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Part time faculty come to a deal

by Milos Kovacevic October 14, 2014

CUPFA announces short-term contract agreement with university

Concordia University’s Part-time Faculty Association (CUPFA) has reached a tentative, one-year agreement with university officials in a deal that leaves both sides happy but signals much work in the future.

David Douglas, CUPFA’s president, explained how the current negotiations were the end result of prolonged discussions not simply within CUPFA itself but between all the faculty and staff organizations at the university.

“All the labour agreements of the last couple of years were settled at the time when [we began ours],” Douglas said.

As a consequence, CUPFA was the last to be wrapping things up, effectively making them out of step with the other organizations. Now, with another deadline looming in May 2015 for the next round of negotiations, CUPFA is preparing to go back to the table.

“At a certain point it became difficult for either our side or their side to contemplate life after May — it just became simpler to settle what we could, which is what we’ve done, and then re-open fully, essentially in the same cycle as everybody else,” said Douglas. “All of those contracts are coming up in May — this is the timeframe for us.”

Normative issues — or remuneration aside from pay, like benefits — featured heavily in the negotiations.

“We figured if we’re at the table we might as well be on the table,” he said of the worry about job security, pensions, and research commitments in an era of cuts.

Douglas said concerns coming from what his group considered an insufficient follow-through of last year’s collective agreement drove the need for a fuller agreement this time around and a better implementation of terms.

Speaking of the university’s latest initiative, the Voluntary Departure Program, Douglas said: “We were certainly aware of the budget austerity climate [and] we were given a specific information session about the Voluntary Departure Program, which doesn’t really affect us, [though] we didn’t really know it was coming.”

The program seeks to give a lump-sum payment to staff who voluntarily leave, and is expected to save the school millions of dollars annually.

“I think at some level, when you take away staff, there’s an inevitable impact or reflection on student life and faculty life,” said Douglas on the effects the program may have on his association. He said the last round of budget cuts lowered  membership by about 5 per cent, mostly from a contraction of teaching schedules.

“Because cuts came midyear, really the only sort of possibility was to cut the courses that part-time faculty were teaching,” explained Douglas.

When it comes to suggestions about how Concordia may save additional money, CUPFA suggested a restriction on limited-term appointments (LTA), a system by which faculty is recruited on a limited contractual basis — effectively, temporary tenure.

“There are some necessities to LTA [sic] appointments, but we feel that it’s been enlarged over the last few years to our detriment. I think we’re cheaper than LTA, so if you want to cut the budget, I think cutting temporary appointments that are more expensive than part-time faculty is not a bad place to start.”

He said that as soon as matters are clarified and the final text is rewritten to better reflect the new situation and ratifications, the public will have access to the full details of the deal. He expects this to be completed in several weeks.

“We’re certainly working as hard as we can to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s.”

“There are things we had to leave on the table [and] priorities we could not realize, but there are other things that we will be able to answer in the interest of our members.”

Limiting present priorities has allowed for future discussion over what is to be brought up and what issues will be re-opened come May, Douglas said. Such matters will be something to be brought up with CUPFA members soon.

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