The meeting was called to order by the Chair, Noel Roy, President of MUNFA. Anna Leslie (SWGC Executive representative) coordinated participation from SWGC via the teleconference hook-up.
Two Information Bulletins were distributed prior to the meeting (IB 1998/99:07 and IB 1998/99:08), providing background paper, committee reports, and notes of motion for the meeting regarding the Academic Freedom & Grievance Triennial Review Committee.
1. Approval of Agenda
(G98:016) MOVED (Bear/Dennis) that the agenda be approved.
A question was asked from a member if it was intended to consider pensions business under business arising. The President replied that he would be reporting on the Executive's thinking on the matter in the President's report. The Executive had no motions to bring forth on the subject at this time.
A vote was taken on G98:016. MOTION CARRIED
2. Approval of Minutes of General Meeting of April 8, 1998
(G98:017) MOVED (Bear/Dennis) that the minutes of the General Meeting of April 8, 1998.
3. Matters Arising from Minutes of General Meeting of April 8, 1998
There were no specific matters arising from the minutes for discussion. Matters arising from the Presidents report of April 1998 and Pensions business will arise under the current President's report.
4. President's Report
Dr. Roy, MUNFA President, indicated that he was reporting on behalf of the Executive. In opening, Dr. Roy expressed thanks to departing Executive members, Gary Jeffery (Faculty of Education) and Malcolm MacLeod (History) for their service. Dr. Roy welcomed new Executive members Reza Tabrizchi (Medicine) and Margaret Burton (Biology). Thanks to other departing committee members was also expressed particularly members of the Academic Freedom & Grievance Committee: Jim Overton (Sociology), Paul Rice (Music) and Jean Finney-Crawley (Biology).
a) Discussion with new Chairman of Board of Regents and new V.P. (Academic): Following the negotiations in the last round of collective agreement bargaining, communications between MUNFA and the administration have been difficult. There have been recent indications that this appears to be changing.
The previous General Meeting minutes refer to a meeting of December 2, 1997 with the Hon. Edward Roberts, Chair of the Board of Regents. Those minutes indicated Mr. Roberts' interest in a further meeting to consider the amount of resources and time that go into arbitration. Mr. Roberts requested from MUNFA a review of the grievances which had been referred to arbitration over the past three years. This review was produced and sent to Mr. Roberts, and is available to MUNFA members on request. The review drew attention to the large number of grievances settled either during or shortly before arbitration - generally on terms similar to those proposed by MUNFA during the step meetings. Tremendous expenses in direct and indirect arbitration costs are incurred by both parties. It appears to MUNFA that the Administration is using the grievance process as a means of delaying redress, rather than solving problems. At a follow-up meeting on September 1, Mr. Roberts acknowledged, and appeared to understand, MUNFA's concerns. Unfortunately, there is not yet firm evidence of any change in Administration behaviour here. Resolution attempts at grievance meetings continue to be exercises in futility.
Representatives of MUNFA also met with the new V.P. (Academic) Evan Simpson. That meeting was introductory and general in nature. Dr. Simpson appreciated that relations of MUN and MUNFA had not been good and appeared willing to improve them. Dr. Simpson expressed his interest in maintaining open lines of communications with MUNFA. MUNFA indicated that it too would be willing to encourage open communications.
MUNFA representatives met with the Presidential Search Committee. A review of MUN's strengths and challenges were discussed. MUNFA was asked what qualities they saw for the President: items highlighted for a President included the following: he/she be an academic, having performed a significant part of his/her career in classroom/research; and he/she should be committed to re-establishing good employee relations. There has been a breakdown in trust which will be difficult to restore, and the new President must be committed to restoring this trust.
In summary, the Executive sees some encouraging signs of what may be interpreted as a more open approach to University governance, and hopes that this continues. Should it continue, the Administration will receive every cooperation from MUNFA.
Mark Graesser (Political Science) asked if there had been any meetings with Mr. Roberts on the functioning of the Board of Regents Pensions and Benefits Committees, as the minutes of the previous General Meeting indicated that there would be. Dr. Roy replied that the reports of the MUNFA Pensions and Benefits Committees would best address Professor Graesser's question but that it is the MUNFA Executive's impression that these committees are working better now, and so such a meeting is no longer needed.
b) Grievances and arbitrations: Roy indicated he would report on three recent arbitrations and then on association grievances. Individual grievances are the subject of the report of the AF&G Committee.
There has been an arbitration on an Association grievance regarding the establishment of the Supplemental Retirement Income Plan (SRIP) for high income employees without providing the requisite information to the Board of Regents Pensions Committee. This was held in April and July 1998. We await a report of the Arbitration Board.
A second arbitration dealt with the inappropriate handling of a student complaint. The complaint resulted in the administration attempting to suspend the Faculty Member without pay. While the arbitrator criticized the administration for some aspects of its handling of the complaint, he ruled that the university did not violate the Collective Agreement in doing so. As a result, the grievance was denied. However, shortly thereafter, the Administration approached MUNFA to settle the actual suspension. As a result, the suspension was withdrawn by the Administration, and the matter, after 22 months, received closure. The ruling of the arbitrator is discussed further in the AF&G report.
A third arbitration, not reported in the previous minutes, involves denial of tenure to a Faculty Member with a chronic illness which has required him to spend extended periods on LTD. The Faculty Member is a strong (indeed world-class) researcher and a good teacher - this is not in dispute. MUNFA takes the position that MUN has duty to accommodate the disability which it has made no attempt to satisfy. An attempt by the Arbitration Board to mediate the dispute has failed, and the arbitration reconvened last week. Seven days have been spent on this arbitration, and has yet to be concluded.
Dr. Roy then reported on two association grievances which might be of general interest to MUNFA members. The administration attempted to raise parking fees in three lots, contrary to the Collective Agreement which states that there shall be no increase in parking fees. As a result of the grievance, the administration agreed to return parking fees to previous levels. This grievance is resolved.
The second association grievance pertains to the disbursement of travel funds. Several years ago, it was discovered that the administration was not spending all of the money that the Collective Agreement requires to be allocated to subsidize the academic travel of ASMs. An Association grievance resulted in an agreement to provide MUNFA with information to monitor expenditures from the travel fund. Information received as a result of this grievance revealed that in the last fiscal year, certain units in the University have underspent their allotments from the travel fund by a total of approximately $80,000, while at the same time denying to ASM's recovery of all of their legitimate travel expenses. MUNFA has filed an Association grievance as a result, and are currently negotiating a resolution of this grievance.
c) Pension matters: G98:008 authorizes the MUNFA Executive to prepare plans for changing the MUN pension plan. The Executive expects to have a special General Meeting on this topic before the next General Meeting in April 1999. An information package will be distributed to the membership prior to a special General Meeting.
Currently the MUN pension plan is subject to government legislation. It cannot be changed without government approval. It has been difficult to obtain from government the changes in plan design which MUN employee groups have been requesting, and which the surplus in the plan would permit to be funded; for example, some indexing of benefits for inflation. Government has been rejecting these changes, not on their own merits, but because of the precedent it would set for their own pension plans. Basically, under the present structure, the MUN pension plan is a prisoner of the government's political agenda. A pension plan removed from government control could be better structured to meet the needs of its members. There is not serious concern about the financial management of the plan.
As authorized by the previous General Meeting, the Executive has been looking at both plan design and plan governance. Following consultations with experts on pension plan design, MUNFA have therefore considered governance issues other than those referred to in this motion.
The Executive specifically identified five feasible governance options. Each of these governance options has advantages and disadvantages:
1) the status quo has disadvantages already outlined;
2) a MUN plan with MUN continuing to appoint the trustees as at present, but outside the MUN Pensions Act to enable trustees to modify the plan without government approval;
3) a joint MUN/MUNFA plan consisting of a Board of Trustees appointed by the two parties on a 50/50 basis;
4) a MUNFA plan with MUNFA appointing all the trustees;
5) a plan directed by several employee groups, unionized or non-unionized, with or without University participation.
MUNFA is considering a joint MUN-MUNFA Plan, assuming one can be negotiated with the Administration. Such an arrangement would enable institutional support, as at present, while at the same time giving those who are providing the contributions some genuine influence on the structure of benefits (which they do not have now).
The Executive expect to bring to the membership at a special General Meeting some specific options for consideration.
Dr. John Lewis (Physics & Physical Oceanography), President of the MUN Pensioners Association, felt that the report was a fair assessment of the current situation. At the MUNPA meeting on 22 September, a resolution was passed that in the event of significant change to the pension plan that every pensioner be consulted individually. The pensioners felt that they should have input into any pension plan of which current pensioners are members.
Dr. Roy in speaking to the situation of current pensioners, noted that it was MUNFA's legal advice that a move from the MUN Pension Plan to a new plan could be undertaken with or without current retirees.
Professor M. Graesser (Political Science) indicated that there is considerable apprehension over how this will work. Before members are given information, the Executive will be negotiating with administration. Maybe the Executive could provide the membership with a scenario.
Dr Roy noted that negotiations are coming up. It is difficult to express to what extent MUNFA will want to bring a new pension plan into negotiations This is an issue that the Executive are considering. The Executive will not proceed on a specific direction until we get clear direction from membership at a general meeting.
Dr. R. Sweeney (History) noted that it is appropriate for the Executive to consider opinions of both current and retired members. Dr. Roy replied that the Executive is concerned about both retirees and current members.
d) Covert surveillance: Dr. Roy reported that covert surveillance continues to be a concern. The issue arose when it was brought to MUNFA"s attention that hidden surveillance cameras had been used at the Marine Institute. When MUNFA asked the administration for information regarding the use of surveillance cameras, MUNFA was told that there have been about 24 incidents in the past five years in which hidden cameras ha been used. MUNFA has recently been apprised of plans to introduce card access systems to various buildings on campus. Access to these buildings would be logged. therefore a computer record of access. Apparently $160,000 is budgeted for this matter.
e) Other Matters: Dr. Roy noted that an information bulletin has been distributed to the membership from the MUNFA Proposals Committee inviting input for proposals for a new Collective Agreement to be negotiated next year. If there are concerns, comments should be forwarded to the MUNFA office or individual members of the Proposals Committee.
GSU/CSU: MUNFA representatives have met with both the GSU and CSU on common issues of concern. There have been discussions regarding an ombudsperson proposal and the university's draft proposal on student complaints. Neither party is happy with the administration's student complaint policy. MUNFA also discussed with the CSU the proposal of the University President regarding student representation at the bargaining table. MUNFA has been assured that the CSU has no interest in participating in negotiations. The CSU appear to realize that their involvement in negotiations would inappropriately politicize the students. However, they are concerned with being well informed during negotiations, and this is a concern that MUNFA will address.
Copyright/Distance Education: The previous General Meeting minutes refer to an attempt by the administration to standardise distance education to modify the standard distance education contract so as to abrogate the copyright of ASM's on their distance education creations. This attempt led to an Association grievance. The Administration has issued a new distance education contract in response to this grievance, which we are negotiating with the Administration. The new contract continues to raise some concerns In the meantime, those who are concerned about copyright should understand that they retain copyright to all their creations unless they specifically sign that copyright away.
Sexual Harassment/Employment Equity matters: As per an agreement with the Administration on the merging of the Sexual Harassment Officer and the Employment Equity Officer into a combined Equity Coordinator position, the merger has been subjected to an evaluation by an independent consultant. Concerns about the merger were expressed by stakeholder groups as part of the consultant's consultation. We should receive a report from the consultant soon.
The university is drafting an employment equity policy to comply with the Federal Contractors Program.
With reference to the university's initiative to close the campus during Christmas, the university did close for 10 days in 1997. MUNFA filed an association grievance as a result, and is currently negotiating a settlement.
5. Treasurer's Report
The financial statements for 1997-98 were distributed. The Treasurer was present to answer any questions from the membership. No questions were raised.
6. Report from CAUT Defence Fund
W. E. Schrank and A. Lonardo attended the annual CAUT Defence Fund meeting. The Defence Fund now totals $9.7m Current membership of the CAUT Defence Fund is 12,000 faculty and librarians. The Defence Fund has supported 12 strikes. The Defence Fund has made total loans of $2.5m of which all has been repaid. There are two strikes looming: Brandon University and Manitoba University. Both faculty associations have strike votes within the next week or so.
At the recent annual meeting of the Defence Fund, 28 universities reported on current situations. Algoma University in Ontario has just been forced through financial exigency to negotiate a 9.6 percent salary cut. This is to be followed by a 5 percent salary cut. Faculty associations across the country are concerned with the issue of copyrights on distance education courses.
7. Terms of Reference of AF&G Committee
The Chair reported that every three years there is a review of the operations of the AF&G Committee. The most recent report (reference IB 1998/99:08) was circulated to the membership. Two of the authors are present and available to answer questions if there are any.
Recommendation 1:The present review committee emphatically supports such a step, e.g. the purchase of three teaching remissions.
The MUNFA Executive felt that this is permitted under the current Terms of Reference. The Executive proposes that every February when an AF&G Chair is confirmed by the Executive on a recommendation of the AF&G, that if there are any AF&G recommendations on remissions, the Executive will consider such recommendations.
Recommendation 2: Modify the Preamble of the terms of reference (October 1996) to emphasize the volunteer nature of AF&G committee work. In addition, we suggest that the final sentence of paragraph 2 of the Preamble be revised to read: "All members should expect the association to maintain constant vigilance with respect to such matters, and to report to its members at regular intervals."
The Executive accepts the second part of recommendation and MOTION #1 in IB 1998/99:09 reflects this. The Executive did not recommend that the first part of Recommendation 2 be adopted as all MUNFA committees are volunteer.
(G98:018) MOVED (A. Redlack/P. Gardner) that the Terms of Reference of the AF&G Committee be revised to change the words "the Association" at the end of the second sentence of the second paragraph of Section A to "its members". MOTION CARRIED
Recommendation 3: Create an additional Clause in Section E of the Terms of Reference in order to allow for the rotation of case officers in difficult grievances.
The MUNFA Executive accepted this recommendation and asked the AF&G Committee for language as follows:
(G98:019) MOVED (B. Schrank/C. Dennis) that the following addition be made to Part E of the
AF&G's Terms of Reference:
'x. While the AF&G Committee will make its best efforts to offer continuity, it cannot guarantee that the same case officers will serve throughout the process of a grievance.' and that items x-xii of the AF&G Terms of Reference be renumbered as xi-xiii. MOTION CARRIED
Recommendation 4: That an in-house policy be created concerning the amount of secretarial assistance that can reasonably be made available to grieving members by MUNFA office staff.
The MUNFA Executive consulted with office staff and do not perceive this as a problem. The Executive will make appropriate decisions on a case-by-case basis. Therefore the Executive is not bringing forth a motion to implement this recommendation.
Recommendation 5: The Review Committee considered the merits of creating a full-time position of a grievance officer or, alternatively, providing office staff with training opportunities in grievance management. The Review Committee felt that the present Grievance Committee has proven extremely competent and at this point find neither of these suggestions necessary or feasible since hiring a grievance officer would be costly and training would detract from time spent dealing with grievances. However, the Review Committee felt that future Grievance Committee members might not have the level of skill and experience that the present members have and consequently recommend that: These options be reviewed periodically.
This recommendation regards the fundamental nature of grievance resolution work. This work can be done by volunteer members as at present, or by a grievance officer specifically hired to do such work, or the current staff can be trained to do the work. Relying on volunteers has served the association well. The Triennial Review recommended that these options be reviewed periodically. The Executive felt that the Triennial Review was the appropriate occasion on which these options should be reviewed.
Recommendation 6: The AF&G Committee and the MUNFA Executive jointly investigate how best to implement Section C of the Terms of Reference. We further suggest that the possibility of creating a separate committee be explored.
It is the feeling of the MUNFA Executive and the AF&G that the best way to defend academic freedom is through the work of theAF&G Committee. The MUNFA Collective Agreement has a strong academic freedom article. Therefore, the Executive and AF&G do not see the need for separation of roles.
Recommendation 7: That a committee be struck to examine issues of information with the goal of determining how demands on the AF&G's time can be reduced by creating greater awareness of the kinds of procedure involved. Possibilities might include: (1) Creating a pre-grievance checklist; (2) Releasing an IB every semester; (3) Putting the preliminary grievance form on the web site, and perhaps also a list of typical examples of things that are and are not grievable.
The Executive has requested that the AF&G Committee consider what kind of initiatives can be made to create greater awareness of AF&G procedures on the part of the membership..
8. Collective Agreement Administration
a) Report of AF&G Committee: A comprehensive report was presented to the membership. The Chair thanked the Triennial Review Committee for their work. The Triennial Review members were astonished by the huge amount of work undertaken by AF&G.
b) Joint Association/University Relations Committee: The Chair reported that this committee meets monthly to discuss issues of mutual concern. Some issues addressed by this committee were MUN's compliance with the Federal Contractors Program and the review of the positions of the Sexual Harassment Officer and the Equity Officer. MUNFA at each monthly meetings enquires if there are any new early retirements, and is regularly told that there are no new early retirements.
c) Joint Employment Equity Committee: There was no report from this committee.
d) Report of Joint Sexual Harassment Board The report of the MUNFA members to this committee was distributed to the membership. No questions were asked.
9. MUNFA Committee Reports
a) Report from Economic Benefits Committee: The report of this committee was distributed to the membership.
b) MUNFA Pensions Committee: The Chair noted that the Pensions Committee Chair, Dr. R. Clark, was on leave last year; Dr. F. Smith served as Acting Chair but was not present at the General Meeting.
c) Scholarship Committee: The report of this committee was distributed to the membership. Included with the report was a copy of the form to be completed by those MUNFA members who wish to make monetary contributions to the MUNFA Scholarship Trust Fund.
d) Employee Assistance Plan (EAP Advisory Committee): The report of this committee was distributed to the membership.
10. Other Business
There was no other business for consideration.
(G98:019) MOVED (C. Dennis/A. Lonardo) that the meeting adjourn. MOTION CARRIED
Approved by Membership April 12, 1999.