We hope you had a restful break and wish you the best for the coming semester and new year.
The arrival of 2020 means that our Collective Agreement negotiations will be picking up momentum. In December, we received our employer’s Central and Sectoral Table offers. In the coming weeks and months, we will be providing you with regular updates on the state of the negotiations as they progressto keep you informed. Your engagement with the process will play a key role in ensuring a satisfactory outcome. In this update, we will provide you with a summary of our employer’s offer, at both the Central and Sectoral tables.
Central Table Issues
Government’s salary offer falls (way) short of our demands, does not even cover inflation
On December 12th, the Treasury Board gave the CSN its bargaining offer for collective agreement negotiations. CSN’s analysis is that this offer does not address the systemic problems that workers in the public sector have been left with after years of austerity in the public sector. While the Central Table deals with salary and pension and parental benefits, the only topic for which the government currently provides a detailed offer is salary increases. They are offering the following for a five-year collective agreement:
It is important to note that this current offer does not even allow salaries to keep up with the government’s own projected inflation rates for the next five years: inflation is projected to be 10.2% while this offer raises our salaries by 7%. An offer that decreases workers’ purchasing power is totally unacceptable at any time but is especially indefensible in the current socioeconomic context of budget surplus and a labour shortage.
Offer is vague on pensions and parental benefits
The rest of the offer does not provide detailed proposals for parental benefits or our pension plan. The government says it would like to review how the benefit is calculated based on salary, without providing further details. The CSN believes that this declaration implies the government wants to increase the range of years upon which a person’s pension benefits are calculated. This is, however, an inference and we are waiting for negotiations to begin to receive a more detailed proposal. The government offer also indicates that they would like to review the articles in our collective agreement that relate to parental benefits, without saying exactly what they would like to change.
CSN rejects government’s proposal of “discussion forums”, as a distraction to proper negotiations
A significant portion of the government’s offer describes the mandates of three new “discussion forums” on the issues of employee health and wellness, academic success (to which the CSN has not been invited), and the accessibility of long-term care at home. Each forum has been given the mandate of studying its particular issue and proposing solutions. While the forums are in session, collective agreement negotiations would be suspended, thus creating a parallel and somewhat opaque process during our negotiation period. The CSN has opted to boycott these forums not only because they effectively circumvent, disempower and delay our legislated negotiation process, but also because we already have proposed solutions to the problems that the forums are supposed to tackle: they are in our bargaining demands, which we gave the government on Oct. 30th. The CSN argues that the only appropriate place to negotiate solutions to the structural problems in our public services is at the negotiation table.
Negotiations will commence at the end of this month, and this is when the government will respond in more detail to the demands we have put on the table.
Sectoral Table Issues
College’s/CPNC’s offer recalls past ambitions
On December 16th the Comité patronal de négociation des collèges (CPNC) provided FNEEQ-CSN with its sectoral offer, dealing with issues specific to our working conditions as CEGEP teachers. CPNC consists of a consortium of representatives from the Education Ministry, the Treasury Board, and the Fédération des Cégeps, of which the John Abbott administration is a member. While less alarming than the initial offer presented in 2015, this version recycles many of the troubling employer’s demands from the last round of negotiations. The CPNC is seeking to curtail the role and power of the departments, teachers’ professional autonomy, and the role and power of the union, particularly in Continuing Education. Meanwhile CPNC offer does not even acknowledge many of our priorities listed in our demands. FNEEQ’s analysis of this offer is that it is indeed a “managerial vision” of our jobs.
Silence on students with disabilities and special needs
Before delving into what we see in the CPNC’s offer, let us begin by mentioning what is absent from it. CEGEP teachers for years have been raising the alarm about our workloads, in particular how increasing numbers of students with special needs in our classrooms need to be reflected in how our workloads are calculated. While the CPNC’s offer mentions the changing nature and composition of the student body in its preamble, making specific reference to students with special needs, they do not bring up the issue at all in the rest of the offer. The issue of teacher workloads is not addressed in the government’s offer.
Once again the CPNC is seeking to erode the autonomy and power of departments
The role of the department is clearly being targeted in the CPNC offer, which argues for a transfer of resources and power away from departmental assemblies and towards program committees. Under our current Collective Agreement, teachers have full control of departmental decisions and decision processes, while in program committees, they share the power with administrators and non-teaching staff. As the offer proposes to strengthen the role of the program committee and give them more coordination resources, it does not indicate any intention to inject additional resources into the pot. This implies that resources currently allocated to departments would be reallocated to program committees.
Less union protection for Continuing Education teachers
Continuing Education merits particular attention in the government’s offer. While FNEEQ has been denouncing the working conditions of Cont.-Ed teachers and bringing grievances about Cont.-Ed to arbitration, the government wishes to have even more “agility” and “flexibility” in order to ensure the “optimal usage” of resources in Cont.-Ed, while not having to consult the union on how to use these resources. Indeed, in several areas in which they currently are obliged to negotiate with us, the CPNC would like to see the role of the union diminished significantly. The government would also like to see professional development become mandatory, while giving the College administration veto power over the decisions of the Faculty Professional Development Committee.
Greater obstacles to job security
The CPNC wants to make the obtention of tenure dependent upon a positive evaluation of the teacher. In addition to the fact that countless studies have pointed out the problematic nature of student evaluations, we are also in a context where 40% of CEGEP teachers are precarious (i.e. non-permanent) and often remain so for years, even while teaching full-time. To add another obstacle to the obtention of permanence would be to add to the precarity of the teacher
Potential threats to quality of education through distance learning and unregulated CEC’s
Lastly, we would like to point out an issue in the government’s offer that has come to JACFA’s attention of late: the establishment of Centres d’études collégiales (CECs). While many CECs have addressed a demonstrated need for accessibility to post-secondary education in rural areas, CECs have also become an increasing concern for FNEEQ, as they relate to teachers’ working conditions, their ability to provide quality education for students, and their impact on the coherence of the CEGEP network. In their sectoral offer, the CPNC cites the need for more flexibility and less union consultation when it comes to establishing distance-learning initiatives and CECs, while in our bargaining project (English & French) we have cited the need to delineate and negotiate the circumstances under which CECs and distance-learning initiatives should be undertaken. For more on CECs (and on the joint project being undertaken by JAC, Collège de Valleyfield, and Cégep Gérald-Godin), see this article from the December 2019 edition of the Advocate.
There is much to be concerned about with the CPNC’s offer, as much of their vision is in direct contradiction to what we CEGEP teachers would like to see improved in our collective agreement: provisions to combat precarity, recognizing the realities of our workload, tightening the reins on Continuing Education and improving Cont.-Ed teachers’ working conditions, and a coherent development of the CEGEP network.
Work on continues in the substantiation of our sectoral demands:
General Assembly on February 5, 5:30 p.m.
At the upcoming JACFA General Assembly on February 5th, JACFA will be discussing and voting on the second wave of sectoral bargaining demands. This wave includes the themes of Remuneration, Continuing Education and Precarity. Please see this document (English & French) for the list of proposed demands and come to the General Assembly to discuss them and propose changes that you might like to see. We would like to particularly extend the invitation to non-permanent teachers and Continuing Education teachers, as this wave of demands deals specifically with issues that relate to precarity and Cont.-Ed, and call upon the solidarity of permanent teachers to rally to these issues. As negotiations get underway, a high degree of mobilization on sectoral demands will be crucial if we want our concerns to become priorities at the negotiation table. We hope you can make it!
The JACFA Executive