Tentative Agreement Info Sheet

The tentative 2019-2022 Collective Agreement builds on the previous Agreement to adjust processes and procedures in a number of areas while maintaining continuity in general. The following is a narrative approach to the new Agreement, covering the changes that are put forward in the ratification package. This document does not cover each and every change – small matters that deal primarily with University-Association relations and protocols are not mentioned, for example. It does, however, review the substantive changes likely to impact how members work, using a descriptive summary for those who prefer this approach.

Salary and Economic Benefits:

The new Agreement provides for 3 salary increases of 2% each, to be paid:

July 1, 2020 (retroactive)

January 1, 2021

July 1, 2021

This timing amounts to a one-year deferral of the first increase and a six month deferral of the second. Taking increases on this time-frame releases a significant amount of money (over $5 million) to be paid toward the pension transition, allowing us to find other ways of funding the pension without reducing the general wage increases to something under the 2% / year mandate.

We have also, in this Agreement, eliminated the roll-in of Market Differentials upon promotion to terminal ranks.  The market differential component will now be subject to general wage increases (GWI) at all ranks.

Non-pension benefits saw little improvement in this round of bargaining. The pension transition was clearly identified as members’ top priority; all available non-salary dollars have been devoted to that. We did, however, alter the language around Leaves of Absence to better reflect the latest changes in legislation, and we have ensured that sick leaves and other legislatively-supported leaves are recognized as regular semesters for the purposes of TTR rotation – that is,a teaching semester in which one takes sick leave remains a teaching semester on the record; a research semester is treated likewise.

Pension:

Most significant in the proposed Agreement is the provision for a new pension plan – an agreement to move from the existing, SFU-based defined contribution plan to the much larger jointly trusteed, defined-benefit plan of the BC College Pension Plan, which covers faculty and others at BC’s public colleges and a number of the province’s universities. The details of the BCCPP have been discussed at length over the last several years, but members who are newer to SFU, or those seeking a refresher, might look for further information at https://www.sfufa.ca/current-issues/pensions/resources/

In short, the pension transition would mean:

  • SFU would assume a slightly higher contribution rate, 10.4% of salary rather than the current 10%
  • Members would be required to contribute to their own pensions, at a rate of approximately 10% of salary
  • In return for the significantly higher overall contribution, members would no longer have retirement income held in an individual savings account, which is subject to significant market volatility; instead, contributions of all members are pooled and invested collectively, and members earn a predictable retirement income based on years of service. The costs are substantially higher in a defined-benefits plan, but so, too, are the benefits earned upon retirement, and those benefits are more stable, and more predictable
  • For any faculty members hired after 2001, entry into the BCCPP will mean they are eligible for a ten-fold increase in post-retirement benefit lifetime maximum (from $15,000 to $150,000)

Transitioning in SFU’s multi-age cohort will generate future liabilities for the BCCPP that are larger than the usual case (i.e., when people join the plan as early career employees).  To be fair to existing BCCPP members, SFU’s entry to the College Plan must be cost neutral, which generates additional transition costs up front. These transition costs, which were last estimated at 2.25 % of salary mass when amortized over 15 years, have been amortized instead over twenty years, and we have found mechanisms to pay all costs without reducing general wage increases. By deferring the effective date of General Wage Increases (see above) to create a down-payment and applying additional non-salary funds available from the provincial mandate, we have covered the vast majority of these costs.

Unknown risks or gains have been managed by a system of additional costs/ benefits. As defined-benefit pensions typically lead to lower retirement ages, we have developed a cost-savings mechanism based on retirement age. If there are additional savings beyond transition costs in a given year, these savings will be distributed as an increase to the Professional Development Funds of faculty members. If, in any given year, there is a short-fall, this would be paid by temporary levies on PDR and salary. This system allows for the flexibility to cover unforeseen costs at a much lower cost to members than a reduction in general wage increases.

We are hopeful that this transition will result in an earlier average retirement age and as a result, cover the transition costs with the possibility of increased professional development funds. The mechanisms above, however, ensure that we have tools in place to cover any eventuality.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion:

The proposed Agreement includes language on training and procedures to ensure that hiring committees, TPCs and other review committees proactively consider equity, diversity and inclusion in their deliberations. The Association will be provided all training materials for consultation prior to use, in order that we, and our Equity and Human Rights committee, can provide feedback to the University before training or new procedures are rolled out.

Investigations and Discipline:

A number of small but important changes have been made with regard to investigative procedures. Distinctions between SFU’s own disciplinary procedures and investigations relating to scholarly conduct, which may originate outside the University, have been clarified. We have also improved protections against summary suspension, clarifying the circumstances in which the University can resort to extraordinary disciplinary measures.

Timelines Related to New Appointments:

Timelines for advertising in search processes have been adjusted. We have also introduced language regarding initial appointment so that new faculty in continuing positions have no less than 6 weeks of paid appointment prior to any expectation of teaching.

Joint Appointments:

Members with joint appointments will have access to review documents from both TPCs involved in the review, rather than solely the primary department.

Research Faculty Workload:

 A number of changes have been made in Article 27 (Research Faculty Workload) to better recognize the variation in cycles of work, ensuring fairness of overall expectations while reducing overly-simplified readings of workload balance. The emphasis ought now be less on how Teaching and Research semesters line up on spreadsheets and more on the substantive work performed across departments with varying needs. We have also re-organized the section on teaching equivalencies, with a view to better capturing the range of teaching activities faculty members engage in.

Tenure and Promotion:

The Tenure and Promotion sections of the Agreement have seen a number of changes. Most significantly, timelines have been adjusted, with TPC formation and application deadlines moving up two weeks. TPC composition is more flexible, and the inclusion of external members is still possible but no longer required. Additional changes including: revision of language defining teaching, research, and service; greater proactivity in meeting with pre-tenure faculty members, and greater flexibility to extend the tenure clock when necessary to increase likelihood of a successful review.

Teaching Evaluation:

Extensive work has been done on the role of student surveys in evaluation of teaching. Teaching assessment and the role of student evaluations have been significantly re-thought based on evidence regarding the discriminatory impacts of student evaluation and the recommendations of SFU’s Teaching Assessment Working Group. Teaching assessment will not be based on student surveys, but on other methods, with primary evidence being the teaching dossier. Student survey data is to be used only to assess faculty members’ engagement with student feedback. Student comments will not be distributed to TPCs, but only to members, Chairs and Deans – the inclusion of comments in review processes will be at the discretion of the faculty member.

Biennial Review:

Biennial review has long been a contentious process, as units have been mandated to award an average of 1.3 steps per member while steps can only be handed out in increments of .5, requiring relatively equal records to be differently rewarded. This Agreement moves us from a scale of 0-2 with a 1.3 average to a scale of 0-2.5 with a 1.5 average. This will allow units to award the average step increase, which we hope will mean  awards that better reflect the contributions of members and a reduction in the number of appeals. It will also delineate more clearly what unsatisfactory performance looks like (0.5 or below), as there are a greater range of possible steps at satisfactory and above. We have also specified that the evaluation for biennial review should be consistent with the TPC criteria for tenure and promotion, as we have seen a number of instances in the past where there is a disconnect between TPC reports on biennial review and the tenure and promotion criteria.

Finally, we have amended the process of review for Chairs and Directors to further avoid potential conflicts of interest.

 Teaching Faculty:

Over the past few years we have seen a sharp increase in single-course lecturer appointments, which blurs boundaries between TSSU sessionals and SFUFA lecturers. We have negotiated language to recognize that lecturer contracts should be at 50% or greater. There may be exceptions in particular cases, but where these exist the unit is required to inform the Association and articulate the rationale for the exception.

Teaching faculty will notice that in the new Agreement the timelines for promotion have been changed – we have harmonized promotion timelines to reduce confusion and to help reduce the workload on TPCs, who now will only need to manage one promotion review cycle per year. Provisions for probationary terms have also been adjusted to better match other faculty and sync with normal review cycles.

Librarians and Archivists:

Over the past number of years, we have heard from librarians and archivists that they would like to see language regarding research activity in the Collective Agreement. Similarly, there are a number of librarians and archivists who do not want research activities to be mandatory. We have now included language that will allow individual librarians and their immediate supervisors to include research language in workload without making research activities compulsory. In addition, language is added to address EDI training, and some changes are made to the process of referee selection for promotion. Promotion processes have also been further clarified, particularly with respect to the requirements regarding referees.

Practitioner Faculty:

Practitioner Faculty (formerly Professors of Professional Practice/Clinical Professors) were a new rank in the last Collective Agreement. Over the course of the Agreement, the Association has become aware of a number of limitations with the previous Practitioner Faculty article and we have endeavoured to remedy some of these limitations. A new definition for this rank — Practitioner Faculty — will allow for more flexibility when units want to hire someone into this category. We have included limitations on limited-terms and included a mechanism to compel limited term positions to be made continuing after five years. Limited-term positions longer than five years will be exceptional and will require the approval of the Association.

We have extended Study Leave to continuing practitioner faculty, who previously were not entitled to Study Leave. We have expanded voting rights for Practitioner faculty to allow for greater participation in units. We have also included provisions for lay-off and severance pay.