LOU Update, Student Grants, SSUO Negotiations

Dear members,
As you know, to date, we have negotiated and signed five letters of understanding (LOUs) with the Central Administration that serve to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our working conditions.
This being said, our work is not done. The parties are still negotiating two very important LOUs. The first focuses on the performance assessment of members, and the second seeks to establish a collective operational framework regarding course development and delivery during both the Spring/Summer and Fall 2020 terms.  
COVID-19 Performance Assessment of Members
The objective of this proposed LOU is to ensure that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on members’ work shall not, in and of itself, be used to a member’s detriment by the Central Administration in performance evaluation, and career recommendation and decision processes under the Collective Agreement.
COVID-19 Course Development and Delivery
The objective of this proposed LOU is to provide an operational framework for teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing from the results of the APUO’s survey on Fall 2020 teaching, it focuses on ensuring that the resources identified by members as necessary for preparing and delivering high-quality distance courses are in place. This LOU was written with the following key elements in mind: 

  • The Central Administration, the APUO, and indeed the entire university community share the goal of ensuring the best possible learning experience for our students during the current academic year.
  • Distance teaching and learning introduce inequities as well as barriers to both accessibility and accommodations for educators and students alike. Moreover, distance teaching and learning research consistently identifies low student retention rates as a key concern.
  • Optimizing student retention amid the COVID-19 pandemic requires that members have the necessary resources and supports in place to design and deliver courses that provide quality education for all students.
  • Our students’ learning conditions share a symbiotic relationship with our working conditions.
  • Academic freedom, including academic freedom in teaching, as referred to in Article 9 of the Collective Agreement is a core value shared by the APUO and the Central Administration and will not be affected by this Letter of Understanding.
  • The continuing health and well-being of APUO members, students, and all university employees must be at the core of our decisions regarding the current academic year.

Our proposals set out the resources needed to support members in preparing and delivering courses during the exceptional circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with technical and pedagogical support assistance for the preparation and delivery of remote teaching, members would receive, among other resources, additional workload credits, class size reductions, and one-time increases to both the Professional Expenses Reimbursement (PER), and the Health Care Spending Account (HCSA) funds.
The APUO believes that in this exceptional time of crisis, the Central Administration needs to make significant investments in supporting our institution’s educational mandate and the overall health and well-being of all University employees. This includes extending benefits provided to APUO members to University employees who are members of different bargaining units. In other words, now is not the time for half-measures. The APUO and the Central Administration must do all that we can to ensure our University continues to provide the best possible learning experiences for all our students, and maintains its excellent reputation. 
We view the content of these proposed LOUs as serving the short and long-term interests of our institution and are confident that the Central Administration will work in partnership with the APUO in realizing these goals. We are counting on your continued support, and will keep you informed of any developments pertaining to the negotiations of these two LOUs. 

Covid-19 Student Emergency Aid Fund
The APUO is concerned about student retention, accessibility, and accommodations as we move to distance teaching for the Fall semester. Students have few job prospects amid the pandemic, and as announced by Jacques Frémont last week, the University will not offer any tuition fee reductions. 
This is why the APUO is currently engaging in discussions with our University to develop a campaign that will increase the amount of emergency funding available to students next fall. In this context, the APUO has committed $50 000 in additional student grant money to support students in financial need.[1] Details regarding the campaign will follow in the coming weeks. 
Support Staff of the University of Ottawa: the Central Administration Imposes a Final Offer Vote
On Tuesday, May 26, APUO members have received a communication regarding the Central Administration’s move to impose a final offer vote to members of the Support Staff of the University of Ottawa (SSUO) engaged in collective bargaining since March 2019. The APUO is deeply troubled by the Central Administration’s decision to file such a request with the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development as it breaks down any negotiations between the two parties and severely undermines the SSUO. 
The APUO has been in touch with the SSUO regarding their collective bargaining process over the last several months. Among the remaining matters in dispute are salary increases capped at 1% (under the rate of inflation), the Central Administration’s attempt to roll back the health benefits of SSUO members from 100% to 80%, and a lack of commitment on the Central Administration’s part to fill vacant SSUO positions.  
The Central Administration is taking advantage of the exceptional circumstances associated with the COVID-19 pandemic to strong-arm SSUO members into accepting an unfair deal. According to our research, the University of Ottawa is only the third university in the province of Ontario to file a request for a final offer vote in the last twenty years.[2] We are appalled by how the Central Administration has been engaging in negotiations with the SSUO, and we support the SSUO executive recommendation to their members to reject the Central Administration’s final offer. The APUO President has expressed the APUO’s concerns to President Frémont in a letter that you can read here.
The vote, which will be conducted by the Minister of Labour, Training and Skill Development, should take place within ten business days from May 25. An analysis of the issues at stake for both SSUO and APUO members will follow in the coming days.

[1] In 1972, the APUO established its Student Awards Program. This $50,000 is in addition to the $112,000 remitted to students on an annual basis.
[2] The other cases are: McMaster University – 2010, York University – 2000, 2015 and 2018. The only other cases in the postsecondary education sector were for Ontario Colleges in 2009/2010 and 2017.

Letters of understanding – COVID-19

Dear members,
As a follow up to the email sent on Friday evening regarding the letters of understanding (LOU) in effect for the exceptional period related to the COVID-19 pandemic, here are the five letters of understanding signed so far:

Yours sincerely,

Update on letters of understanding – COVID-19

Dear members,
The APUO is pleased to announce that we have finally signed four new letters of understanding (LOUs) with the Central Administration to respond to some of the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Your mobilisation in demanding that the Central Administration join us in negotiations during various faculty forums and through emails has been crucial in successfully signing these LOUs. We are very grateful for your continued trust and support. 
Here are the four LOUs that we have signed today.
Academic and Professional Leave:
We strongly recommend that all members on or about to begin an academic or professional leave immediately read the LOU in full here. Do not hesitate to contact us for any advice you may need.
Labour Relations Processes:
For the duration of the exceptional circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the APUO and the Central Administration have agreed to extend the mandatory time limits to file letters of disagreement to 20 working days, and to 30 working days for notices of grievances, regardless of explicit time limits mentioned in letters from a Dean or the Employer to a member. This LOU includes terms for mediations, arbitrations and human rights complaints. You can view the LOU in full here.
Promotion and Tenure, and continuing Appointment Processes:
A procedure to continue reviewing applications for promotion and tenure and continuing appointments in accordance with the Collective Agreement has been agreed upon by the APUO and the Central Administration for the duration of the exceptional circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 Pandemic. For this period, Direct Peer Review of Teaching has been suspended. As per the LOU:

  • “Regular non-tenured Faculty Members with a contract will be granted a one-time extension of a period of 1 year to such Faculty Member’s contract.” Notwithstanding Article of the Collective Agreement, “such Member must apply for tenure no later than the seventh year of continuous employment at a rank of Assistant Professor or higher at the University of Ottawa.”
  • “If requested by a Librarian member on a preliminary appointment, as referred to in Article of the Collective Agreement, the length of their preliminary appointment shall be extended by a period of 6 months from the expiry date of the term of the preliminary appointment.”  

You can view the LOU in full here
Use of Professional Expenses Reimbursements (PER) for Retiring Members:
Members retiring on or after March 16, 2020 will be allowed a grace period of up to April 29, 2021 to use their remaining PER funds and internal and general research funds as of the date of retirement for allowable expenditures. You can view the LOU in full here.
Negotiations are ongoing to address the following issues:

  • COVID-19 Assessment of Scholarly Activities and Academic Service Activities. 
  • COVID-19 Impact on Fall 2020 course development and delivery.

Based on the results of the past and ongoing surveys, and on the discussions held during our virtual Coffee Hours, Board of Directors Meetings, and during our upcoming Annual General Meeting, the APUO may propose new LOUs to address other issues raised by members. We will provide further updates as discussions with the Central Administration continue to progress. 

Survey Results for Fall 2020 Teaching – COVID-19

Dear members,
We want to thank you for participating in last week’s survey on teaching using unconventional means. Over 36 hours, 55.5 percent (704) of APUO members participated in our survey. We are grateful for the time you took to complete the survey during this busy time. The survey results will strengthen our position as we continue to negotiate letters of understanding (LOUs) with the Central Administration to ensure our members have all the tools necessary to prepare and deliver quality courses for the Fall 2020 semester.
In particular, we want to thank members for their support as we continue to navigate these uncertain times. Ninety-two percent (92%) of members who participated in the survey said they support the “APUO’s goal of negotiating a collective operational framework for Fall 2020 teaching covering the resources allocated to professors who will accept temporarily teaching using unconventional means (distance and/or online teaching), either entirely or partially.” Our goal is to ensure our members have fair and equitable working conditions and the tools necessary to deliver the University’s educational mandate successfully.
For those of you interested in reviewing the survey results, they can be found here. We thank members for taking the time to provide additional comments, and the APUO is currently reviewing them to further inform our negotiations with the Central Administration.