally taxing work I have experienced. For example, cases that involve denial of tenure, and program redundancy are extremely difficult and complex. However, work with the GC has also resulted in some of the most rewarding committee experiences, for instance, when we are able to really help members improve their various situations. This year, in particular, the GC spent significant time identifying problematic language in the Collective Agreement, in order to revise and improve language in the upcoming negotiations. Before working on the CG, I never realized the word ‘or’ had so many interpretations and missuses!
Each fall we organize a Grievance Workshop through CAUT, and seeing that so many of the committee members had previously taken the workshop, we wanted to offer something different. We worked with CAUT and a modified workshop was organized that involved a higher level of analysis and was considered to be quite effective. CAUT will now offer an advanced Grievance Workshop.
Interestingly, the bulk of the GC work does not involve formal grievances (Step 1, Step 2, etc.). In many cases, we assist members navigate various University policies, like sick leaves. We help clarify situations and work with our members to improve working conditions, whether it be helping members who are in buildings which were undergoing major construction and asbestos removal or assisting members with the threat of cancelling courses because of low numbers.
This year, we went through the formal grievance process and argued program redundancy, denial of promotions, and discipline notifications cases. We have noted that the University has been proceeding with numerous investigations for discipline. The language in the CA needs to be modified to allow for informal discussions/inquiry between a Dean and a member to occur. The current read of the CA, indicates that a member receives a formal letter that they are being investigated and may face disciplinary action. We have been working with HR to revise the language, however, this will be finalized during negotiations.
Another aspect of the GC is that many cases require confidentiality and as such, the GC doesn’t report or even describe in broad terms those cases. We adhere to this process in order to protect our members.
I wish to extend thanks to GC members Denton Anthony, Daphne Connolly, Andrew Foran, and Kathleen MacKenzie. A very special thanks and congratulations on the occasion of Elaine MacLean’s retirement who has been a key member of the committee and will be truly missed. Finally, I wish to acknowledge and thank Brad Long for his tremendous support and insight in the workings of the GC.
Communications by Brad Long
In September 2015, the Communications Committee launched our infographic poster campaign in collaboration with the other StFX labour unions and the Students’ Union. Through this campaign, we illustrated some of the many ways in which StFX students routinely engage with and are served by union members. Four variants of these posters were made available electronically and distributed across campus. Work remains underway with the Student’s Union to create video vignettes to highlight these same kinds of interactions using a different medium.
The Beacon continues to be the signature quarterly publication of the StFXAUT. The Communications Committee mapped out the content and distributed the writing assignments necessary to deliver this newsletter to our members. The invitation remains open to all members to contact Susan MacKay with your suggestions, feedback and offers to contribute.
Our part-time Communications Officer, Philip Girvan, continues to manage our social media presence. As a result, our Facebook and Twitter accounts remain an updated source of information for our members, and more, while Susan MacKay maintains our website with equal attentiveness.
Looking ahead, additional non-routine publications will be a key element of our communications strategy, largely in the form of Bargaining Bulletins as we enter into a period of collective bargaining.
StFXAUT communications in all forms are designed to help members stay informed and connected. We encourage you all to read, react and follow along.
Communications Committee membership 2015-2016: Adela Sandness; Brad Long; Mathias Nilges; Philip Girvan StFXAUT Communications Officer; Russell Wyeth; and Susan MacKay, StFXAUT Executive Assistant
Intellectual Property by Shah Razul
Over the last year, there have been no meetings with the Administration. This was partially due to the appointment of a new Dean of Science and Gerry Marangoni leaving StFX. However, during the previous year there were 4 meetings (these meetings were considered informal) where Gerry and I provided information of what language other institutions have used to address their Whistleblower clause and suggested that we agree on drafting some language (per LOU#3 of the Collective Agreement). We asked the Administration (Robert van den Hoogen and Richard Nemesvari at that time) to propose language based on the provided templates from other universities and our discussions.
However, we have yet to meet. I did speak to Richard Isnor a few weeks ago and we decided to meet after the end of term. David Risk and I are also going to meet to review our status prior to any further meetings with the Administration.
Intellectual Property Committee StFXAUT membership 2015-2016: Dave Risk and Shah Razul
Joint Committee for the Administration of the Collective Agreement Report by Rachel Hurst and Denton Anthony
The Joint Committee for the Administration of the Third Collective Agreement is comprised of 2 members appointed by the StFXAUT (Rachel Hurst and Denton Anthony) and 2 members appointed by the StFX Administration (Tim Hynes and Randy Peters). This year, JC has met 7 times, with a possibility of a May meeting. We are pleased to report that this year, we have been able to meet regularly (last year the members from the administration frequently double-booked our time slot). We have discussed a number of issues this year; a brief summary is below.
Retirement language changes
- After years of work, we are pleased to report that this work is complete, and that the StFXAUT and the StFX Administration will sign an MOU that will update our CA to remove all mandatory retirement language.
Ongoing use of LTAs
- AUT continued (from last year, 2014-15) to raise concerns about long-term use of LTAs.
- LTAs are to be appointed for no more than 4 years in a row; after that, the Administration needs to evaluate this ongoing need and the possibility of a tenure-track position.
- The Union is in a tough position because we will not disagree to the extension of a member’s LTA beyond 4 years, but this violates the spirit of the Collective Agreement.
- We indicated that we would like conversion considered.
- This year, the Administration responded and a process was designed to interview and evaluate two long-serving LTAs for tenure-track positions.
Service to the Association
- In 2014-15, the AUT sought confirmation from Administration that a) the Administration does not vet what constitutes “service to the Association” and b) that service might require members to leave campus and reschedule commitments. This is in relation to a concern where a member was denied permission by their supervisor to leave campus on CAUT business. The former AVP was unwilling to confirm this interpretation.
- In February 2016, the StFXAUT and the StFX Administration co-signed a Letter of Agreement which confirms that
The parties recognize that service to the Association shall count as University service where the latter is relevant to the evaluation of Members for promotion, tenure, performance, or any other form of job performance.
Whereas service to the Association is equal to service to the University, the parties affirm that what counts as service to the Association is determined by the Association and does not need to be directly related to the affairs of the University. The University does not have a role in either approving or denying any one kind of service that is deemed necessary by the association.
Professional Development Fund (PDF)
- Members have access to up to $600 per year in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
- JC would like to remind members that you can roll funds over for one year only. Thus, if you haven’t used your PDF for 2014-15 or 2015-16, you can claim up to $1,200 until June 30, 2016. If you don’t spend your PDF for 2014-2015, it is gone!
- Currently, out of a possible $332,000 (over 2 years), only $130,648 has been spent.
- Deans will be sending out an email encouraging members to use their PDF, and will provide support (through administrative assistants) for member inquiries about their PDF (how much they have available, etc.).
- Members are strongly encouraged to use this fund!
- There will be $61,962 rolling over into next year’s travel fund.
- The average amount claimed per member is $1,376.
- Something that might be considered if we end up with a continued surplus is raising the maximum amount. Another possibility is to raise the current per diem rates, or to widen eligibility for the travel fund (e.g. for LTAs).
- Don’t forget to apply for this too! ($1,650 per year)
Leave of Absence with Salary Deferral language
- In March, the StFXAUT President made us aware of an outstanding issue in Appendix I: Benefits for Nurse Educators, Lab Instructors, Coady and Extension Program Staff And Writing Centre Instrutors, the Leave of Absence with a Salary Deferral Option (1.14, 2.0 in Appendix I).
- The CA states that as of September 1, 2013, a deferred salary option will be made to any Member who requests it as a means of providing salary continuation while on a leave of absence,” and further that Joint Committee will “agree to the language necessary to bring this deferred salary option into existence.” (p. 237).
- The CA states that Joint Committee “will model the language of the Salary Deferral Option Plan from St. Mary’s University” (p. 237).
- This item slipped through the cracks. Currently, the SMU language is being reviewed by Human Resources.
Course evaluations for Lab Instructors
- As a result of the new system, lab instructors did not receive course evaluations in 2014-15. This was attributed to the inability of the new electronic system to process lab instructor evaluations.
- This year, the Ad-Hoc Committee on Course Evaluations decided that the lab instructors would continue to use the paper evaluations that they have used in the past few years.
- In October, the StFXAUT raised concerns about the new administrative practice of cancelling courses with less than 8 students, as well as the timing of these cancellations, which happened close to the start of classes in September. We noted that the minimum and ‘break-even’ numbers seem arbitrary, and change.
- The ‘break even’ number of 45 students is based on a full professor salary with a regular teaching load, according to the Administration. This number is used for “context,” according to the Administration, to tackle and bring awareness to work equity and financial issues.
Once collective bargaining begins, the current Joint Committee dissolves and we will no longer meet. We may have a May meeting to discuss the Leave of Absence With Salary Deferral option, if the SMU language is deemed unacceptable to either party. We would like to thank Brad Long, President, and Charlene Weaving, Chief Grievance Officer, for their support!
Joint Committee for the Administration of the Collective Agreement StFXAUT Membership 2015-2016: Denton Anthony and Rachel Hurst
Dr. Elizabeth McGibbon joined the AUT JEC this past year. Since our equity survey last year the JEC has not met. At this time we do not know who has replaced Dr. Richard Nemesvari from administration.
Joint Occupational Health and Safety by Colleen Cameron
The JOHSC is mandated under the Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations. The purpose of the JOHSC is to work cooperatively with the employer in identifying and resolving safety and health issues. The JOHSC is an advisory group made up of representatives from management and employees. This is an active committee that meets for an hour, once a month, ten times a year.
With restructuring at the university, JOHSC falls under the larger scope of Risk Management. A major focus of the JOHSC has been the Occupational Health and Safety Manual which was revised in Oct 2014 and updated in Feb 2015. It has yet to be official adopted by the President’s Council.
Part of the responsibilities of the JOHSC and Occupational Health Advisor (Janet Beaton) is to ensure every building on campus has a team of people who will take responsibility during a fire and any other emergency. It is required by law that every building goes through a fire drill each year. This has not been happening on a regular basis except for a few buildings and the residences. Establishing a team for each building will be a priority.
Another initiative is the development of the Emergency and Lockdown Procedures by Facilities Management and Security. The three essential components to Emergency Procedures are to:
- Be Prepared: Create awareness
- Evacuation: How to evacuate a building safely when encountering an emergency
- Persons with Disabilities: Building occupants must know how to provide assistance during evacuations. Security must also create a central file of persons who need assistance.
The establishment of building teams responsible for hazards, drills and emergency evacuations will be done in coordination with the Emergency and Lockdown Procedures. It is expected that this will happen once PC approves the procedures in the next couple of months.
Another initiative being developed by a university sub-committee is the Risk Management Travel Policy with the goal to have a central registry all people (staff and students) who travel on university business and their relevant information so that Security can address concerns or notify individuals as required.
An issue which arose recently pertains to “Right to Know – every employee has the right to know what hazards and potential hazards exist in the workplace and how to protect themselves from these hazards.” It has been acknowledged by the Occupational Health advisor, senior management and the project management personnel that communication failed to inform all people about the potential hazards from the construction in MSB. A communication strategy will be developed to avoid such failures in the future.
The next meeting of JOHSC will be May 25th and there will likely be another one in June. I will be attending the next two meetings of this committee and then my terms come to an end.
Pension Plan by Mikael Heller
The Committee has only met once in the past year and it has been a transition year as Reid Estey was replaced by Jennifer Swinemar-Murray in Human Resources. We had an exploratory meeting in January 2016 where we talked about implementing target retirement funds and looking at adding Vanguard funds to the Sun Life offerings. We have our next meeting planned for May 9, 2016.
Pension Plan Committee StFXAUT membership 2015-2016: Jacques Boucher; Mike Haller; and Ping Wang
Social Affairs by Charlie Ten Brinke
The social affairs committee, consisting of Deb Graham, Bhavik Parikh and Charlie ten Brinke, planned several gatherings for AUT members this academic year. The first, and by the far the most popular, was the annual fall meet and greet at Crystal Cliffs on the 11th of September, 2015. This event was well attended and offered a delicious meal and live music by our jazz students. This is always a great opportunity for new AUT members to meet their colleagues.
On the 1st of December we held an end of term social with a bar, hors d’oeuvres and board games. It was a fairly small crowd, but those who joined us had a fun evening and many participated in some pretty competitive games. We apparently have some serious Jenga players in our midst.
On the 11th of March 2016 we hosted a social following the town hall meeting with a bar and hors d’oeuvres. It was a small crowd, but members who managed to join in had a pleasurable evening.
Status of Women and Equity
Membership in the SOWE has changed significantly over the past year. At a fall meeting we created a set of action plans for moving forward with our work. However, we did not move forward with our actions plans. We have not met since that fall meeting.
U4 Faculty Associations Meeting by Bruce Sparks
Recently, representatives from the executives of the U4 faculty associations met for the first time to see whether we had any common concerns. Not surprisingly, we do. Issues regarding governance, bargaining, administrative salaries, and funding seem to be universal challenges. Particular to the U4 though, is the idea that courses at one institution might be available electronically to students at another. Good in theory, we all agreed, but what if this pooling of resources leads to reductions in faculty complements? Happily, we found enough of mutual interest to commit to regular meetings in the future.
Some of the upcoming deadlines in the Third Collective Agreement include:
- Various clauses relating to the commercialization of Intellectual Property contain a June 30 deadline (Article 2.11).
- Step increases in the salary grid take effect on July 1 for several groups; check the Collective Agreement to see if this applies to you.
- Sabbatical Leave applications are due to the Dean/University Librarian August 1.
- No changes to a Faculty member’s teaching assignment may be made after August 1, without mutual consent.
Your 2016-2017 Executive Committee
Mary Oxner, President
Brad Long, Past President
Bruce Sparks, Vice President
Clare Fawcett, Secretary
Martin van Bommel, Treasurer
Charlene Weaving, Chief Grievance Officer
Kris Hunter, Member at Large
Martin Sastri, Member at Large
Monica Diochon, Member at Large
Wendy Panagopoulos, Member at Large