Arbitration adds academic freedom for faculty

New contract increases job security for partial-load faculty

Arbitrator William Kaplan revealed a new collective agreement for Ontario College strike just a month after the province legislated striking faculty back to work.

In an award issued on Wednesday, Dec. 20, Kaplan set out the terms of a four-year contract from Oct. 1, 2017 until Sept. 30, 2021.

Ontario colleges issued a statement saying they are “very pleased” with the arbitrator’s award.

 JP Hornick, chair of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) bargaining team, said it didn’t need to get to this point. 

“With any reasonable amount of co-operation from the colleges, there would never have been a strike, students would not have had to worry about losing their semester, and faculty would never have lost five weeks’ pay,” Hornick said in a statement.

The arbitration-mediation was held from Dec. 14 to 16 between the colleges and OPSEU, imposed on faculty in November when the Ontario Legislature passed Bill 178 to end the college faculty strike.

The arbitration award includes modest wage increases of 1.75 per cent in the first year, retroactive to Oct. 1, and two per cent in each following year.

The award also contains new language on academic freedom, which was a main issue between the faculty and the college.  

“For the first time in history we have meaningful academic freedom language in our collective agreement,” said Nicole Zwiers, OPSEU bargaining team member.

Arbitrator Kaplan, defined academic freedom at the college as “the right to inquire about, investigate, pursue, teach and speak freely about academic issues without fear or impairment to position of other reprisal.”

“Faculty have always had academic freedom from a policy perspective in the institutions, all it’s done is put it in the context of the collective agreement,” said Don Sinclair, the CEO of the College Employer Council at a press conference.

Other items of note in the arbitration award are:

  • Partial-load faculty will receive a full month of seniority for each calendar month where they taught 30 hours or more, double the previous formula. 
  • If two partial-load faculty are entitled to teach the same course, the one with the most seniority will be offered the job.
    A provincial task force to examine faculty complement, precarious work, provincial funding of the colleges and other issues.
  • Extended health plan coverage for employees for paramedical services increased by $500 to $2,000 a year. Visits to social workers and psychotherapists are now included. 
  • A lump-sum payment of $900 to each full-time member of the bargaining unit, and $450 for partial-load faculty, who were actively employed when the strike started and who returned to work at the end of it.

“This might be the message for the presidents of all the colleges, you said you care, you said you want the best for everybody and I think it’s time to start showing that,” said OPSEU president Smokey Thomas.

Arbitrator William Kaplan declined to comment for this story. 

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Arbitration adds academic freedom for faculty