Volume 12, Issue 1
President – Liz Mathewson
Table Of Contents
‘Alternative Revenue Stream’ or Colonialism
Message from the President
I would like to start my President’s message by thanking the membership for their support and trust in the leadership of Local 352 by re-electing stewards and electing three new stewards in October. Following the election of stewards, you again reaffirmed your trust by re-electing the officers for the 2022-24 term of office:
- President (steward): Liz Mathewson
- Vice President (steward) : Suzanne Hooke
- Chief Steward (steward) : Audrey Healy
- Communications/Secretary (steward): Victoria Maystruk
- Treasurer (steward): Amanda Rochon.
- Troy Legresley (new)
- Jenny Leyderman (new; PL)
- Richard Hyde (new)
- Amanda Mushynski
- Tom Jenkins
- Charlie McGee
- Kari Draker-Fortis
- Marikka Williams
- Ann Hines
- Karen Bateman
- George Fogarasi
- Nancy Sukornyk
Trustees: Derryk Pollard and Fred Wood
The past 36-months have created both challenges and opportunities for OPSEU/SEFPO, union locals and faculty, counsellors, and librarians at Fleming. In 2020, Faculty and counsellors at Fleming College identified and implemented solutions for many of the academic challenges faced due to the pandemic. We converted our curriculum and adapted to online and remote work, alternate ways for interactions with our students and peers. In 2021, you engaged in a work to rule campaign as an alternate to a picket line to demonstrate your commitment to quality education and a fair, negotiated collective agreement. Your commitment to the work to rule campaign significantly contributed to our bargaining teams’ ability to attaining a new Collective Agreement awarded by Arbitrator Kaplan. Our new Collective Agreement award includes many of the demands the employer initially claimed were unrealistic and would never be considered. Despite the negative cloud of Bill 124, we made significant gains for Partial Load members; significant language for EDI and all without the concessions the employer was prepared to impose.
Recently, a survey seeking feedback on work to rule at each local, determined faculty became keenly aware of the amount and type of work expected of them that was not reflected on SWFs/contracts. When faculty and counsellors tracked their work, it brought to light the culture of volunteerism expected at Fleming. To that end, you stood with the bargaining team by notifying management that all work must be valued and that you object to the expectation that faculty should work for free. This was difficult for many as all faculty and counsellors are committed to their students. Students, however, did understand our demands, especially when they saw we were fighting to spend more, not less, time in the classroom and in providing out of class support and feedback.
We can’t lose sight that faculty and counsellors took a solution focused approach when facing academic challenges at Fleming. The academic side of the house could not achieve the level of success seen over the past 2 plus years if it were not for the creative and collaborative approach taken at the beginning of the pandemic. Why must we not lose sight of our contribution to the solutions? Because the college’s initial commitment to collaboration is diminished. Academic decisions are now made without faculty involvement, for example, eliminating duplicating services and the removal of the scantron service. We must ensure all levels of leadership at Fleming consider faculty and support staff valued stakeholders when making decisions that impact our work. We need to ask the college to commit to a framework for ethical decision making to ensure all employees and students are considered valued stakeholders.
Centrally, the employer has shown their cards in this round of bargaining, and we can only surmise that in 2024 they will go after any gains we have made. Local 352 will continue to work for the membership in an inclusive and transparent way which means we will seek and welcome your feedback.
‘Alternative Revenue Stream’ or Colonialism ?
The Fifth Estate documentary about international students notes it takes the average Punjabi family 74 years to pay for one year of education in Ontario. That’s like us paying millions of dollars (Peterborough’s 2022 median household income is 79K. Multiply by 74 = $5,846,000).
All those students, all those 74 years add up: international students bring $21 billion into Canada annually. However it’s rationalized, this remains a staggering transfer of wealth from the Global South.
In a generation or two, people might see the choice to underfund education and fill the gap by shaking rupees out of India as a neo-colonial fleecing. Why can’t we see this now?
It’s hard to see beyond contemporary values, easier to refute the values of a bygone era. For example, today Ukrainians are seen as heroic freedom fighters, but just over a hundred years ago, Canada interred Ukrainians in camps (along with Turks, Hungarians, conscientious objectors and homeless people). It’s horrible. But not to many people at the time.
Yesterday’s government policy (internment, residential schools, head tax) can become tomorrow’s national shame.
Look beyond current values at the big picture: we underfund education and make international students fill the gap? Your tax cuts at work. $21 billion from (mostly) the Global South, every year, to Canada. That was once called “colonialism,” not a “private sector revenue stream.”
It’s not just trade unionists calling the government out on this. In 2017, David Trick (former Assistant Deputy Minister for Postsecondary Education) authored a report to the Ontario Government warning about the risks of private partnerships relying on international students. His report recommended that
- “Colleges should not offer programs in Canada leading to an Ontario college credential unless the college itself is directly involved in delivering most or all of the program.”
- “No new college programs that are delivered primarily by private providers in Canada should be launched.”
- “The government should provide new funding to all small and medium-sized colleges.”
There’s the rub! We once funded public education. Now we don’t.
This is accepted as normal, a given, inevitable. It’s a human choice! A choice that may look very different in the future. This choice is on the government. This choice is on college presidents and whether they lobby the government for funding or not. This choice is on you and me and the governments we elect, the choices we make to go along with or resist the privatization of education and other public services.
74 years of work for an average Punjabi family to afford one year of college in Ontario: This is our salary. Watch the documentary. You and I are complicit in this.
Alex Usher, former Director of Educational Policy Institute Canada, nails it: “The Ontario government is explicitly selling out international students and creating systemic reputational risks for all Ontario colleges, just to paper over problems created by its own funding policies. This is a terrible idea.”
Keeping Each Other Safe: WSIB and COVID
In late September I tested positive for COVID and had to miss several days of work.
I had successfully avoided contracting the virus prior to this point. I must say I am extremely appreciative of the sick days I have access to as a unionized employee and am grateful that I had no loss-of-earnings during my illness.
Prior to falling ill, I was aware of a few students in my program who were missing class due to COVID and upon returning to work, I was surprised to hear the number of absences due to COVID illness across both staff and students. It seemed to me that the virus was being allowed to spread throughout the college community without concern.
Soon after returning to campus, I became aware of the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) Exposure Incident Form (Form 3958A) which should be completed if you are exposed to infectious substances (like a virus) even if there is no lost time, or illness. The purpose of this form is to obtain information about the exposure should an illness or disease occur in the future. This form should also be completed by employees who are exposed to chemicals, or other substances, as well as psychological trauma.
In addition to Form 3958A, there is also the Worker’s Report of Injury/Disease (Form 6), which can be used to submit information about any injury or infection that a worker suffers while at work. For a COVID claim to be allowed, the WSIB website indicates that a person’s risk for contracting the disease while at work must be greater than in the community at large, and that the work significantly contributed to the illness.
Given my prior ability to avoid illness, the known risk of exposure occurring in my classrooms, and the density of COVID illness I was hearing about in the Fleming community I decided to submit a Form 3958A and Form 6.
Following the submission of Form 6, I became aware of another WSIB form, the Employer’s Report of Injury/Disease (Form 7) which the College submits. I think it is useful to note that the College’s perception of my risk at work as relayed on the Form 7 was quite different from my own perception.
A WSIB claim adjuster was assigned to my claim after a few weeks and contacted me by phone. The conversation we had was brief; they wanted to establish two key things – first, was I required in my work to have close contact for extended periods of time with other people, and second, could I establish that any of those people may have been COVID positive.
We agreed fairly quickly that teaching requires close contact with students. I mentioned the difficulty confirming COVID positive status of students because students aren’t required to disclose the nature of their illness to their professors (and there are procedures in place to discourage it). Ultimately, I was able to produce documentation that met the WSIB’s needs and maintained the students’ right to privacy.
My claim has been allowed.
I hadn’t expected anything from the claim but wanted to follow due process and ensure that workplace injuries were being reported through the correct channel. As a perk, I was informed that 85% of my used sick days should be credited back.
If you have been ill at work, please consider letting your colleagues know. Consider filling reporting it to WSIB. Having documentation around exposures is important to the claims process. Having an allowed claim reduces the sick credits you use for any days off and protects you should any future health consequences arise as a result of your illness. It is, ultimately, also a mechanism to hold the college accountable for the safety of employees and students.
Fleming College Toronto
(How Your Brain Feeds a Zombie College)
Shore and Wright’s “Privatizing the Public University,” a heady and depressing tome, notes how these familiar steps turn public education into a business: State Disinvestment; Administrative Bloat, Academic Decline; Institutional Capture: the Power of the ‘Adminiteriat’; New Income Streams; Higher Education as Private Investment Versus Public Good.
Too abstract? Watch Fleming College Toronto’s Campus Tour to see what this looks like.
Fleming College Toronto? It’s uncanny. See any students or profs, any learning? A business gussied up in sparkly Fleming branded flash. A Zombie College.
What do zombies eat? Brains! What do Zombie Colleges eat? Our brains: the intellectual work of professors at public colleges, churning our intellectual labour into corporate profit.
The CEO of Global University Systems Canada is “thrilled to welcome Fleming College Toronto to the GUS Canada ecosystem.” A corporate rating company, Fitch Ratings, rates Global University Systems a stable “B”—it likes how the “operating platform” has “swiftly adapted to online tuition” but warns that “increasing volumes within existing campus infrastructure and online experiences can dilute the student experience and teaching standards, and has potential for reputational risk.”
They note that “In regions with particularly strict regulatory standards (e.g. the UK), maintaining accreditations with the relevant local governing bodies may become difficult” but, hey, that’s not Ontario: we’re open for business!
A new income stream via the Power of the “adminiterariat.”
Private Investment Versus Public Good, stemming from State Divestment (international students bring in more to colleges than the government of Ontario: your tax cuts at work).
Global University Systems Canada owns Trebas (one of its “brands” according to its website). It also owns any of your tasty courses, yummy PowerPoints, delicious evaluations or scrumptious video lectures Fleming wishes to sell it.
WTF is Neoliberalism ?
Flexible Collaboration, Coming for a Job Near You
Government bad, corporations good. That’s neoliberalism in four words, but they don’t capture the pervasiveness or consequences of this reasoning.
You know many of neoliberalism’s tenets: free trade, cutting red tape and fiscal responsibility. That means shipping jobs abroad, cutting consumer protection and austerity (cutting health care and education, Ontario with the lowest per-student public funding of post-secondary education).
There are over 400 private colleges in Ontario. Our salaries, paid for by shaking rupees out of the Indian subcontinent? That’s neoliberalism (See The Fifth Estate’s expose or The Walrus’ “The Shadowy Business of International Education: Foreign students are lied to and exploited on every front. They’re also propping up higher education as we know it”).
Will your kids afford a home? An unwillingness to reign in free markets feeds real estate bubbles, polarization of wealth and the resulting political polarization. Government intervention is okay for bailing out banks, the resulting deficits creating austerity for others (cap those outrageous public servant salaries!). That’s neoliberalism.
Colleges lead not by educators but bean counters? More precarity? The CEC’s refusal to negotiate? Fleming signing a deal with a private college? It’s all neoliberalism.
Canadian champions of neoliberalism include Mike Harris, Stephen Harper and Doug Ford. It’s insidious and peddled in soft language: Ontario, Open for Business. Reducing bureaucracy. Public Private Partnerships, meaning Fleming’s “flexible collaboration” can sell anything faculty create to Global University Systems and their new, private college in Toronto sucking in international students like Rising Phoenix in Quebec. Or St. Lawrence’s Alpha College debacle.
It’s insidious how normalized it all becomes. “Cutting red tape” can mean eliminating safety regulations, and the benign sounding “flexible collaboration” of Fleming and a for-profit college not only makes a corporation profit from our labour but undermines accessible public education.
And that, some argue, is the point. Naomi Klein argues that under-funding public institutions is a strategy to break them. Once broken, privatization is touted as the solution. Sound familiar?
These are human choices. Neoliberalism can be a heady abstraction, but it explains our grim economic reality. Understanding its terminology, tactics and goals helps us better resist neoliberalism to champion accessible public services such as education.
November 7, 2022 – LEC Meeting
The Union Stewards meet on the first Monday of the month to discuss issues of concern. Please let a steward know if there is anything you would like discuss.
List of stewards