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September NewsWire: Avoiding a Laurentian U repeat - CBU faculty vote in favour of strike - Take action on #SessionalsCount campaign

Every month we send our supporters a newsletter with the latest CAUT and post-secondary education sector news. This newsletter was published on September 27, 2022. Subscribe to get the newsletter straight to your inbox.

In this issue

  • Governments must take action to prevent a repeat of Laurentian U crisis
  • Cape Breton University faculty vote overwhelmingly in favour of strike action
  • Take action: #SessionalsCount campaign underway
  • Quebec should offer free post-secondary education: report
  • CAUT op-ed in the Hill Times
  • Help us improve our service to you: Bulletin survey

Government must take action to prevent a repeat of Laurentian U crisis

The recent approval of a plan of arrangement for Laurentian University to exit insolvency protection marks an important step forward in what has been a long and dark chapter in the history of post-secondary education in Canada.

“The university administration’s decision to turn to an insolvency tool designed for private corporations was a fundamental and costly mistake,” says Peter McInnis, president of CAUT.  “Faculty, staff, students, and the broader community paid a terrible price for administrative failures. Now it is the federal and provincial governments’ turn to assume leadership and ensure this does not happen again.”

In April, the Ontario Auditor General concluded that Laurentian University did not have to file for creditor protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangements Act (CCAA).  The report also debunks the University’s claim that faculty salaries were to blame for the financial woes.  

“The hard lesson we can take away from the failures at Laurentian is that universities need to be more open, transparent and accountable to the academic community,” says CAUT’s Executive Director, David Robinson.  “At the federal level, we need the government to amend the insolvency legislation to prevent a repeat in the future. And provincial governments need to ensure that institutions follow collegial and cooperative processes that already exist to deal with financial crises.”  

The Laurentian University Faculty Association fought hard to protect pension benefits and as many jobs as possible.

LUFA and its members managed to secure important changes to the final plan of arrangement, including the departure of senior administrators responsible for the crisis, formal LUFA representation on new committees struck to review university operations and governance, and a commitment to hire additional faculty.

Cape Breton University faculty vote overwhelmingly in favour of strike action

Earlier this month, Cape Breton University (CBU) professors voted in favour of job action after its membership became frustrated by the lack of progress made over the summer to reach a new agreement.

The Cape Breton Faculty Association reports that 92 per cent of those voting were in favour of a strike. A total of 198 ballots cast were cast.

The union represents 216 professors, librarians, lab instructors, nursing practice educators and specialists.

"This is a strong mandate," said Peter MacIntyre, a member of the CBFA Executive Committee. "Members have become increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress toward an agreement. The faculty association came to the table ready to negotiate an agreement, the employer did not. They abandoned the most recent meetings — ghosted us at the table — and now it is time to take action."

Take action: #SessionalsCount campaign underway

The Ontario College of Arts and Design Faculty Association (OCADFA) has launched a #SessionalsCount campaign to advocate for stronger job security and fair pay for sessional instructors. 

The association is encouraging CAUT members and community allies to sign their petition in support of the campaign.

More than 60% of all OCADU faculty are sessional and remain the lowest paid faculty in Ontario universities. The vast majority of sessionals (70%) have been teaching for more than five years—many have taught for over a decade—yet have no job security.

Quebec should offer free post-secondary education: report

A report from a Quebec institute says high tuition fees and debt aversion discourage less affluent students from pursuing post-secondary education— and the study recommends that the province eliminate fees.

According to the Institut de recherche et d’informations socioéconomiques, tuition-free university education in Quebec would cost approximately $1.2 billion annually—an amount which is equivalent to all fees currently paid by domestic and international students.

The provincial government’s 2021-2022 total expenditure on all public services, including education, is $116.9 billion.

The researchers say the free tuition model would work in Quebec because it is financially viable and they note that university and college systems with high fees are the exception, not the norm, around the world. The researchers’ recommendation is based on the low-fee or fee-free models of countries including France, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

The report warns that that the burden for students to pay off their education debts may lead many to favour jobs with the highest incomes, regardless of their social need, and they note with concern the broader trend towards privatization and “commodification” of education.

CAUT op-ed in The Hill Times

CAUT President Peter McInnis last week published an opinion editorial in The Hill Times with this key message: the crucial mission of post-secondary institutions can only be achieved if both the federal and provincial governments ensure they are properly funded, affordable, and accessible. Read more.

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