SFUFA Bargaining Proposals Summary
Because this is our first round of bargaining post-certification, we will be negotiating a complete first collective agreement – and that means that the bulk of our work thus far has been going through existing policies and procedures that have not previously been subject to bargaining and amending them as necessary to form an agreement. The result is over 200 pages of language, most of which is only slightly altered from current policies.
That is not say, however, that the process has been a simple cut-and-paste. We reviewed each and every employment-related policy, removed unnecessary duplication, retained those portions that relate to the rights and responsibilities of SFUFA members, removed purely administrative protocols, eliminated inconsistencies and clarified the opaque. We then reviewed other agreements from faculty associations across the country to identify areas in which current policy was silent or insufficient, drafted new language accordingly, and reviewed our draft document with the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). All this has meant a host of small changes we will propose, and a few areas in which we seek to establish new terms or substantially modify existing ones.
What follows below are summaries of the major changes we believe we should seek in bargaining, laid out under the sections of the proposed agreement to which they correspond.
Collective Bargaining and Employment Relations
This section covers the bargaining relationship between SFUFA and SFU, procedures for dispute resolution and so on. It replaces the current Framework Agreement, which governed SFUFA’s relationship with SFU prior to certification. Our proposal recognizes the new legal relationship and lays out a proper grievance procedure which can be used for any matter that arises. Issues from individual grievances to human rights complaints to disputes over the interpretation of collective agreement language would all be pursued according to a standard procedure with ultimate recourse to binding arbitration under the BC Labour Relations Code.
We have developed articles on governance and collegiality. These are based on existing practices at SFU and principles common to Canadian universities. Key principles are collegial decision-making and mechanisms to ensure accountability.
In this section we are proposing detailed language to address financial exigency. Financial exigency is the extremely unlikely scenario in which the University becomes unable to continue normal operations to due budgetary shortfall. We do not currently have an agreement to address this remote possibility, but it is a standard in Faculty Association agreements across the country and provides extra protection for members in the unlikely event that a serious financial crisis befalls the institution. Specifically the language calls for a joint University-Association committee to conduct a full budgetary audit before financial exigency can be declared, provides limitations on how and when tenured appointments can be eliminated for budgetary reasons, and includes provisions to protect any member whose job were to be impacted by a financial exigency.
Terms of Employment
The proposed agreement starts with a general section that includes all those terms and conditions common across different groups of members. Sections then follow with provisions that are specific to our various constituent groups – research faculty, teaching appointments, librarians and archivists and so on.
Health and safety provisions are being proposed to ensure that SFU is compliant with legislation and to ensure that SFUFA representatives on Health and Safety committees should actually be appointed by SFUFA rather than by the University.
We are further seeking greater public dissemination of health and safety committee minutes and other documents so as to ensure that members are able to determine when the workplace might in fact be unsafe. Given the extensive problems in some areas of campus over the past years (e.g. mold in the Education buildings), and the serious health impacts members have suffered, it is critical that our agreement recognize the rights of all members to a safe working environment.
We are proposing that representation of equity-seeking groups (women, visible minorities and others identified under Human Rights legislation) be improved in a number of ways, such as increased representation on search committees and SFUFA representation on the University’s equity advisory committee.
We are proposing a mandated and regularly scheduled equity audit of faculty salaries so as to ensure reviews of this kind no longer occur only every 15-20 years. On an ongoing basis, we also want to include decanal audits for salary inequity as a part of each promotion process; past experience here and UBC’s recent equity audit both showed that gendered differences in promotion timelines have a major impact on salary inequities. There is no reason that salary reviews at time of promotion should not include equity as one factor to be considered.
We also want to make sure that there are transparent and effective means of addressing harassment and discrimination. Currently, all such complaints are handled through the University’s own Human Rights Office, which has a number of limitations. We want to make certain that members have the option to see these concerns dealt with through an independent process such as a formal grievance procedure leading to third-party adjudication.
Workload has been identified as a major issue for members across ranks. It is a difficult problem to grapple with in the academic context, as assignments and job requirements vary widely not only across but within disciplines, but we will be making a few proposals designed to better address workload concerns.
The existing teaching appointments policy lays out a wide range of factors that should be taken into account in making course assignments, and we would like to see these consistently considered for all faculty members.
For our teaching appointments, we are seeking to ensure more time dedicated to activities other than classroom teaching. Currently lecturers and laboratory instructors get a teaching-free semester to update curriculum and develop pedagogical tools only once every three years. We are seeking to move this to once every two years. In terms of process, we currently use Tenure and Promotion Committees for salary and promotion reviews of research faculty and Teaching Appointment Review Committees to do the same for lecturers and laboratory instructors – the only difference being the inclusion of a member with a teaching appointment in the latter. We are proposing that TARCs be eliminated and TPCs be reformed to always include a teaching appointment representative.
We are also proposing a new rank in the lecturer category. Following Senior Lecturer, our proposal introduces the rank of University Lecturer. To make promotion on the lecturer career path more meaningful and to recognize the real work that is performed but often invisible, we propose that as members progress through the ranks a portion of their time be devoted to instructional innovation, mentoring and other non-classroom duties. A Lecturer would, as currently, teach 2X the research faculty load. A Senior Lecturer would teach 1.75X that load, and a University Lecturer would teach 1.5X. The reduced time in the classroom would recognize the important work these members perform outside of the classroom and to the benefit of their entire units.
In the Librarians section, a good deal of work has been done to ensure that the language covers Archivists and that their distinct conditions are recognized.
Librarians are also seeking a job-sharing arrangement akin to that in place for SFU’s management and professional staff.
More generally, we are also including a proposal for pre-retirement job-sharing, allowing members to work less in the years leading up to retirement while freeing up faculty slots for renewal.
We are taking to the table proposals for Leaves of Absence to recognize family care needs, which are not to be found in our system currently and which disproportionately impact women. Designated family days and long term provisions for family and elder care are being proposed. There is an existing legislated Compassionate Care option through Employment Insurance, and we are seeking a salary top-up for this leave similar to that in place for maternity and parental leaves.
Salaries and Economic Benefits
Our proposal regarding salaries and other benefits continues to emerge, as there are range of priorities to be balanced and range of opinions on how to best address those priorities. We do know that the key principles for our salary bargaining will be:
- addressing salary ceilings, which negatively impact a huge number of members;
- establishing mechanisms to address salary inequities at all levels
- addressing the inadequacy of our current pension plan and providing greater security in retirement for SFUFA members.