“Two days after deep staff and program cuts were announced, the Laurentian University Faculty Association has ratified its collective agreement — but its president says it was done under duress. On Monday, 83 professors were terminated and 27 positions were cut through attrition and retirements, while 70 programs were cut. It’s all part of the restructuring the Sudbury, Ont., university has been undergoing as part of the insolvency process, which has allowed it to operate while taking steps to get its financial situation in order. LUFA head Fabrice Colin said members were told the university would close if the union didn't vote in favour of the tentative contract — they agreed to a five per cent cut in salary and a two-year salary freeze. 'It was a vote under duress because the alternative was the failure of the ratification vote, and therefore the failure of the CCAA process,’ said Colin, referring to the actions under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.”
“'This was an incredibly difficult process and, unfortunately, its outcome means that important programs and jobs at Laurentian will be lost. We fought hard to minimize the damage but, without the provincial government at the table, we were in an impossible position,’ said Colin, referring to everything that led to the contract ratification. 'It now appears clear that this was the outcome that both Laurentian’s senior administration and Minister Romano were working toward.’”
“'What has transpired at Laurentian University sets a disturbing precedent for the administration of post-secondary education in the province of Ontario.’ The chair of the Canadian Federation of Students said he’s heard from many Laurentian students about how the cuts at the university will affect them and their degree paths.
"Sebastien Lalonde said the university’s insolvency is part of a chronic lack of funding for post secondary education in the province, and the government should have intervened months ago. 'The ministry is meant to assure that we have proper funding and functioning in our universities and colleges to make sure students can graduate and get the education experiences they signed up for when they initially applied.’”
CBC News, April 14, 2021: “'Under duress,’ Laurentian University faculty ratify new collective agreement”
Laurentian University Faculty Association, February 17, 2021: “FAQ on the CCAA Insolvency Proceedings of Laurentian University”
Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, April 14, 2021: “Laurentian’s senior leadership and Minister of Colleges and Universities should step down in wake of financial crisis”
PwC Canada: “What is CCAA?”
Government of Canada: Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act
Norther Solidarity: “Here’s how you can support Laurentian University”
Back to top
“Universities are at a crossroads, with COVID-19 acting as a tipping point for whether they thrive or barely survive. On April 13, about 100 faculty members from Laurentian University lost their jobs because of a massive restructuring and insolvency negotiations. In Australia this past fall, University of Sydney eliminated 10 faculties and 100 programs in order to increase its long-term sustainability. Demographic, technological and socio-economic trends, including reduced government funding and increased dependency on private donors, are influencing the mandate of universities, and survival depends on transformation.”
“Our research shows universities must ‘future proof’ themselves, which happens when an institutional strategy is focused on the future while mitigating the impact of unforeseen events. Successful future-proofing involves clearly articulating a path to a new vision with the participation of faculty, staff and external community members. It also involves consistently applying decision-making criteria and continuously measuring progress.”
“A strategy provides a line-of-sight between the desired future state, the development or cancellation of programs, attracting and allocating funds and how the university will measure the impact of decisions. Difficult decisions must be based on transparent and consistent criteria, and visible benchmarks must be monitored to assess progress towards strategic goals. Resistance decreases when stakeholders understand the basis of a decision, perceive consistency in the criteria applied across decisions and recognize progress towards goals. Universities without a visible strategy will not flourish and may not even survive.”
The Conversation, April 14, 2021: “To ‘future proof’ universities, leaders have to engage faculty to make tough decisions,” by Loren Falkenberg and M. Elizabeth Cannon
Falkenberg, L. E. & Cannon, M. E. (2021). Strategic university management: future proofing your institution. New York, NY; London, England: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. (eBook available to the University of Toronto community).
Timmins The Daily Press, April 14, 2021: “How to fix Laurentian University without gutting it,” by Lionel Rudd
The Guardian, August 20, 2020: “Sydney university asks staff to ‘suggest’ how to cut up to 30% of jobs in some faculties,” by Naaman Zhou
The University of Sydney, November 2018: “What Should Universities Be?” (7 pages, PDF)
Back to top
“‘When Doug Ford’s Conservatives tabled this bill, the intent was immediately obvious, to create fear, confusion, and a chill effect on political expression and organizing in the province,’ said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. 'He may be scared of what workers have to say about his government, but Doug Ford’s fear is no excuse for ramming through this anti-democratic legislation.’”
“The bill severely and aggressively targets third parties through a massive expansion of the pre-election period, restrictions on all issue advertising for 12 months before an election, and a fantastical re-writing of the definition of collusion to include third parties 'sharing information’ or sharing a common vendor. To further enhance this chill on democratic engagement, the bill… empowers the chief elections officer with handing out fines of up to $100,000 with no notice or investigation required.”
“The law seeks to stack the deck in favour of the Conservatives and would double the personal allowable political contribution from $1,500 to $3000– something only rich donors and their beneficiaries will be able to take full advantage of. The Progressive Conservative Party has the most donors that contribute the current maximum amount. … 'As a trade union, we are dedicated to representing the interests of our members, both at the bargaining table and through political action. Political advertising is one significant way in which we advocate on our members behalf,’ Rizvi told the committee, before asking members to withdraw the legislation. 'This political expression does not undermine electoral fairness, it enhances it.’”
Unifor, April 13, 2021: “Conservatives double-down with amendments to Bill 254, the ‘Squashing Ontario Democracy Act’”
Unifor, April 13, 2021: “Unifor’s Objections to Bill 254,” (14 pages, PDF)
Legislative Assembly of Ontario: Bill 254 (15 pages, PDF)
Back to top
“The federal government has reached an agreement with Air Canada that will provide the pandemic-battered airline with financial support — while committing the airline to refunding customers who saw their flights cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. … Under the deal, the government will extend to the country’s largest airline a variety of low-interest loans worth up to $5.4 billion and take an equity stake in the company by purchasing $500 million in stocks.
"In exchange for federal government support, Air Canada has agreed to refund customers who had their flights cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline also has agreed to restore flights on nearly all suspended regional routes, to cap compensation for company executives at $1 million per year and to suspend share buybacks and the payment of dividends to shareholders during the loan period. In addition, Air Canada said it would to maintain its workforce at current levels, respect collective bargaining agreements and protect workers’ pensions.”
“Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, which represents about 15,000 workers in the airline industry, called the agreement a ‘win-win’ for the government, consumers, the industry and airline workers. 'You’ve got consumers [who] are winning because Air Canada is going to give back their refunds. Taxpayers are winning because these are straight loans, it’s not grants. And the federal government will take about $500 million worth of shares or six per cent ownership,’ said Dias in an interview on CBC’s Power & Politics.”
CBC News, April 12, 2021: “Federal government, Air Canada reach deal on relief package that includes customer refunds,” Ryan Patrick Jones
Is the aid package really a win-win?
“The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the union representing roughly 10,000 flight attendants at Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge, says the federal government’s $5.9 billion aid package for Air Canada announced Monday evening breaks the government’s commitments to workers.”
“'This announcement is good news for our 2,000 members still working at Air Canada and for the stability of the company going forward, but it’s tough to think this is what we waited 13 months for,’ said Wesley Lesosky, President of the Air Canada Component of CUPE. 'This announcement leaves over 7,500 of my members with no answers and no income supports.’ Lesosky says the only jobs guarantee in the agreement – that Air Canada maintain April 1, 2021 staffing levels – makes no sense, since staffing was already all but guaranteed to rise as summer approaches and immunization efforts ramp up across the country. 'It’s insulting, to be honest,’ Lesosky added.”
CUPE, April 13, 2021: “Federal aid package fails workers at Air Canada: CUPE”
Government of Canada, April 12, 2021: “Details of Financial Support to Air Canada”
Government of Canada, 2020: Canada’s Flight Plan for Navigating COVID-19 (23 pages, PDF)
Air Canada, 2021: Air Canada Reports 2020 Annual Reports, (77 pages, PDF)
Back to top
“Workers at Amazon desperately need to unionize, in Alabama, Germany—and any other place where the high-tech, futuristic employer with medieval attitudes about employees sets up a job site of any kind. With conditions so bad, what explains the defeat in Bessemer? Three factors weigh heavily in any unionization election: the outrageously vicious behavior of employers—some of it illegal, most fully legal—including harassing and intimidating workers, and telling bold lies (which, outside of countries with openly repressive governments, is unique to the United States); the strategies and tactics used in the campaign by the organizers; and the broader social-political context in which the union election is being held.”
“From the get-go, the campaign in Bessemer had what many experienced organizers recognized as nearly fatal flaws. The first of these was a widely inaccurate assumption about how many employees worked in the warehouse. … The next warning signs came in February, when Amazon launched www.doitwithoutdues.com, a website describing all the things workers could do with the money they would otherwise pay in dues to a union. Amazon concurrently posted a hashtag on Twitter. … In the vast majority of successful campaigns, how and where conversations with workers take place is crucial. … What was concerning to experienced organizers, however, was the realization that the majority of the face-to-face contacts with workers were happening at the plant gate. … The last thing nervous workers want is to be seen near the place they work, talking with union supporters.”
“Every worker in the Bessemer campaign deserved to win. And if the rules for unionization in the United States came close to being fair, they would have won. But the rules aren’t fair. Quite the opposite: They are outrageously unfair. What workers trying to form unions against immoral employers do deserve is the kind of effort that stands a chance of winning. There’s plenty of evidence of what works. Social media and shortcut digital approaches don’t work when fear and division is the central weapon. Workers can win unions—and workers can strike and win. It is hard as hell, and to do that requires a no-shortcuts approach.”
The Nation, April 9, 2021: “Blowout in Bessemer: A Postmortem on the Amazon Campaign,” by Jane McAlevey
McAlevey, J. (2020). A collective bargain: unions, organizing, and the fight for democracy. New York, NY : Ecco, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers. (eBook available to the University of Toronto community).
McAlevey, J. (2016). No shortcuts: organizing for power in the new gilded age. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. (eBook available to the University of Toronto community).
BBC News, April 18, 2021: “Amazon: How one cancer patient’s story helps explain the Alabama union vote,” by James Clayton
Black Work Talk website.
Levitt, M. J. & Conrow, T. (1993). Confessions of a Union Buster. New York, New York: Crown. (Available to the University of Toronto community).
Back to top