by Jacques O’Sullivan
Change is in the air
Spring has finally arrived and its arrival always signals renewal. Centennial is no exception to renewal. President Ann Buller is leaving at the end of May, Vice President (Human Resources) Yves Deschenes is leaving in the summer and I am retiring on June 30. A new college president will be announced soon. Rasho Donchev (President, Local 559) and myself were invited by the college to participate on the selection committee for the new VP HR and the process has started. The role of president of Local 558 will be decided at our next General Membership Meeting on June 6.
Money, money everywhere
I attended the public portion of the Board of Governors meeting on April 11. The financial picture at Centennial continues to show increasing surpluses. The projected surplus from the fiscal year that ended March 30, 2019 will be over $50 million dollars. That is $35 million more than was projected when the budget was created. We have over $175 million in the bank which has been designated by the Board of Governors for future infrastructure. The numbers are truly staggering and disheartening when we hear stories about contract teachers being told they will get less hours, no pay for extra work and no paid sick days because of “department budgets”. The Academic Schools, Vice President Marilyn Herie, and Associate Vice Presidents Rahim Karim and Gina Marshall, and the Deans, need to be advocating for a bigger portion of the budget to hire more full-time faculty and treat contract faculty fairly by paying them for all the work they do.
Local 558 has continued to meet with the college to pressure them to hire more full-time faculty. In these meetings, we use enrolment numbers and financial numbers to explain our rationale. Last year, the college did the right thing and hired over sixty full-time faculty, librarians and counselors. They have committed to hire twenty new full-time this year. Part of their argument for not hiring more was the uncertainty of what the provincial government would be doing in relation to colleges and their budgets. It appears from the recent provincial budget that Centennial will not be financially disadvantaged to any great measure. We will continue to advocate, and if necessary (as we have done in the past), use the Collective Agreement to grieve for more full-time hiring.
Expansion to Progress campus
The Board of Governors has given the college the go-ahead to work on the next big expansion. With the new Downsview campus up and running and $175 million waiting to be spent, the next major project will be at Progress. The plan is to build onto the A Block by building a tower in front of it, where the walking bridge currently is. I have been told information about this project will be shared with the college community soon.
This is my final report for Unfettered as president of Local 558. After almost thirty years working at Centennial College I have decided to retire on June 30. I am fortunate to have been able to teach at Centennial part-time, partial load, sessional and full-time. I consider it an honour to teach and I am grateful to the college for this amazing opportunity.
My time with OPSEU, in particular Local 558, has been equally rewarding. I have been a steward in the School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts, Chief Steward, and local president for over twenty years. My role in the union has provided me with the opportunity to serve on numerous hiring panels and committees at every campus. This has led me to meet and get to know hundreds of you from all campuses.
My time as local president has not been without its challenges. The college system in Ontario has been changing over the last decade. Under the direction of the College Employer Council, the manner in which colleges operate, and management’s approach towards unionized staff, has become consistently more litigious and more regulated in response to staffing issues while requiring each of us to do more work. Additionally, at the provincial level, the colleges have reduced union involvement on committees and hiring panels.
All of us in Local 558 have maneuvered through constant changes regarding how we work. Examples of this include part-time learning moving from centralized to decentralized, COCO, Class Climate, reflective practice, increased class sizes, a huge influx of international students, multiple surveys, and of course, the changes related to blended, flipped and online teaching. The list goes on, as will the changes.
The five-week transformative strike of 2017 was a massive challenge for all of us. Opening the door to academic freedom for college faculty was historic and will continue to play out for decades to come. Looking back, it was not just the solidarity from each member during the strike that amazed me, but every time we voted — not only for the strike, but also for the initial offer, final offer, strike mandate, ratification and local changes – members were always strongly in support of the position of Local 558 officers. This solidarity and confidence in our decisions was greatly appreciated. It showed college administration that our members believe in and listen to us, which is empowering for future relationships with the college.
The past ten years as president of Local 558 has been extremely rewarding for me. It has been a unique privilege to have been selected to represent the hundreds of faculty, librarians and counselors at Centennial. It is a responsibility that I never took for granted, and I always considered the general welfare of all members coupled with the Collective Agreement in all the decisions I made. The future will be exciting for Centennial and I have full confidence that the new leadership of Local 558 will offer amazing representation for each of you in the coming years.
Thank you to each and every one of you for giving me the privilege to act and speak on your behalf. I will always be grateful and thankful.