Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Support University of Sudbury Faculty Forced Out On Strike

Sorry for the long gap between posts. I've been out of town, and the last bunch of days it was without internet access, which was unsurprisingly but embarrassingly agonizing (though the rockin' cottage, the adorable wee neices, the great family-provided live music, the ample opportunity to read books, the hammock, and the view of Georgian Bay more than made up for it). Anyway, I'm back, though I may not get a substantive post up for a few days, since I'm on full-time kid-patrol for the rest of the week. In the meantime, here is a union fact sheet, released yesterday, about a strike here in Sudbury. (The University of Sudbury is a small institution federated with the larger and more widely known Laurentian University.)

"University of Sudbury" Local of Laurentian University Faculty Association - ON STRIKE
Fact Sheet #1 (August 18, 2008)

Why are we on strike at this time of the year?
  • Since Thursday, August 14, our collective agreement is no longer in force. On Friday 15, our employer has required each individual faculty member to sign a contract dictating working conditions and salaries.
  • If UofS faculty sign this contract, this will mean the de facto termination of our union, of our job protection, and of the working conditions that we have managed to obtain through hard struggle in the past years.
  • The employer leaves us with no other choice than to go on strike at this time of the year in order to protect our jobs. Our strike is not about bringing pressure to negotiate but rather is a defensive move to establish the existence and basic rights of unionized faculty.

What were the issues being negotiated?
  • Salaries - as of 2007-08, the average salary at UofS is about 25% below the average salary at Laurentian University faculty, which is itself below the provincial average
  • Teaching workload - UofS faculty have the highest teaching load in Ontario. At present, they have to teach 3 credits more per year than their colleagues of humanities programmes at Laurentian. Furthermore, fourth-year courses are taught as overloads.
  • Job security - in the course of negotiations, it has appeared that the employer does not want to protect tenure any longer and wants freedom to lay off tenured members. This would be the only university in Ontario to have that freedom.

Why is the salary issue important?
  • It will become increasingly difficult to attract and keep new faculty. UofS will become a stopover for faculty looking for something better.
  • It is an equity issue: it is unacceptable that UofS faculty, who are members of the Laurentian federation, be paid less than all their other colleagues for the same work.

Why is the teaching workload important?
  • Teaching is the main part of faculty’s workload, but it is not the only one. Another main activity of all university faculty around the world is research and publication of its results. At present, the teaching workload at UofS makes very difficult for professors to pursue a fruitful and productive research. As a consequence, UofS gradually loses its image of being a real university.
  • It is an equity issue: at present, our colleagues in the humanities at Laurentian teach 15 credits per year. We are asking a reduction of our teaching workload from 18 to 15 credits.

Why is the protection of tenure important?
  • Tenure is important because it allows academic freedom, which is the most basic principle of university life in the Western world. In Canada, a university that does not protect tenure loses its university status. Professors must be free to pursue their teaching and research activities without any threat of being laid off.

What effect will an unfair and uncompetitive settlement have on UofS students?
  • A seriously impaired quality of education.
  • Reduction in quality and quantity of research.

Can the university afford to offer faculty a fair and competitive settlement?
  • Judge for yourself: thanks to the dedication of its faculty, in the recent years the University of Sudbury has had the highest student enrolment of its history. UofS is in excellent financial shape.

The foregoing represents the situation as of August 18. Negotiations have broken down. However, faculty are eager to reach a settlement as soon as possible. Can the same be said of management?

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