Chris Thompson, Interim President, OPSEU Local 576
Esteemed members of the university board of governors, assembled students, faculty, staff, and concerned members of the community--including among others: members and the chair of the Art Libraries Society of North America Ontario Chapter, and the University of Toronto Faculty Faculty Association:
I’d like to thank the board chair for the invitation to speak today. I recognize there is a lot on your agenda and I do not wish to delay your proceedings. Further, I’d like to thank all those in attendance for taking just a few minutes to listen:
My name is Chris Thompson and I represent 300 permanent and contract administrative staff in my role as interim president of OPSEU Local 576. My purpose today, is to convince you that it is in the financial and general interest of the institution for the administration to work in a more respectful, collaborative--and less adversarial--manner with our labour group and others. ...and to motivate the board to take specific action on this front:
I humbly request that the board take up our appeal to the university administration that they honour the letter and spirit of the contract which was negotiated in good faith, signed and ratified by our membership, signed by your administrative representatives, and finally approved by an earlier iteration of this board.
The administration can begin this effort by including union staff representation within the Financial Sustainability Working Group as it exists today and within any similar such body in the future.
I believe it is within the power of this board to mandate the administration on this point.
Our union local has never sought to carve-out for itself more of the OCAD University pie. Rather, our members have worked tirelessly to help OCAD deliver more, and better tasting pie to everyone--with fewer staff per enrollment FTE almost every single year. Even still, we understand that as time and tastes evolve, the recipe and more will need adapting.
We have demonstrated time and again, unparalleled willingness to work respectfully and collaboratively with the administration to address the wide and varied challenges faced by the institution. We've barely even squeaked at the years-long austerity measures, ever hopeful that one day the administration may finally ask, "Hey, do any of you piemakers have some ideas about how we could make more and better pies for less money?"
Tortured analogies aside, the workforce efficiency and value which you and the administration seek are before your very eyes. We’ve been here all along with an open hand to help materialize that potential. For decades now, the administration has failed to avail themselves of the deep institutional knowledge embedded within our membership. Instead, our commitment to the institution is treated as a fungible commodity; thereby eroding the very essence of the product and experience we all wish to provide to the students, faculty, and broader OCAD university community.
It is high time that the board plot a new course for the administration in this regard.
In the unit review and restructuring process thus far, the administration could have taken many different approaches in dispensing the mandate given to them by the board. That which they have selected in this layoff action would seem ill-suited to the stated mission of the institution, and in direct contravention of any number of our shared contractual obligations.
It is incumbent upon the board to set the administration on the right heading. My membership and I implore you to do so.
I’d like for you now to hear directly from some of your most faithful administrative staff about how ineffectively their contributions and value to the institution have been assessed by the administration. Marta, if you could please deliver your brief statement on behalf of the laid off staff, I’m sure we’d all like to hear it.
My name is Marta and I would like to make a brief statement on behalf of myself, Alex, Daniel, and Victoria.
Many individuals have reached out to acknowledge the contributions made by the librarians recently laid off through reorganization of the library and for this we are truly grateful. Our collective experience as community members represents decades of collegial work, in collaboration with so many of you. We have made professional contributions to art librarianship, representing the University through activities such as planning and participating in conferences and publishing in journals.
After many years of dedicating our work to building services and resources in response to the needs of the community, we were looking forward to new opportunities for a collective envisioning of the future of the library together with students and faculty.
Thank you for your time.