Update COVID-19 LOUs and SSUO bargaining update

Dear members,
 
As this most unusual academic year gets underway, we share in everyone’s hope that the return of classes proceeds as smoothly as possible in the face of the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
During the last two weeks, several issues have arisen regarding the interpretation and the renewal of some of the Letters of Understanding (LOU) signed between April and June. In this communication, we provide a brief update about these issues and about the Support Staff’s (SSUO) ongoing negotiations with the Central Administration.
 
Letters of Understanding
 
Student Evaluations of Teaching
 
In April, the APUO and the Central Administration signed a LOU on student evaluations of teaching specifically addressing the use of A-reports in career recommendations and decisions. Recognizing the exceptional circumstances under which teaching had to be delivered in the 2020 Winter and Spring/Summer terms, both parties agreed that for this particular period, “the Employer will not produce an A-report (as referred to in Article 24.3.2. 1 (a) of the Collective Agreement) but shall provide to Members only a report containing the results of the student responses to all of the questions in the questionnaire and the student comments (known as the “P-report”).” Put simply, members have the option of including in their tenure and promotion applications data from their P-reports for these two terms (which includes the students’ responses to the three questions usually found in A-reports). However, members are under no obligation to do so.
 
As of late August, the Central Administration has declined the APUO’s request to renew the student evaluations of teaching LOU for the Fall semester. We will be meeting with the Central Administration in the coming days to discuss this refusal and its heightened equity implications within the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.[1] We will keep you informed as soon as there are new developments.  
 
The use of PER funds to hire a Research Assistant
 
Following confirmation from a representative of the Central Administration, in July, the APUO informed members that under the terms of the COVID-19 Impact on Course Development and Delivery LOU they had the option of hiring a Research Assistant (RA) using their Professional Expenses Reimbursement (PER) fund. Recently, the Central Administration informed us there had been a misunderstanding in our exchanges, and that their interpretation of the LOU does not allow members to hire RAs to support the development and delivery of online or remote teaching. The APUO disagrees with this interpretation and has filed an association grievance. We will keep you informed of any developments.
 
Academic and Professional Leaves
 
In May, the APUO informed members that it had signed a LOU for members on or who were about to begin an academic or professional leave. Shortly after this LOU was signed, several members communicated with the APUO about significant discrepancies in its interpretation and application across Faculties. This approach is contrary to our efforts to create fair and equitable working conditions for all members and highlights the importance of establishing a collective operational framework for our work amid the pandemic. We have filed an association grievance regarding this matter as well. We have also asked for mediation with William Kaplan, who helped the parties to reach agreement on and sign two letters of understanding on June 30.
 
We thank members for their continued support throughout the negotiating of seven LOUs since March. We remain committed both to protecting your interests and rights, and to ensuring this academic year is as enriching as possible for our students. 
 
Should you require assistance or have any questions, please do not hesitate to communicate with the APUO. 
 
Support Staff (SSUO) Collective Bargaining
 
In June, we informed members that our support staff colleagues massively rejected the Central Administration’s final offer in a one-time vote conducted by the Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development. 
 
On August 31, following a request from the SSUO, the Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development issued a No Board Report putting our support staff colleagues in a legal strike position, and the Central Administration in a position to impose a lock-out as of September 17.
 
Last Friday, the SSUO and the Central Administration participated in their first negotiation meeting since the June final offer vote. According to an update sent by the SSUO this morning, the offer presented by the Central Administration was “virtually indistinguishable” from the final offer rejected by support staff in June. The two parties will meet again today. 
 
The APUO stands in solidarity with the SSUO and its members, and we wish them success in reaching a fair deal. We call on the Central Administration to respect the support staff members, as well as the decisive mandate with which the SSUO is bargaining.  
 
For a summary of the outstanding issues between the SSUO and the Central Administration, we invite you to read our June 8 bulletin

 
[1] Please see our December 2018 bulletin Student Evaluation of Teaching: the Kaplan Arbitration Ruling for more information about the limits of Student Evaluations of Teaching and the inequities they perpetuate. 

Scholar Strike

Dear members,
 
The APUO joins the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) and other faculty associations across Ontario and the rest of Turtle Island who condemn institutional racism and police brutality, and who are participating in the Scholar Strike for racial justice on September 9 and 10. 
 
While APUO members are not in a position to legally strike, where possible, we encourage members to join the public digital teach-ins offered in the context of this action and to advertise the #ScholarStrike to students and colleagues. Please consult the programme schedule for more information. We also call on the Central Administration not to penalize campus workers and students who choose to participate in this important action. 
 
In the context of the #ScholarStrike, we also invite members to read the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee’s (EDIC) 2020 Report: Hiring and Retention of Black Faculty at the University of Ottawa: Recommendations for Change, and to discuss it with colleagues and students. The APUO fully supports the five recommendations it sets out. These recommendations constitute an important first step in creating a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive university community, and we are fully committed to seeing them implemented. To this end, as we review our Collective Agreement in the coming months, we will be working to identify additional means to further advance the report’s objectives.
 
The APUO remains steadfast in its condemnation of the institutionalized and systemic racism present on our campus. We once again urge the Central Administration to implement the ten demands of the APUO BIPOC Caucus in response to the racial profiling, carding, and harassment of Black students on campus. The Central Administration’s delay in implementing these demands has, among other things, served to embolden some Protection Services Officers to promote the “Blue Lives Matter” campaign, thereby further poisoning the climate of our campus for Black, Indigenous and racialized students and workers. Our University community has a responsibility to reflect upon, and deconstruct, structures that uphold systemic racism and prevent our campus from being a safe and inclusive environment for Black, Indigenous, and racialized workers and students. We urge the Central Administration to break its silence by standing with the APUO in publicly condemning any and all actions that perpetuate anti-Black racism and all forms of racial discrimination.