St. Jerome’s, union reach settlement

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  • March 30, 2011
St. Jerome’s University, Waterloo, OntarioSt. Jerome’s University took two steps toward peace between professors and administrators March 24 as a first contract between the faculty’s union and the university and a plan to set up a senate-like body to oversee academic matters by May 2012 were ratified by the university’s board of governors.

The union contract will see St. Jerome’s faculty keep pace with colleagues at the University of Waterloo in terms of salary and benefits. St. Jerome’s is the Catholic college federated with the University of Waterloo.

It was how the school is governed, rather than money, that inspired the professors and librarians to seek union protection. But in the end, governance issues were not part of union negotiations.

A separate working group with representatives from the board of governors, administration and academic staff was struck to report on possible reforms to how St. Jerome’s runs itself.

University president and vice-chancellor Dr. David Perrin called the union settlement “a moment to celebrate.”

“I see this as a very positive step,” he told The Catholic Register.

The benefit of the four-year agreement, retroactive to 2009, will be clarity about everybody’s roles and obligations, he said. The first contract will run out April 30, 2013.

“It’s a good agreement,” said math professor Cyntha Struthers, acting president of the St. Jerome’s University Academic Staff Association.

The agreement was ratified by a union vote with 96 per cent in favour of the new terms of employment.

Restoring trust between the professors and the administrators is still a work in progress, said Struthers.

“It’s a good first step,” she said. “A lot of things still need to be worked out. The union has not changed its view in terms of the leadership.”

A 2009 report by outside consultants found a “lack of sufficient consultation on a number of issues and a lack of understanding regarding the fundamental role of College Council.” A survey of faculty found most did not trust their employer after a series of decisions the professors thought arbitrary.

Setting up an as-yet-unnamed senate-like body to oversee academic matters such as tenure, sabbaticals and new academic programs will give the professors a say in things that matter to them, said Struthers.

“We wanted to be sure academic decisions would be made by academics,” Struthers said.

The process of forming a union and negotiating a first contract has brought the teaching staff at St. Jerome’s closer together, according to Struthers.

“I’m looking forward to working under the new agreement,” she said.

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