AMS looking to join the bargaining table

As QUFA and the University negotiate new faculty contracts, the AMS pushes to have a student perspective included

On June 19, the AMS released Collective Perspectives: A Policy Paper on Collective Bargaining between Queen’s University and the Queen’s University Faculty Association.

This 49-page proposal has been in the works since 2010, but was mostly compiled by 2014-2015 AMS President Allison Williams, ArtSci ’14, and 2014-2105 Academic Affairs Commissioner Colin Zarzour, ArtSci ’15.

The paper stresses the stakeholder status of students in the collective bargaining agreement between Queen’s administration and the Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA). The report identifies actions the University could take to include the student body in negotiations.

Neither the University nor QUFA plan to implement any of the suggestions in the paper.

Current negotiations consist of a QUFA committee — representing the approximately 1,200 Queen’s faculty members — bargaining with representatives from Queen’s administration to reach a written contract outlining terms of employment.

The AMS policy paper raises four core issues: the inclusion of student interests in bargaining, the teaching and learning experience, workload and compensation for professors and the pension plan covering Queen’s employees.

The paper also highlights potential problems, including a potential strike or lockout procedures and a teaching hours buy-out option.

University teachers currently have the option to take a salary cut in exchange for less hours of teaching and more research time.

The AMS argues that the option should be less readily accessible, and that more teachers should be hired on the basis of their teaching aspirations than their research goals.

The paper was released on the AMS website and Facebook page, but it was not sent directly to either the Queen’s administration or QUFA.

AMS President Kanivanan Chinniah said it’s important that the paper is released, and read, during current ongoing negotiations.

“The collective agreement has a profound and defining impact on the student learning experience,” Chinniah, ArtSci ’15, said. “It comes once every few years [and] is renegotiated. Student interests, and the future of the University, will be decided at this table.”

He added that he’s aware of conflicts between undergraduate student interests and the University’s long-term goals, including the advancement of research.

“The AMS realizes and appreciates that research is very important,” said Chinniah. “We need to make sure the teaching mission of the University is also prioritized when we pursue research excellence.”

Whether or not AMS gets a direct response, Chinniah said he hopes the University and QUFA take the interests of students seriously at the bargaining table.

“What we’re asking is a very practical and pragmatic mission, as it may affect interests of stakeholders in the collective bargaining process — which is students,” Chinniah said.

In the wake of the paper’s release, neither the University nor QUFA say they will implement its suggestions.

“The University is aware of the policy paper,” said Michael Fraser, vice-principal of university relations, told The Journal via email. “We recognize the work and thought that has been put into [it]”.

Fraser said the University won’t make a formal response, as they will be focusing on negotiating with QUFA — not the AMS. In response to the paper’s arguments concerning teaching buy-outs, Fraser said the student experience in the classroom is “important to us”.

“We encourage students to have a voice in matters such as collective bargaining,” Fraser said. Despite that, he said students won’t have representation at negotiations.

“The University and QUFA are parties to a Collective Agreement that is governed by the laws of the Province of Ontario, and more specifically, the Labour Relations Act (LRA),” Fraser said. Under the act, he said, there are only two parties to a collective agreement: the employer and trade union.

“As such, the University is not able to support the recommendation that would see a student representative join the parties at the bargaining table.”

Incoming QUFA President Lynne Hanson told The Journal that she would address the paper only after negotiations had come to a close.

“I look forward to the opportunity to discuss [the report] at length, once we have reached an agreement. However, we certainly take student concerns very seriously and our perspectives may well be similar to those of the student body on many issues.”

 

     Key dates for collective bargaining

  • Bargaining began on Jan. 20, 2015
  • The latest bargaining alert from QUFA was released on June 15, 2015
  • The AMS released the Collective Perspectives Policy Paper on June 19, 2015
  • The previous collective agreement expired on April 30, 2015
  • The past collective agreement was agreed upon in 2011 for a four-year term

For more information visit the QUFA website.

 

Note: Allison Williams, the past AMS President who was involved in compiling the report, is currently one of the Features Editors at The Queen’s Journal. She had no involvement in writing or editing this piece, or any input into its creation.

 

 

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