Negotiations update: the College of Medicine

At the outset of this round of negotiations, the USFA requested information from the Employer (in August and then in October) for the purposes of negotiating outstanding issues concerning the College of Medicine, including:

  • services considered to be academic services provided by Provincial Academic Clinical Funding Plan (P-ACFP) contractors to the university;
  • a list of financial and other supports provided by the university for Research Chairs in the College of Medicine that the university has deemed to be independent contractors;
  • a list of academic services these Research Chairs are contractually obligated to provide;
  • a list of P-ACFP contractors who are contractually obligated to provide more than 40% academic services;
  • the annual funding provided by the university to support P-ACFP contracts.

The Employer has declined to provide this information, and the USFA has filed a grievance based on the provisions of Article 10.6.3 (“The parties agree to make available to each other, upon written request and within a reasonable time thereafter, such information as is necessary for negotiation of a Collective Agreement”).

The History

While we were preparing for our last round of negotiations, the Employer came to us with a problem: the College of Medicine was on probation, and as a medical-doctoral university holding membership in the U15 the university needed to restructure the college. One issue requiring resolution was clinician faculty who were being paid as full-time academic employees by the university, but were doing mostly clinical work.

While the USFA was reluctant to lose members, we were compelled by the Employer’s argument that a new model of employment for clinician faculty was absolutely essential for the College of Medicine’s success. We agreed to permit a transition of primarily clinical faculty (i.e. most of their work was clinical rather than academic) to a new contractual relationship with the University and Health Regions. We agreed the Employer could offer current full-time MD faculty in the College of Medicine a severance package to quit employment at the University and sign up for the P-ACFP, and we stipulated that the severance must be voluntary. The negotiated severance package was offered to MD clinician faculty in July 2015. Employees who did not elect to take the voluntary exit package have continued their academic appointment with the university under the terms of the current Collective Agreement.

What helped to make the Employer’s request persuasive was that they also proposed negotiating new procedures for appointing in-scope clinician faculty whose duties would involve a significant proportion of academic work. The new model would require key differences from what is currently permitted by our Collective Agreement, and so demanded lengthy and difficult negotiations to bring principles of collegial involvement and decision making into appointment and review processes for new clinician faculty.

We were faced with two important imperatives:

  • how would we determine what proportion of academic duties defines a full-time academic (in scope of the Association) when it comes to clinician faculty? and,
  • what terms and conditions of employment would be applied to clinician faculty appointments (including hiring process, compensation, performance reviews, renewal of terms and permanent status)?

Talks were put on hold, however, when we discovered that while we were in the midst of these negotiations, the Employer had disregarded the terms and limitations set out in the Collective Agreement that must be followed in hiring new faculty, and had recruited and appointed new faculty in the College of Medicine to do primarily academic work as independent contractors providing full-time service under the terms of the P-ACFP.

At no point under the voluntary severance agreement had the Association relinquished its rights under the USFA certification order, which stipulates that the USFA represents full-time academic employees.

Current negotiations

A key interest for the USFA in this round of negotiations was to resume discussions on new clinician faculty appointments, and last July we tabled a proposal on terms and conditions of employment for new hires of clinician research faculty (it should be emphasized that we were not asking to renegotiate the settlement for those medical faculty who took the voluntary severance package and resigned from their academic appointments).

The Employer now suggests that all new clinician faculty are independent contractors no matter what proportion of their time is academic, and as such they do not fall within the certification order. However, clinician faculty have been classified as full-time academics since certification and if a significant percentage of their work is academic work for the university (teaching, research, administration), they should be in-scope faculty members. Clinician faculty members have historically worked anywhere from 20% to 100% of their time doing academic work as full-time employees.

The Employer has declined to negotiate this matter further, and it seems this is another issue that will have to be resolved through arbitration.

Differential designation for Clinical Professors

In negotiations we also have proposed discussing the “Clinical” designation for faculty who are not full-time academics in the College of Medicine. The College of Medicine Procedures Manual indicates that “Clinical” will no longer be used as a designation for medical faculty who are not full-time employees of the university—that is, clinician faculty contractors—with very different standards for tenure and promotion from what is required of USFA faculty members—will be given the same ranks of Assistant, Associate, or Professor without any differential designation whatsoever. The USFA’s position is that this would contravene Article 13.1.1 of the Collective Agreement, and we have indicated a willingness to negotiate a designation other than Clinical. This conversation is still pending.