On Nov. 8, the faculty at Laurentian University voted 89 per cent in favour of a three-year collective agreement. The settlement, retroactive to July 1, 1999, was reached after lengthy negotiations accompanied by mediation.
In the first year, the salary portion of the settlement provides for a two per cent across the board increase, a catch-up of $100,000 distributed equally among the continuing faculty, a progress through the ranks increment (PTR), and a merit increment having a value of one PTR (equivalent to 0.1 per cent) to be awarded to at least five per cent of the faculty. Additionally, the floors and the ceilings will be increased by three per cent and the PTR value for the lecturer, assistant, and associate ranks will be increased by 11.1 per cent, 8 per cent, and 6.5 per cent respectively.
In each of the second and third years of the agreement, there will be an across the board increase equal to the average percentage increase to the base salaries at the other Ontario universities, a catch-up of 1.5 per cent divided equally among the continuing faculty, a PTR and a merit increment as per the first year. The floors and ceilings will be increased by two per cent for the second year and by one per cent for the third year.
The agreement also provides an additional catch-up based on sharing the gross increase in the university's revenues. Details of the revenue-sharing formula will be negotiated or arbitrated in the next few months. The maximum that can be achieved by the formula will be 2.5 per cent for each of the second and third years.
The settlement modifies the current collective agreement to allow members to apply for the special voluntary early retirement plan as early as age 57. Previously, this plan was available only to members aged 60 and over. Approval for those below age 60 will be dependent upon the financial benefit to the university and the ease of recruiting a replacement. The retiring incentive consists of 1.75 per cent of the member's salary times the years of service up to a maximum of 50 per cent of salary. This amount is paid annually for five years or over the years remaining to normal retirement at age 65, whichever is shorter.
Notable among the non-monetary issues is the establishment of a joint faculty association-administration faculty renewal committee to devise a strategy to deal with the impending retirement of a significant proportion of the faculty over the next few years.
The negotiators were not able to resolve several important issues and agreed that committees be established to make recommendations to the faculty association and the administration.
These include a teaching load committee to make recommendations regarding possible reduction in the teaching load and the impact of Internet-based teaching, and a pension committee to study the feasibility and advisability of establishing a separate pension plan for the faculty. Currently, the faculty representation on the committee overseeing the pension plan amounts to a mere 20 per cent despite the fact the faculty own 70 per cent of the pension fund.
Other committees were established to deal with the administrative structure of the university, patents and copyright, and safety of the work environment.
It is worth noting that Laurentian's faculty have been relegated to the bottom of the salary scale of the Ontario university system since the imposition of the Social Contract. The objective of this round of negotiations was to raise the average salary at Laurentian to the Ontario system salary average. In this regard, some limited gains were made, and it is expected that the revenue-sharing formula will provide additional catch-up.
Anis Farah is chief negotiator for the Laurentian University Faculty Association.