Seven board chairs attempt to undermine collective agreements
On Nov.8 the chairs of the boards of governors of six Quebec universities (Laval, Montreal, Sherbrooke, Concordia, McGill, Bishop's, plus a board member from Université du Québec) wrote a private letter to Premier Bouchard. The contents of this letter has now leaked to the faculty associations in Quebec. The purpose was to suggest to the Premier a policy for dealing with the universities in the province.
Two suggestions immediately touched the interests of academic staff in Quebec. The first asked that the code du travail be amended so that job security be removed from those faculty and support staff the university wants to lay off. In the case of faculty this would mean the abolition of tenure in any program designated by the board. The writers also suggest that mandatory retirement be restored for professors, alone among the citizens of Quebec.
Roch Denis, President of La Fédération Québécoise des Professeures et Professeurs d`Université, was outraged by the letter and pointed out that neither the boards of governors nor the Conference of Rectors & Principals of Quebec Universities (CRÉPUQ) had discussed or endorsed this initiative and that the chairs had simply arrogated to themselves the power to act for the universities. He asked the Premier to renounce the attack on collective bargaining and to inform the professoriate about the nature of the meeting planned with the Chairs. Several media commentators noted the insult in addressing the letter to Premier Bouchard and not to Pauline Marois, the minister responsible for higher education.
CAUT President William Bruneau said that it was incredible that the board chairs, having negotiated collective agreements with their staff, would then write secretly to the Premier to revoke the terms of those very agreements. "What happened to the independence and autonomy of the universities?" he said.
"It is also tragic that this stupid move has made the universities look ridiculous, just at the moment when the whole university community needs to pull together to defend our interests both at the federal and the provincial level."
The Rectors of Laval and Sherbrooke have distanced themselves from their respective Board Chairs’ recommendations concerning tenure and job security. The Université du Québec repudiated any involvement. CRÉPUQ President Pierre Reid made a ringing defence of tenure. "La permanence est une garantie d'indépendance. On pourrait se débarrasser des profs aux opinions dérangeantes pour les gens au pouvoir. Le raisonnement des présidents est basé sur une vision du monde des affaires. Le monde universitaire est différent."