Demystifying the Demands for the Feb. 20 Demand-Set Meeting

OPSEU Local 415

OPSEU Local 415 is the democratically-run body that represents Algonquin College full-time and partial-load faculty (professors and instructors), cousellors, and librarians.

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Our Local demand-set meeting is next week on Tuesday! Have you registered or do you need to register here? We are offering both options for in-person or online attendance. Just make sure you sign up and attend so you participate in the shaping of our next collective agreement!

Below, you can read a first-hand account of Jordan Berard’s (member of Local 415) experience and why “demand-setting” is not a scary process.

Demystifying the “Demands”:
Prioritizing our Local Concerns at the Local 415 Bargaining Demand-Set Meeting

-by Jordan Berard

I can very clearly remember my initial reaction when I was asked to attend a Local 415 Bargaining Demand-Set meeting for the first time almost a decade (and three bargaining rounds) ago. 

Particularly concerned with the word “demand,” I was worried that the meeting would involve raised voices, moments of lectern-pounding, arm-waving, chair-standing gesticulation, and confrontational and angry emotions.  Second only to that most severe of union words – “strike” – the word “demand” suggested the kind of unnecessarily antagonistic approach to bargaining that my misinformed, newly-unionized self dreaded to think about becoming a part of.  I also wondered how my quiet, introverted voice would be able to articulate my concerns among the voices of my more vocal colleagues.  I hate conflict, and the idea of “demanding” something from my employer seemed an unnecessarily aggressive approach to what I thought would be the much more tempered and cooperative process of “bargaining” for a “collective” “agreement” (another clear indicator of my inexperience!). 

Little did I realize that the demand-set meeting would serve as my introduction to the positive, productive, and collaborative work of our Local, and to the hugely important first step of the bargaining process that involves articulating workplace concerns and prioritizing the needs of our Local 415 membership. 

Watching members of our Local engage in the act of respectfully listening to each other’s concerns (which helped me realize that I wasn’t the only one experiencing the issues that were affecting me), brainstorming the language needed to articulate those concerns, and then collaboratively ranking, voting upon, and prioritizing the concerns that we wanted to be elevated to the provincial bargaining team was a huge step in my understanding of how the bargaining process works in a large, multi-faceted union like our OPSEU CAAT-A division.  It was also my first step towards becoming a union steward.
Rest assured that although it is enshrouded in combative language, the “demand setting” process that all of the Locals in our CAAT-A division are currently engaged in is inherently collaborative, both at the inter- and the intra-college levels.

If you’re new to bargaining (or perhaps you’ve seen it in action before but remain wary or uncertain), it’s helpful to think of our upcoming Local 415 Demand-Set meeting (taking place this coming Tuesday February 20th from 5-8 PM) as a “grassroots” opportunity to express, hear, and collect the concerns of faculty members in our own Local.  Indeed, this demand-set meeting is as “local” as the bargaining process gets within our massive union. 

At the meeting, you’ll hear the concerns of the various faculty groups that are represented by Local 415 – our full-time and partial-load professors and instructors, our counsellors, and our librarians.  You’ll hear issues articulated that you may not have even known about because we work in such a large institution. You’ll also be encouraged to share any issues that affect you and your colleagues.  Indeed, everyone will be welcome to share their concerns in this safe space.  Together, we will then work on the language that we want to use to express these concerns, categorize them into larger groups of related issues, and then determine which of these our Local wants to present to our larger provincial bargaining team as being the most important for us to see represented in this round of bargaining.  This is how we set our “demands.” 

Our sister Locals from across the province will be doing the same work over the next few weeks and will set their own demands for bargaining.  Once all of the Locals in our CAAT-A division have completed the work, the provincial bargaining committee (which includes our own Martin Lee) will then collect all of the demands from across the province, further categorize and refine the language of the demands, and then present the list back to us for further prioritizing.  What we will inevitably learn at this point is that while there are many concerns that are unique to individual Locals, there are also many that are consistent across the college system.  The end result of all of this important work, then, will be a list of demands that best represents the priorities, concerns, and goals of the entire CAAT-A bargaining division.

All of this to say that we need to have a productive Demand-Set Meeting in order for our “local” concerns to be heard at the provincial level.  This means that we need as much representation from our membership as possible at the meeting in order to ensure that all of our concerns are being heard and considered in the larger bargaining process. 

Attending the meeting will ensure that your concerns are heard and that your voice becomes an important part of the process of setting priorities for this 2024 round of collective bargaining.

We had record attendance at our last Demand-Set meeting!  Let’s do even better this year!

Please join us Tuesday, February 20 from 5-8 PM for our Local 415 Demand-Set Meeting. You can participate in person in room T102 or virtually (Zoom link to follow). Dinner will be provided for those attending in person.  Family care is also available for anyone requiring it to participate in the meeting.  Please use a non-college e-mail address to register here for the Local 415 Demand-Set Meeting by 12 PM on Tuesday, February 20.

In solidarity,

Your Local 415 Leadership Team
Annette Bouzi, President
Judy Puritt, First Vice-President
Ala’ Qadi, Second Vice-President
Tracy Henderson, Chief Steward
Martin Lee, Secretary
Shawn Pentecost, Treasurer

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