New collective agreement enacted retroactively, to expire on Dec. 31, 2017
After two and a half years of negotiations, the Concordia University Part-Time Faculty Association (CUPFA) and the university’s administration signed a new collective agreement on Nov. 10. However, it will only be in effect until Dec. 31, 2017, because it retroactively fills the void since the last collective agreement expired on May 1, 2015.
According to Patrice Blais, CUPFA’s vice-president of grievances and collective agreement, the new agreement addresses many issues the association brought to the negotiating table, such as the pension plan and online courses for part-time faculty members. Concordia spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr said the university wishes to represent a united front with the union with regards to the collective agreement.
Although negotiations began in May 2015, they were slowed down by a number of factors, including administrative changes in both parties, a replacement of the university’s vice-provost—the chief negotiator for faculty relations—and a CUPFA election, Blais explained. The process was also slowed because the two parties re-wrote most of the collective agreement rather than simply making a few amendments.
Among the association’s goals for the new agreement was a decrease in the number of credits required for part-time faculty to be given access to benefits, including a pension plan, sick leave and a comprehensive health plan. The previous agreement set the minimum at 50 credits of seniority, but that requirement will be lowered to 45 credits in the new agreement.
The previous collective agreement also did not have any guidelines as to how part-time faculty members could implement extra duties, which are tasks such as academic advising, course coordination and supervising graduate students. These tasks offer more work opportunities, according to Blais, which is important to CUPFA. However, Blais told The Concordian that extra duties were previously done by full-time faculty because of the lack of criteria for part-time faculty. The new collective agreement has clear-cut parameters for the implementation of extra duties by part-time faculty, including a remuneration model for such tasks.
Another significant change to the collective agreement is the modernization of paternity leave, as the previous agreement did not include paternity benefits. “Fathers will be able to get complementary benefits the same way that mothers do,” Blais said about the new agreement. This amendment allows fathers who are part-time faculty members to receive an income from the school during their five-week paternity leave, Blais explained. This amounts to 93 per cent of their regular salary, which is in line with last year’s adjustment to the Quebec parental insurance plan.
While Blais stated that improvements were made in the new agreement, CUPFA focused on pressing issues. “I am happy we’re going into a second round of negotiations [for the next collective agreement] because there are issues that still need to be addressed,” he said.
One of the issues CUPFA will be keeping an eye on are course cuts within the university. According to Blais, approximately 150 courses were eliminated because of government budget cuts and a decrease in enrollment three years ago after admission letters were sent out late.
In the 2016-17 academic year, approximately 80 courses were added to the list of those offered to part-time faculty. “We expect that with an increase in enrollment […] and voluntary retirement, it will lead to more work opportunities,” Blais said.
“It’s the end of a long process of negotiation and hard work, but the party doesn’t last very long,” he added. During the negotiations for the next collective agreement CUPFA will table an application process for online courses with part-time faculty, as these courses are structured differently than in class course.
Parallel to the negotiations about the collective agreement, CUPFA had discussions with Concordia about representation within the university. The association is demanding the creation of a part-time benefits committee, specifically for health benefits, and a non-voting seat with privileges in the university senate. These two demands have passed all the internal steps of approval and will be addressed at the board of governors meeting on Dec. 5.
Graphic by Alex Hawksworth