On January 16, the University of Toronto and the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) held their latest facilitation session in an ongoing 45-year-long negotiation of the university’s Policies for Librarians.
In 1978, the University of Toronto established its Policies for Librarians, providing librarians with information regarding their conditions of employment, opportunities for advancement, and the specific details of their positions. According to the UTFA, prior to finalizing the policies, the administration made a last-minute addition stating that the university can fire librarians with permanent status “for reasons of fiscal stringency or financial exigency,” which can include a lack of money, attempts to spend less, or substantial and recurring financial deficits.
This adjustment resulted in the UTFA never signing the policies. To this day, the UTFA continues to negotiate the policies through ongoing consultations, bilateral meetings, and multiple mediations.
From 2012 to 2016, the UTFA led a campaign aimed at modernizing its role in representing faculty and librarians at U of T. Specifically, it hoped to reform the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA), which restricted the UTFA’s role and the agreement’s scope of collective bargaining. At the time, the MoA excluded significant academic policies from the negotiation process — including the Policies for Librarians.
Through the efforts of the Special Joint Advisory Committee — a group composed of the administration and UTFA representatives to shape academics’ working conditions — previously frozen policies, including the Policies for Librarians, became eligible for negotiation in 2018. Given the importance of modernizing the 1978 Policies for Librarians, the UTFA and university administration agreed that the policies would be one of the first frozen policies addressed and negotiated.
On January 31, 2018, the first bilateral meeting took place in an effort to update the 45-year-old policies.
In an email to The Varsity, Kathleen Scheaffer — the UTFA’s chief negotiator for the Policies for Librarians — discussed the association’s journey in securing parity and equal terms of employment for University of Toronto academic librarians, compared to their colleagues at other Canadian universities.
Scheaffer explained that through the dedication of both the UTFA and administration, the parties were able to reach three agreements: The Agreement on Principles for Consultation, The Librarian Vacation Policy, and The Librarian Research and Professional Development Days Agreement.
In addition to these agreements, Salary, Benefits, Pensions and Workload Committee negotiations have resulted in the updating of other policies. In conjunction with the UTFA agreements, these negotiations resulted in an increase in librarians’ available Research and Professional Development Days to a total of 14 per year, as well as increases in librarian salary floors and the number of benefits and caps.
The UTFA and U of T administration have also settled on removing mandatory librarian participation in the UniForum program, which is a provincial government performance-based funding model that ties a university’s funding to its institutional performance. This model intends to increase performance-based funding from $50 million in 2018–2019 to nearly $2.2 billion in 2024–2025, and the UTFA’s negotiations stemmed from safeguarding its members “from assessment based on quantitative metrics.” Through collaborative efforts, they were also able to identify a 3.9 per cent gender salary gap and address the discrepancy by establishing a 3.9 per cent base salary increase for non-men librarians in 2019.
Throughout the negotiation process, the UTFA has established job security, equity, clarity, transparency, consistency, and collegial process as its guiding principles. Additionally, the UTFA refers to language, amplification, and reverberation as “keys to ensuring success” at supporting the voices of academic librarians, as well as the UTFA’s efforts at the Policies for Librarians table. For example, changing the university community’s language by separating the terms “faculty” and “librarians” amplifies the role of librarians within the U of T community.
Currently, the UTFA is engaged in “the confidential facilitation phase” of negotiations, Scheaffer said. She added, “We are confident that due to the commitment of both sides of the table and the assistance of our esteemed facilitator, William Kaplan, that these negotiations will conclude this year.”
Hoping to “end this long journey,” the UTFA has four more facilitation sessions for the Policies for Librarians scheduled for the first half of 2023.