Official Website for OPSEU Local 415

Program Cuts – 22 May 2018 Update

I want to present a profile on Rod Bain, professor in the Heritage Masonry program in Perth. I have known Rod for several years since he began his teaching career at the Perth campus in 2003. Rod is a mason and carpenter by trade and has a diploma in Technological Education from Queen’s University. Additionally, Rod is a union steward has served on two Academic Bargaining Teams, CAAT-A Divisional Executive and is currently a member of the College Employment Stability Committee (CSEC). 

Notwithstanding the claims of senior administration, there has been no remediation related to the program that Rod has been made aware of. The last time PQR was completed was 2015-2016 and Rod was not assigned to participate in that process, even though masonry is his area of expertise. The PQR identified that Program Advisory Committee meetings have not been held regularly in accordance with college policy, although the college did have a meeting on April 26, 2018 with the Ontario Masonry Training Centre, which was conducted when Rod was teaching. 

As we know, Algonquin faces a self-inflicted $25 million-dollar shortfall, having acknowledged it has underpaid its part-time and sessional employees for years. Now that it has been legally forced to follow its core values (chiefly Caring, Respect, and Integrity) with respect to paying its employees equally for equal work, the College has turned its eye inward on the programs it offers students and to find savings. 

You should also be aware that it seems that the College is targeting a program that is unique – having a large restoration component, not offered anywhere else in the province and thus is free of competition from other Colleges for students.  Indeed, just such a program enjoys wide scale support not only from industry leaders and leading industry employers, but from major manufacturers as well. Imagine how beneficial it would be if these partnerships with industry could yield large scale product donations and if such a program was also actively involved in several campus and community beautification projects. 

To further this scenario, imagine if this unique program had a 100% placement rate for its graduating students and was a primary source of hiring entry level employees into this industry. Imagine if this program could consistently perform well above College averages for KPIs in student and employer satisfaction. It would seem that such a program would be a winner, and perhaps a template for other programs.   

Well, think again. Just such a program already exists at the College, or I should say existed at the College: Heritage Masonry at the Perth Campus.  Despite, having all the attributes listed above, the College has announced that it will not be accepting any more students into this program. 

The drawback to offering a unique program is you can’t get students if no one knows about it. The College has never been consistently good at marketing individual programs, and this is a textbook case. Even without any competition, the college has repeatedly failed to fill this program. Despite this, the College has not altered its marketing approach around this program. 

President Cheryl Jensen has stated:

“In all cases, program performance data are provided each year to all academic departments so that faculty, staff, and administrators can work together to collectively develop remediation plans for programs that are underperforming.” 

Yet, there is no evidence that any of this is true in the case of the Heritage Masonry Program, and after repeated requests by the union for this information, the College continues to remain silent. 

It seems the quality of a program or the fact that it meets a very real industry demand, assists in maintaining our countries-built heritage, and produces graduates who are in demand holds no sway for the College. In its actions herein, the College is revealing its one true core value: indifference. 

Rod will be presenting to the Academic and Student Affairs Committee of the Board of Governors on May 28, 2018. I thought it was important to provide some background on some of the faculty whose programs have been impacted by the seven program intake suspensions. 

We will continue to report on our findings from the College Employment Stability Committee. It is clear that we will need to pay continued attention to the various expenditures the college has made over the past few years that resulted in financial loses. 

Pat Kennedy, President

OPSEU Local 415

Program Cuts – Update May 15, 2018 – MISSTATEMENTS, UNSUPPORTED CONJECTURE AND SPECULATION: SUPERIOR COURT SLAMS ALGONQUIN COLLEGE

While the college continually asks “What will I do today to demonstrate our values?”, it also continually fails to be accountable for the mismanagement of its own affairs, be it Jazan, failed IT projects, program intake suspensions or mistreating its employees. 

As you will discover below, even middle managers are subject to mistreatment by Human Resources. It will become clear that the college is not living up to its core values and that senior administration is not looking after the best interests of students, faculty and staff with upcoming program cuts.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 15, 2018

On March 23, 2018 the Honourable Justice Kane issued a scathing decision, calling out Algonquin College for its treatment of a long-service employee.  

 The decision is particularly notable due to its assessment of the work done by Labour Relations at the College.

 In describing decisions made by Katherine Root, formerly labour relations specialist and current employee of the College, Justice Kane writes:

[59]           It is inconceivable that an alleged specialist in labour relations, in a report recommending dismissal for cause, would interpret the above brief December 24 email exchanges between two employees who had worked together at Algonquin since November 2011 and despite the denial of each while being interviewed, would then rely upon and report this as evidence of a personal relationship in order to record this as a conflict of interest by Ms. Edmond as a member of the Selection Committee.

Elsewhere in the decision, Justice Kane writes:

[64]           The Report recommending dismissal for cause contains misstatements of fact which Ms. Root knew or should have known to be the case, as well as unsupported conjecture or speculation.  Such matters should not have been presented as determined facts in support of a dismissal for cause.

OPSEU, Local 415, is especially troubled by one of the reasons cited by the College to terminate an employee – that as a member of the Management team, she had “breached” the trust by communicating with a Union representative. Justice Kane writes:

Ms. Root omits to report that this communication with Ms. Strickland including what was said, was reported by Ms. Edmond at the time via email to her superior who like Ms. Root in her affidavit, did not consider such communication a breach of trust or inappropriate.      

          […]

Introducing Mr. Noah to another Algonquin employee and union representative within that institution’s certified bargaining relationship is not a breach of trust towards the employer or grounds to dismiss for cause as so reported.

The terminated employee was awarded compensation in the amount of one year, which amounts to approximately $100,000.

The decision in full can be found here.

Pat Kennedy, President

OPSEU Local 415

Letter to Board of Governors – Pending Closure of the Academic Upgrading Program in Smiths Falls and Lanark County

Wednesday, May 2, 2018 

I am writing to you today to express my deepest concerns regarding the pending decision to close the academic upgrading (AU) program in Smiths Falls. 

I am the professor and program coordinator for the AU program in Smiths Falls and Lanark County. AU classes have been offered in Smiths Falls since the mid-1980’s. The program is funded in full by the Literacy and Basic Skills contract with the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD). There is one full time and two part time staff. The AU program is a continuous intake program. 

For more than 30 years, this program has helped many people obtain the required skills and academic credentials to go on to post-secondary programs, employment training or directly to sustainable employment. Through academic upgrading, students may complete the Academic and Career Entrance (ACE) certificate which is equivalent to grade 12. The majority of our graduates who are wanting to go on to post-secondary training select Algonquin College as their post-secondary institution of choice. The AU program in Smiths Falls and Lanark County is closely connected to a network of programs and services available in Lanark County such as employment services (3 offices), Ontario Works, and the Perth Campus.

The Smiths Falls AU program is important to the residents of the area as many are receiving social assistance or have had their income drastically reduced due to the economic instability of the area over the past 10-12 years. Consequently, many do not own vehicles. Transportation to other academic programs such as the Ottawa campus is an issue; so having the service of AU closer to home allows these students to have an opportunity, through ride sharing and other travel arrangements, to gain the skills required to move to the next phase of their lives. 

On March 12, 2018, my staff and I were told by my manager that, as a result of the implementation of Bill 148, the academic upgrading program in Smiths Falls and Lanark County was slated to be closed. This was the first time I had heard that the program was even being considered for closure. At the time, my manager did not have a definitive time frame as to when the program was slated to close, but she thought it could be the end of June of this year. We were, therefore, instructed to keep this information out of the public ear until more information could be gathered. My manager also informed me that, because this site is funded through a contract with MAESD, the College would need to have a conversation with the Ministry before making a final decision. Last week, I learned that apparently a conversation has occurred between the College and MAESD, but I was not informed of the results of the conversation. I have asked my manager and my union president, and neither have been able to get any answers or updates for me as to if and/or when this site will close. 

Since March, my staff and I have kept quiet about the pending closure. We have kept daily activities to business as usual and, as such, have continued to accept new students into the program. These students believe that, if necessary, they will be able to continue their upgrading courses into the fall at this site because that is all we can tell them. We feel like we are lying to our students. For my part time staff, being left in limbo is very stressful. They are unsure if they should be looking for other work. They enjoy their work at the Smiths Falls Centre and are distressed that no one is giving us any information. I am starting to see a lack of enthusiasm in my staff which I have never experienced before. The not-knowing is the hardest part. 

Furthermore, the seven other Algonquin programs that were recently suspended were made public in March. Since then, these programs have had the opportunity to rally public support in defense of not suspending the program. Because our announcement has yet to be made (or even decided), we have not been given the same opportunity to rally public support. I am certain that we would be able to generate a lot of support from the public, current and former students and staff, and referring agencies and support networks if given the opportunity. 

I have been the program coordinator for the AU program in Smiths Falls since 2001. It is my opinion that the closing of this program will have a devastating effect on our students, our communities, and the college’s reputation in Lanark County. I predict that many of the students will give up their upgrading studies and not return to the College for post-secondary programs. There will be a gap in service to the residents of Lanark County as some are not able to succeed in other offerings of high school equivalency programs (i.e. local high school adult education programs). More residents will remain on assistance because they will not be able to gain the skills to succeed in training or employment. 

I have been a proud member of the Algonquin College community for more than 30 years. I love the work I do, and I believe it shows in our results. While it is sometimes difficult to quantify the effects of AU on a community with data, the true stories are in the individuals who have been able to make a positive change in their lives as a result of gaining skills and confidence that could be applied to new learning or sustainable employment. The academic upgrading program makes a difference.

As a long time Algonquin College employees, I am appalled at the lack of consultation and communication I have received since the College sent my manager with the news of the pending closure. I respectfully request an opportunity to advocate for the academic upgrading program at an upcoming meeting of the Board of Governors.

 

Regards, 

Anne Davis

Professor and Program Coordinator

Academic Upgrading

Smiths Falls Centre 

Faculty Member, OPSEU Local 415