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Update: Letters of Understanding and Workload Letters

Dear Members,
On April 1, the APUO informed members that we had signed four letters of understanding (LOU), and provided an update on the negotiations to conclude letters of understanding regarding course preparation and delivery for the Spring/Summer and Fall 2021 terms. Today, we are pleased to inform you that we have reached agreement on a letter of understanding on course preparation and delivery for the Spring/Summer 2021 term. We would like to thank our partners in the Central Administration for their cooperation and efforts in signing these five letters of understanding.
This bulletin provides highlights of the recently signed LOU, an update on the challenges being encountered in negotiating a letter of understanding on course preparation and delivery for the Fall 2021 semester, and details regarding 2021-2022 workload letters.
Letter of Understanding on Course Preparation and Delivery for the Spring/Summer 2021 Term
This LOU confirms that instruction for the Spring/Summer 2021 semester will be delivered remotely or online for the semester. It: 

  • guarantees that the employer will set aside a one-time amount of thirty-five thousand dollars ($35,000) that will be placed in a fund to be used to pay for additional teaching assistantship hours of up to 32 hours per member. In order to obtain a teaching assistant to support the development and delivery of their Spring/Summer 2021 online or distance learning course(s), members must apply in writing to their respective Dean’s Office no later than May 7, 2021, 5:00 p.m.[1]
  • ensures that the APUO will be consulted on any changes that may affect members’ working conditions before a partial or full return to in-person teaching;
  • protects members’ academic freedom in choosing the most appropriate format for teaching online or remotely;
  • confirms that, once again, members will be provided with support from the Teaching and Learning Support Service (TLSS) and from faculty personnel;
  • allows members who deliver a course online or remotely to decide if they will continue to exclusively teach online or remotely should the Central Administration decide that students may return to campus;
  • protects members’ intellectual property for all materials developed for online or remote teaching;
  • provides members with the option of requesting a Canada Revenue Agency T2200 Form to support claims regarding expenses incurred to fulfill their duties remotely.

Members can view the full letter of understanding here.
Ongoing Negotiations and 2021-2022 Workload Letters
By the end of today, you will have received or will receive, your workload assignment letters for the 2021-2022 academic year. As was the case one year ago, you will note that some faculties are attaching language to the letter such as “Please note that your course load for the 2021-2022 academic year may require some or all distance education.”
Yet, as we noted in our April 25, 2020 communication, this is a unilateral approach by the administration that does not affect your teaching loads for Fall 2021 in any way until the Central Administration and the APUO agree on a letter of understanding regarding course preparation and delivery for the Fall 2021 term.[2]
At one point in March, we thought we were close to reaching an understanding regarding the Fall 2021 semester. Since then, however, negotiations have become increasingly difficult, and it has become clear that we need more information from the Central Administration about its plans for 2021-2022 not least because the emphasis it is placing on the importance of bimodal instruction is now joined with an insistence on a significant number of courses being delivered in “hybrid” format.
Given that we currently do not have a letter of understanding regarding the preparation and delivery of courses for the Fall 2021 semester, it is our responsibility to inform APUO members of their rights regarding any changes to their workload after May 1, 2021.
Here are some key points we wish to highlight: 

  • Deans must provide members with their official workload assignments by May 1.
  • Any notes of the type mentioned above (e.g., please note that your course load for the 2021-2022 academic year may require some or all distance education) does not officially change your workload assignment. It is simply an announcement of potential changes to come. 
  • After May 1, Deans must consult members prior to modifying their workload assignments. 
  • Changing the teaching format of a course from in-class to a class taught via an unconventional method (e.g., remote, teleconference, online) qualifies as a modification to a workload assignment.   
  • Members must be provided with an opportunity to express their views regarding any suggested changes to their teaching load. Following this consultation process, the Dean may send an updated workload assignment to the member. 
  • Since the APUO has not agreed to provide blanket consent for courses taught wholly or in part online, no courses taught by non-standard methods (e.g., correspondence; filmed, taped, broadcast or televised; teleconferenced; or taught wholly or in part online) may be included in a member’s workload without the member’s prior consent (Article of the collective agreement).[3]
  • If a member agrees to teach a course using unconventional methods, the Employer must provide them with the necessary IT support and technological resources.
  • If members disagree with their updated workload assignment, they have ten working days to file a letter of disagreement. Should you feel the need to file a letter of disagreement, we encourage you to do so in consultation with the APUO.
  • It has come to our attention that some Deans are putting pressure, including threats, on members and units to offer courses in bimodal. This practice is unacceptable, and we have filed an association grievance to put an end to it. Please let us know if you have experienced such pressure.

We know that the quality of teaching and the student experience is closely linked to the working conditions of faculty. Our working conditions have a direct impact on the learning conditions of our students. This is particularly true in a context as difficult as the one we are currently living. It is imperative that the Central Administration work with APUO to determine an appropriate, fair and effective framework for the preparation and delivery of courses for the Fall 2021 semester, and possibly for the Winter 2022 semester.
Finally, please note that the University of Ottawa inter-union coalition, of which we are a part, has yet to receive any response to its April 7 letter to President Frémont and Provost and Vice-President Academic Scott. The coalition met today to discuss the situation and plan further action.
Please feel free to contact APUO with any questions you may have regarding your rights to workload assignments for the 2021-2022 academic year.  
Thank you very much for your continued support and patience. 

[1] Due to postings and administrative requirements, the majority of teaching assistantship hours may not be offered until May 31, 2021. In addition, the allocation of the Spring/Summer 2021 term supernumerary fund for online/distance education will be proportional to the total number of eligible applications received by the employer and the amount available in said fund.

[2] The same obviously holds true for your Winter 2022 session teaching loads.

[3] It is important to recall here that, as part of its ongoing collective bargaining the Central Administration has put forward a proposal to amend Article 22 so that member consent would no longer be required. In its normative proposal, the central administration explicitly states that “at distance, bimodal, and other unconventional methods of course delivery are likely to expand in large numbers in the future” as justification for its proposal to remove the right of members to refuse to teach in these formats.