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November News Wire: Council votes to lift U of T censure, member support for UMFA strike going strong and urgent appeal for Afghan academic refugees

Every month we send our supporters a newsletter with the latest CAUT and post-secondary education sector news. This newsletter was published on November 30, 2021. Subscribe to get the newsletter straight to your inbox.

In this issue

  • CAUT Council votes to lift censure of U of T
  • Strike vote at Acadia gives AUFA mandate to strike
  • CAUT member support for UMFA strike going strong
  • Throne Speech overlooks post-secondary education
  • Urgent appeal for Afghan academic refugees
  • CAUT in solidarity with Ontario college faculty
  • Upcoming events

CAUT Council votes to lift censure of U of T

The 91st CAUT Council voted last week to formally lift the censure against the administration of the University of Toronto. The Council took the unanimous decision after determining that the University had taken the actions recommended by CAUT to address what led to the imposition of the censure last April. This past summer, the University reversed course and re-offered Dr. Valentina Azarova the position of Director of the International Human Rights Program in the Faculty of Law. Since that time, the University also has also promised to extend academic freedom to academic managerial positions and develop clear policies that prohibit donor interference in internal academic affairs.

CAUT Executive Director David Robinson says the censure was a “remarkable victory that we should all celebrate” and noted that what made it possible was the cooperation of the University of Toronto’s Faculty Association, CUPE Local 3902, as well as the ad-hoc U of T censure group to put the issue front and centre across the country and around the world.

Strike vote at Acadia gives AUFA mandate to strike

Academic staff at Acadia University has voted overwhelmingly in favour of giving its union, the Acadia University Faculty Association (AUFA), a strike mandate. In a vote last week, 90% of members of the bargaining unit cast ballots, with 94% authorizing a strike action if bargaining stalls.

“This vote should send a clear message to the Board of Governors at Acadia University that it needs to support Acadia's future and strategic plan by prioritizing, valuing, and investing in faculty,” said AUFA President Andrew Biro. “Our members are determined to get a fair and equitable agreement.” 

CAUT member support for UMFA strike going strong

As the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) strike nears the one-month mark, the CAUT Council last week passed a unanimous motion of solidarity.

Academic staff and students from coast to coast to coast have rallied to support UMFA members, mobilizing the academic labour movement across social media. Earlier this month, members of the CAUT Defence Fund and the CAUT Executive joined the picket lines in a show of national solidarity. In the first week of the strike, CAUT Vice-President Peter McInnis joined UMFA members on the picket line and called for the University of Manitoba administration and the Premier of Manitoba, Heather Stefanson, to negotiate in good faith and support a fair deal.

UMFA is fighting for a fair contract that prioritizes academic staff recruitment and retention. UMFA President Orvie Dingwall notes that this strike is the longest in UMFA’s history and attributes its success to taking a “two-pronged” approach, targeting both the University and the provincial government.

Throne Speech overlooks post-secondary education

CAUT was disappointed that post-secondary education, innovation, science, and research funding were missing in action in the Liberal government’s Throne Speech, delivered last week by new Governor General Mary Simon.

“Despite making historic investments in science in 2018, I am concerned that this government thinks that they ticked the box for research funding and can move on to new priorities,” says CAUT President Brenda Austin-Smith. “CAUT’s members need renewed federal leadership and investments in science and research to reverse decades-long systemic underfunding of the post-secondary education. Recent federal investments in early childhood education are a model for how the federal government can proceed with infusing money into the post-secondary education system,” she added.

Urgent appeal for Afghan academic refugees

CAUT has issued an urgent appeal to academic staff associations and their members to support at-risk Afghan academics.  As the Taliban moves swiftly to target trade union activists, journalists, civil society leaders, and academics – with women, ethnic and religious minorities, and those from the LGBTQ community most at risk – many are at imminent risk of persecution and death.

CAUT is working with the federal government, Education International, the Canadian Labour Congress, the International Trade Union Confederation, and Scholars at Risk to assess how best to support at-risk scholars and facilitate opportunities for them in Canada. Online donations to the CAUT Refugee Foundation can be made through Canada Helps.

Cheques can be made to the order of the CAUT Refugee Foundation and sent to: 
CAUT Refugee Foundation 
2705 Queensview Drive 
Ottawa, Ontario 
K2B 8K2 

CAUT in solidarity with Ontario college faculty​

CAUT is fully supporting Ontario’s college faculty as they seek to reach a new contract with the province’s College Employers Council (CEC). Earlier this month, the CEC rejected the most recent offer put forth by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union faculty bargaining team, pushing staff and students at Ontario’s 24 public colleges closer to a possible strike or lockout.

“The demands that the union has focused on are fair and reasonable and are necessary for preserving the quality and integrity of post-secondary education in Ontario,” said CAUT executive director David Robinson. College faculty are seeking gains on workload, partial-load working conditions, equity, Indigenization, and intellectual property rights. While a mediation report issued in late October characterized the union’s demands as “unreasonable”, Robinson says the proposals reflect what already exists in most university and college agreements across the country. 

Upcoming Events

Organization for Climate Action, December 6-10: Climate change is the pressing challenge of our generation, and academic associations can play a leading role in organizing their members to make our universities and colleges more sustainable.

Forum for Senior Grievance Officers, December 10: The forum will bring together senior grievance officers from across the country, providing opportunities to meet peers from other academic staff associations, share high level discussions, and build networks of contact and support.