St. Mike’s faculty, administration negotiating collective agreement as strike deadline looms

Faculty filed for a no-board in January, triggering a countdown for strike action

St. Mike’s faculty, administration negotiating collective agreement as strike deadline looms

After eight months of negotiations, the University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) faculty and administration are heading back to the bargaining table on February 9 in pursuit of a collective agreement before the February 11 no-board deadline. A strike is imminent after 86 per cent of unit members voted in favour of job action at the college.

A no-board triggers a 17-day timer for an agreement, after which either side can legally take job action, either by striking or locking out. USMC faculty filed for a no-board with the Ontario Ministry of Labour after they were dissatisfied with negotiations during a January 19 meeting between the two sides. University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA)-USMC Chief Negotiator Michael O’Connor said that the faculty filed for the no-board as a way to increase pressure on the administration, which they felt was “not up to speed.”

If a strike should happen, undergraduate students in Book & Media Studies, Medieval Studies, Christianity and Culture, and Celtic Studies would be affected. Graduate students in the Faculty of Theology, and by extension the Toronto School of Theology, would also be affected, along with some services at the John M. Kelly Library.

“We’re hopeful that if the employer comes to the table prepared to bargain and ready with a serious effort to reach an agreement, then an agreement should be possible,” said O’Connor. “We don’t think a strike is necessary; we think it’s avoidable if the college administration is serious about reaching a deal.”

Negotiations have been ongoing since the last collective agreement expired on June 30, 2017. The two sides did not meet until August 8 and 9, after which the administration filed for conciliation to bring in an individual to mediate negotiations. Since then, they have met in September, October, December, and at the January 19 meeting.

USMC Director of Communications Stefan Slovak wrote that the administration will continue to work to secure an agreement.

“We’ve been negotiating in good faith for many months to reach an agreement with our colleagues who are members of UTFA,” reads a statement to The Varsity from USMC President David Mulroney. “We’ve tabled a comprehensive offer that tracks closely with the agreement that UTFA reached with the University of Toronto some months ago, that respects our autonomy as an institution, and that contributes to the long-term viability of our university and the community it sustains.”

Faculty and administration are at odds on four key issues, according to O’Connor. The first is greater job security. The administration has proposed a new category of limited-term contract faculty at the college. The faculty, however, believes this is “precarious employment,” and it does not motivate participation in college life.

The second is that the administration is asking for a one-year agreement, which O’Connor attributes to changes facing the college with Mulroney’s exit. This means that a new agreement would be backdated to July 1, 2017 and would send the two sides back to negotiations next summer.

“To drag things on for eight months in a way that’s felt just very frustrating, and then say we want to do this right away again just seems impractical and unreasonable to us,” said O’Connor. “So we’re looking for a multi-year agreement that would give us much more stability.”

Third, faculty are also asking for “equity and diversity in hiring,” requesting that those on hiring committees receive training and that language in USMC job ads mirror U of T’s.

Fourth, they are requesting compensation that mirrors the one per cent plus the $1,150 lump sum that U of T faculty received last June.

O’Connor said that the administration has rejected all of these proposals.

Editor’s Note (February 5): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the lump sum that U of T faculty received last June was $11.50. It was actually $1,150. 

Over 30 U of T community members named to Order of Canada

Faculty, alumni honoured with prestigious award recognizing contributions to Canadian society

Over 30 U of T community members named to Order of Canada

On December 29 last year, over 30 University of Toronto faculty members and alumni were named to or promoted within the Order of Canada. The order is the second highest honour a Canadian citizen can receive, behind the Order of Merit, and it is the highest that is limited to only Canadians.

U of T’s Vice-President and Provost Cheryl Regehr told The Varsity that she was impressed with the representation of U of T community members receiving the Order of Canada — they counted for approximately 26 per cent of the 125 people named to the order.

“One thing that is very clear is that we have absolutely astounding faculty, staff and alumni,” wrote Regehr. “This recognition highlights the incredible quality of people here at the University of Toronto, people who are associated with The University of Toronto, and the impact that our staff, faculty and graduates have on our community, on Canada and on the world.”

There are three levels to the Order of Canada: the lowest level is Member, which recognizes those who have greatly contributed to their local or regional community; the second level is Officer, which recognizes national achievements; and the highest honour is Companion, which recognizes international achievement or national pre-eminence.

Professor Molly Shoichet was named as an Officer of the Order of Canada for her contributions to the field of biomedical engineering, as well as her efforts to advocate for more women in science and to promote scientific literacy.

Another notable appointee was poet and author Lee Maracle, an instructor at U of T’s Centre for Indigenous Studies and an Elder at First Nations House. She was named an Officer of the Order of Canada “for her influential voice in cultural relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.” Maracle has written multiple novels and short story collections.

“Lee Maracle is a really valued member of our community. She has been engaged for many years here at the University of Toronto and she has a real leadership role with the university in assisting us and adhering that indigenous voices are heard, and helping us make the university a better place for indigenous students, staff and faculty and in linking us with our community,” wrote Regehr.

U of T alumnus Bernard Sherman, Chairman and CEO of Apotex Inc., was also named as a member of the Order of Canada for his contributions in the pharmaceutical industry and philanthropy work. Sherman provided support for children’s education and other notable charitable causes. Unfortunately, Sherman passed away on December 15 and was unable to receive this honour himself.