The meeting was called to order by T. Chadwick, MUNFA President. SWGC participated by telecommunications.
(G04:001) MOVED (Church/Redlack) that the agenda be accepted.
My report covers the period from the last General Meeting of the Association in October 2003 to the present. While there is nothing to report as momentous as the signing of a new Collective Agreement, the last six months have seen a number of notable happenings.
The Collective Agreement that was ratified in July 2003 was finally signed at a simple ceremony on 24 February. The principal reason for the long delay was the administration's reluctance to negotiate the details of Article 30, the one governing the Cooperative Eductaion Cordinators. You may recall that the process of having this group of Academic Staff Members included in the Bargaining Unit had begun in 1995, had passed through Labour Relations Board hearings, and two Supreme Court challenges before a final ruling by the LRB led to an amendment of the Certification Order. The details of Article 30 were eventually determined with the help of an arbitrator, Mr. Martin Teplitsky, and the definitive wording of the Collective Agreement sent to the printers and copies distributed to our members. This has been an epic struggle, demanding the utmost in patience on the part of the CECs and determination on the part of successive Negotiating and Executive Committees, but we now have achieved the goal we set ourselves as an Association ten years ago and can be justifiably pleased with the result.
Our Collective Agreement is after fifteen years' experience a mature contract that is working well for the most part. There continue to be points of friction – errors in procedure, misguided decisions made by administrators, differences in the interpretation of contract language – but thanks to the work of a very diligent AF&G Committee, those difficulties are largely overcome.
Although the salary picture may appear rosy, other aspects of our situation at Memorial are less positive. The administration refuses to discuss what we consider to be an excessive use of contingent academic staff to maintain the university's programs. Some statistics: MUNFA has approximately 790 members – faculty, librarians, counsellors and cooperative education co-ordinators – of whom approximately 60 have teaching term appointments (4 and 8 month contracts), and a further 100 have term appointments (1-3 year contracts). MUN employed approximately 220 per-course instructors in both Fall and Winter semesters of the current academic year. The distribution of this last group was not evenly spread across Academic Units. The Faculties of Arts, Education and Business Administration received the bulk of these instructors. The MUNFA Executive will continue in its efforts to have this group brought into the Bargaining Unit.
With the coming into force of PIPEDA on 1 January 2004, a new dimension has been added to the relationship between ASMs and the administration. The Act offers more comprehensive protection of an individual's privacy than previously was the case, and prohibits organizations such as universities from making public certain kinds of information without the consent of the individual concerned. The MUNFA Executive has sought legal opinion and we have been assured that Memorial University must comply with the legislation. One of the consequences of compliance involves the Course Evaluation Questionnaires (CEQs); an ASM's consent is required, again according to the legal opinion we have received, before the CEQ may be administered. However, because PIPEDA is complaint-driven, the MUNFA Executive may not initiate an Association grievance; only an individual may do that, and we have issued an IB to that effect. The CEQ question is also being addressed through a grievance which is now at the arbitration stage, this time concerning the method of administering the questionnaires. The previous arbitration award made it quite clear that an ASM's responsibility was limited to providing 15 minutes of class time for the process. The practice has not been consistent across Academic Units, with some ASMs being expected or required to carry the questionnaires to the classroom and designate a student volunteer. I want to stress that the MUNFA Executive does not intend to prevent those who want to use CEQs from going ahead. We object to the compulsory aspect of CEQ administration and the potential misuse of the results.
The question of pensions is currently in limbo. The administration refused to discuss pension matters at the bargaining table, and the initiative taken by the Board of Regents petered out when the election was called. The proposal to move the MUN Pension Plan to a jointly trusteed plan, to increase contributions in order to cover the shortfall in current service costs, and to introduce a modest form of indexation will now, if the Board of Regents has the will to undertake it, have to be re-submitted to the Danny Williams' administration. In the meantime the MUNFA Executive has commissioned a report from the firm of Morneau Sobeco which analyses the feasibility of a separate jointly trusteed plan for MUNFA members. The report is a comprehensive one, and will require careful study by the membership. To this end a sub-committee of the MUNFA Executive will be preparing over the summer a series of information bulletins to be released in September. We anticipate that the process of securing a separate MUN-MUNFA plan will be long and arduous, but we are determined to carry it through.
The Occupational Health and Safety Committee of MUNFA has been reconstituted, and with it the Joint Health and Safety Committee. A number of issues involving air quality on the St. John's campus have been dealt with on an ad hoc basis by the Executive, but the need for a committee dedicated solely to such issues has long been felt. The Sir Wilfred Grenfell College has had a long-standing problem threatening the health and safety of ASMs and students, and repeated calls for remedial action have led nowhere. MUNFA has filed a grievance, but has not had a satisfactory response. The matter is now being sent to arbitration. CAUT has also recognized a similar need across the country and has appointed a staff member to take responsibility in this area. The first national conference on this topic has just taken place in Halifax, and we look forward to improvements in working conditions.
The question of intellectual property, which for a long time has been a very stable section in the Collective Agreement, has recently been raised on two fronts. A committee struck by the Dean of Graduate Studies has proposed a policy regarding intellectual property rights for graduate students. MUNFA is obviously not opposed to such a policy in principle, but the details of the proposed policy point to a lack of awareness of existing agreements regarding ASMs in the Collective Agreement and those governing grant holders from the national research councils. The second front has been quietly opened by the federal government, through the Department of Trade and Commerce, which is encouraging university administrations to claw back intellectual property rights from faculty members with a view to making the commercialization of such intellectual property a smoother process. The recent strike at Acadia University was in part motivated by that administration's desire to wring concessions on intellectual property from faculty members. A sub-committee of the MUNFA Executive is examining this matter and hopes to have a report ready in the near future.
Finally a word about our future. During the recent exercise to appoint members to the various MUNFA committees it soon became apparent that our committee members were ageing, and that it was difficult to persuade younger ASMs to take an interest in this kind of academic service. We are not alone. Similar problems are being faced by all levels of university governance. But we must do something to correct this situation. CAUT has promised its help, and we have already taken advantage of one of their regional training offers by organizing a workshop on grievance handling for our ASMs at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. The experience was, we have been assured, a very positive one. The Executive has started making arrangements for a workshop in the Fall, probably around mid-term break, to help prepare new members for the Proposals and Negotiating Committees. Our current contract will end (or at least the provisions for across-the-board salary increases) in August 2005. Our Proposals Committee will need to be in place by the end of the Fall semester 2004, and the Negotiating Committee by the end of the Winter semester 2005.
On a personal note, since this will be my last address to a MUNFA General Meeting, I want to thank the three staff members: Marian Atkinson, Jill Diamond-Strong and Kim O'Reilly, and the members of the current Executive for their support during my year of office. They have been wonderful colleagues, patient of my faults, and willing workers for the collective good. For any of you who have not tried the experience, I highly recommend it.
L. White (Engineering) expressed the thanks and appreciation to MUNFA, the MUNFA Executive and the MUNFA staff for their support in the negotiation and inclusion of the Cooperative Education Coordinators in the MUNFA bargaining unit.
(G04:002) MOVED (Redlack/Smeda):
THAT as of July 1, 2004 MUNFA members who are excluded from the bargaining unit because of their status as clinical faculty or as administrators, shall pay membership fees at the mill rate based on the median salary for their rank among all other members of the bargaining unit, minus CAUT Defence Fund dues.
THAT as of July 1, 2004 MUNFA members who are Laboratory Instructors shall pay a membership fee of $125.00 per year.
MOVED that as of July 1, 2004, MUNFA members who are excluded from the bargaining unit because of their status as part-time or sessional instructors, shall pay membership fees at the mill rate of 9.5 mills (0.95%), minus CAUT Defence Fund dues.
Angela Lonardo as a Trustee of the Fund reported on the activities of the Defence Fund since October 2003. The faculty associations at the University of Prince Edward Island and Mount Saint Vincent took strike votes and received support from their members but strikes were avoided at both universities.
There were also strike votes at Bishops and Acadia Universities where both went on strike. Acadia issues included retention and recruitment, salaries and teaching loads. Acadia faculty association had moved to certifiy sessional instructors and to merge them with the existing union. The Nova Scotia Labor Board ruled in favor of the merger in September 2003. When the union went to the negotiating table, the union had prepared language but the Acadia administration had not. The Acadia administration argued that the Labor Board had not ruled on a date for inclusion of the sessional instructors. The union went back to the Board who ruled in a very short time that the sessionals were to have been included effective September 2003.
The issues at the Bishops strike included salary, faculty complement and pension contribution holidays.
In closing, Ms. Lonardo noted that the current balance of the CAUT Defence Fund is approximately $13m.
(G04:003) MOVED (L. White/E. Hannah) that the general meeting minutes be accepted.
Dr. J. Duffy (MUNFA representative to the SWGC Board) enquired on liaison between the St. John's and SWGC Boards. Dr. Chadwick replied that the Executive will consider this item at their next regular meeting.
(G04:004) MOVED (W.E. Schrank/E. Hannah) that the meeting adjourn.