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All MacEwan faculty should have received the statement from the Grant MacEwan University Faculty Association (GMUFA) Board of Directors last week regarding the university’s decision to let the Letter of Understanding (LoU) on “red-circled” faculty members expire on June 30, 2020. The MacEwan University Sessional Steering Collaborative (MUSSC) would like to remind everyone that the salaries of these members were “red-circled”—that is, maintained above the salary tables in the 2017-2019 Collective Agreement, as well as the subsequent 2019-2020 Collective Agreement—to avoid cuts in pay ranging from 3% to 22%.
About 180 members—including both Sessional Faculty and Tenured Faculty—were “red-circled.” All of these members have taught at MacEwan for a long time (some over twenty-five years), and thus have substantially contributed to the building of the university as well as facilitated its transition from a college to a university. It is heartbreakingly unfair that their pay should be cut, all the more so when considering that most of them occupy the already poorly-paid ranks of Sessional Faculty.
Further, in the unsettling circumstances of a once-in-a-century pandemic, these members are now being required to put in a tremendous amount of time and effort to transition their in-person courses into online courses, with no financial compensation for this work. Class sizes have also increased, which means more work per class, again with no extra pay, and fewer classes available for Sessional Faculty to teach, resulting in yet further cuts to income for many of them. At the same time, the administration is pressuring faculty to go only partially, not fully, online, via blended/hybrid courses. This option, which requires some in-person classes, could open these members and their students up to substantial risk, during any second wave of the pandemic this fall, one which may be even worse than the first because of coinciding with the flu season. Important to recognize in this regard is that many of the long-serving members fall into the age category especially vulnerable to the ravages of COVID-19. Also important to acknowledge is that only some Sessional Faculty, based on workload, have benefits, and none has a pension.
The GMUFA points out in its statement that the savings for the university from the pay cuts resulting from the expiration of the LoU come to just over $500,000, which is less than 1% of the total salary base for the faculty at MacEwan University. The UCP government has stipulated that—even in the face of its draconian cuts to post-secondary institutions in the province—the quality of teaching and learning must be maintained. The government has also directed that the cost of administration must be decreased. While most, if not all, faculty at MacEwan see the UCP’s concern about the quality of teaching and learning as disingenuous, many likely support the directive to make cuts to the administration, which has grown notably at MacEwan over the last few years.
MUSSC suggests members consider asking the university administrators themselves to take a pay cut, rather than choose to cut the earnings of the least among those who work at the university. The Sunshine List, which indicates that many administrators make well over $125,000 a year, makes clear that such a cut would not hurt them the way cuts will indisputably harm the faculty occupying the ranks of the already-poorly paid members.
We Can Push Back!
While this matter of the cuts in pay to a significant number of members due to the expiration of the LoU will most certainly be taken up by the Faculty Association Negotiation Committee (FANC) in its work on the next Collective Agreement, the GMUFA has suggested in the meantime that all faculty write protest letters—either as one of the financially disenfranchised members, or on behalf of the financially disenfranchised members—to the President, the Provost, and the Deans, and copied to the GMUFA.
Understandably, many, even all, members—especially Sessional Faculty—may be feeling vulnerable about their position in the face of the huge cuts which have happened already and which are on-going. MUSSC would like to inform members that two options are available for anyone who would like to send out a protest letter anonymously.
- Daniela Gatto, one of the Sessional Faculty Representatives on the GMUFA Board of Directors, has set up an email—firstname.lastname@example.org—to which members (Sessional or Tenured), using their personal emails, may send their letter, which will then be sent anonymously to the President, Provost, and Deans via the GMUFA.
- You may also reach out to the GMUFA President Rafat Alam at email@example.com
Because many members are likely feeling especially fatigued at this time, MUSSC has supplied below a template letter which members can choose to personalize, with or without identifying information. MUSSC also wants to underscore that it is fully committed to cultivating a solidarity (rather than a segregationist) ethos for the GMUFA. MUSSC firmly believes that this solidarity is necessary for the efficacy of the GMUFA as it embraces its status as a union in the face of the draconian cuts to post-secondary institutions in Alberta and the on-going pandemic wreaking havoc all over the world.
Recipients of the Protest Letter:
John McGrath, President
Craig Monk, Provost
Melike Schalomon, Dean of Arts and Science
Robert Wiznura, Acting Dean of Arts and Science
Wanda Costen, Dean of Business
Heather McRae, Dean of Continuing Education
Allan Gilliland, Dean of Fine Arts and Communications
Fred McGinn, Dean of Health and Community Studies, and Interim Dean of Nursing
To the President, the Provost, and the Deans of MacEwan University:
The Grant MacEwan University Faculty Association Board of Directors has informed its members about the university’s unilateral decision to let the Letter of Understanding (LoU) on “red-circled” faculty members expire on June 30, 2020.
I am shocked/enraged/dismayed [choose your verb] at this decision.
First of all, the salaries of these members were “red-circled”—that is, maintained above the salary tables in the 2017-2019 Collective Agreement, as well as the subsequent 2019-2020 Collective Agreement—to avoid cuts in pay ranging from 3% to 22%.
Secondly, all these members—who include both Sessional Faculty and Tenured Faculty—have taught at MacEwan for a long time (some over twenty-five years), and thus have substantially contributed to the building of the university as well as facilitated its transition from a college to a university. It is heartbreakingly unfair that their pay should be cut, all the more so when considering that most of them occupy the already poorly-paid ranks of Sessional Faculty.
Thirdly, the GMUFA points out that the savings for the university from the pay cuts resulting from the expiration of the LoU to these members—who number approximately 180—come to just over $500,000, which is less than 1% of the total salary base for the faculty at MacEwan University. How, then, can such harmful cuts be justified?
I know many of these “red-circled” colleagues, who . . .
I myself have taught at MacEwan for over . . . years, been recognized for the quality of my teaching, helped to develop courses in my area of expertise, and now, with the expiration of the LoU on “red-circled” members at the end of June, will have my pay cut by 22%. The hardship and unfairness of such a draconian cut cannot be overstated.
I urge the university to reconsider its unilateral decision to let the LoU expire on June 30, and to choose instead a collaborative, good faith approach to this matter, as well as other matters, in the negotiations for the next Collective Agreement due to begin very soon.
The UCP government’s huge cuts to MacEwan University should not be borne by the least of those among us.
Thank you all for your consideration of my concerns.