- Why is NUFSA standing up for equity in medical education for Northern Ontario?
Since the first class graduated in 2010, NOSM University medical education has grown an international reputation for excellence, which is fostered by a commitment to teaching and working conditions comparable in quality to southern medical schools.
The equity and fairness rights that the administration is currently attempting to remove from NOSM University would push working and teaching conditions not only far below standards in medical schools in Southern Ontario but also below standards in all of Canada.
The people of Northern Ontario need and deserve a university medical school with quality working conditions and doctors who have had the same quality education as people in Southern Ontario!
NUFSA is standing up for Equity in the North!
- What is NUFSA bargaining for right now?
Our current contract with NOSM University has protections for equity and fairness in the workplace which has ensured a high-quality educational experience for students and learners in the past. It provides workload and job security appropriate for Universities with medical schools in Canada.
When we negotiate with the administration for a new contract, we try to improve the overall quality of education for everyone at NOSM University. The quality of your education is determined by a number of factors, such as:
- how much time faculty members have to develop teaching and learning materials and assessment, integrate learning across courses and teach courses;
- autonomy over course content to ensure students are receiving culturally relevant, research-based, and northern specific education that are also in line with the licencing exam objectives;
- professional development opportunities to create a cutting edge and evidence-based teaching experience;
- whether your education environment is safe, open and inclusive; as well as
- what kind of learning and teaching resources are available to students, faculty, librarians and professional staff alike.
These are the issues NUFSA is trying to improve in bargaining. This is particularly important as NUFSA members are currently collaborating on and leading NOSM University’s medical doctor curriculum renewal.
As faculty, librarians, and professional staff, we’ve done the research. We are insisting that NOSM University remain comparable in educational quality, working conditions and support for scholarly excellence to comparators at medical schools in southern Ontario, including at the University of Ottawa, University of Toronto, University of Western Ontario, McMaster University and Queen’s University.
NUFSA members are taking a stand for all of Northern Ontario to maintain conditions that allow us to remain a high-quality medical university in Canada.
- What would be the consequences if NUFSA agreed to the Administration’s proposed changes to NOSM U?
If NUFSA was to agree with the administration’s demands to roll back our academic and equity rights, NOSM University would have the worst working and teaching conditions of any Canadian University!
Further, NOSM University would be moving towards an untested and unprecedented university model, that uncouples scholarly research from NOSM University and scholarly teaching from faculty. This model is used by trade schools, but not by University medical schools.
Ensuring those who teach also lead research ensures the knowledge we disseminate in the classroom is relevant and cutting edge.
As NOSM University is continuously expanding with new programs like the one just announced at Algoma University, and with several specialist programs, we insist that we maintain the quality of our founding program, the undergraduate medical education program and set up our new programs for success. The solutions we are proposing, such as replacing retiring faculty to maintain the faculty complement, will support healthy, sustainable growth of our medical university.
- How is Equity for Northern Ontarians threatened in this round of negotiations?
Rather than working with the NUFSA to support our common goal of educational excellence for northern, Indigenous and Francophone medical students, the administration is proposing to:
- Reverse existing equity provisions in the collective agreement that promote gender equity, including assurances that women are represented on promotion committees and the ability to defer the promotion and tenure process based on family leaves (for example, parental leave and caregiver leave).
- Introduce processes in the collective agreement that would put NUFSA members with disabilities at risk by continuously requesting medical information and independent medical examinations to justify workplace accommodations, and by eliminating accessible parking close to buildings for disabled employees. Once these provisions are lost at NOSM University, they can be easily lost for others in the NOSM University community, including students.
- Hinder our collective efforts of fostering a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive workplace by refusing to collect information on equity-deserving groups in the recruitment and hiring process and by removing language in our collective agreement that ensures job postings are also advertised in publications that may be especially directed to equity-deserving professionals. Putting up barriers for equity-deserving faculty jeopardises our ability to support a rich, equitable, or inclusive learning environment.
- Remove job security protections to make it easier to lay off faculty, librarians, and professional staff which could result in economic precarity for equity-deserving academic staff and the erosion of academic freedom. This would impact students’ learning experience by making it harder to connect with faculty year over year for academic advising and mentorship opportunities. NOSM University will lose its competitive edge compared to southern Medical Schools when it comes to attracting high quality academic staff and faculty. Academics will see NOSM University as an unattractive outlier as a career choice.
- Jeopardize NOSM University’s academic integrity by allowing unqualified non-faculty managers to perform some of our work. Imagine having someone who is not an expert in, for example, medical sciences taught in Theme 4, to direct medical scientist faculty and academic staff on how to prepare students for medical school exams, and eventually the licensing exam.
- Erode the level of expertise behind the development and teaching of curriculum on topics such as ethics, professionalism, Indigenous and Francophone Health, social and population health, legal responsibilities.
- Weaken faculty’s right to determine how and what technologies we use to teach, some of which enhance accessibility in the classroom.
- Disadvantage NUFSA members with respect to faculty status through established partnerships with Laurentian University and Lakehead University, which are needed to fairly compete for research grants. This will damage the quality and diversity of research at NOSM University. It will also restrict our ability to conduct research that benefits patients in northern Ontario, a key aspect of social accountability. This will disadvantage NOSM University students with respect to research opportunities and limit the level of research that can be done compared to other medical schools. Research opportunities are a requirement for accreditation and to provide additional income and experience to northern medical students.
NUFSA believes deeply in the future of NOSM University and wants to work with the NOSM University Administration on building a strong stand-alone medical school University in Canada.
Students deserve the best possible education, which is only possible when faculty, librarians, and professional staff have fair workloads, equitable compensation, and guaranteed job security.
Faculty, librarian, and professional staff working conditions are student learning conditions.
Strike FAQs for NOSM University Students and Learners
Practical Information for students
- Do I need to be worried about a possible strike or lockout?
At this stage, NUFSA may have to enter into a legal strike position if the NOSM University administration continues to push for concessions that undermine equity, the quality of education and research at our university and fail to properly address our reasonable proposals.
The NUFSA bargaining team has been open to discussions throughout the process and NUFSA remains open. We even offered the administration over 100 possible dates to meet and effectively deal with these big issues. Unfortunately, the administration has only provided a small handful of possible dates to continue these important conversations to reach a fair deal and avoid a strike.
- Which of NOSM University’s programs would be affected by a strike?
All programs at NOSM University could be affected as NUFSA members teach, design instructional methods, provide library services and support learner wellbeing. Research programs could be halted. NUFSA members are also very active in the coordination of course committees and the smooth and integrated delivery of modules, courses and examinations.
Programs affected include but are not limited to:
- Undergraduate Medical Education Program
- Postgraduate Medical Programs (Family Medicine and the Royal College specialist Programs)
- Graduate Programs (e.g. Master of Medical Studies)
- Northern Dietetics
- Physician Assistant Program
- Will a strike affect classes, modules and other learning activities?
A strike would affect classes as many are taught by NUFSA Faculty. Librarians provide the resources list for each module and support learners in their research and studies. This service would also be affected. Professional staff lead the creation of the online learning environment and integrate the course materials into organised structures (e.g., single modules). The Faculty Association is unsure what plans the university administration would make in the event of a strike, but we will do everything we can to keep you informed. Follow NUFSA on our social media platforms to make sure you don’t miss any updates
- What if I have to cross the picket line?
NUFSA members understand that there may be reasons why people need to cross the picket line. Some of these issues could be mitigated if the administration cancelled classes in the event of a strike as at other Universities with faculty strikes – this would mean many students and workers would not need to be put in this difficult position.
It is important to remember that NUFSA members are not striking against other workers on campus or against students or learners. NUFSA members are striking against the administration’s decision to jeopardise our working conditions, student learning conditions, and quality medical education in the North. All of these difficulties can be avoided if the administration averts a strike by negotiating a fair deal with NUFSA.
If you would like to encourage the NOSM University administration to avert a strike please send them an email. One way you can do so is by adding your name to a letter on our website nosmfsa.ca.
If you do not want to cross the picket line and you have classes that are scheduled to continue in the event of a strike, you should get in touch with NUFSA at [email protected] to discuss your options.
- What can I do?
The most important thing you can do is ask the administration to get serious about reaching a deal. Visit nosmfsa.ca to fill out a form letter to the administration. Once you’ve sent one, you can also encourage your friends and family to send one.
The time to act is now! It is better to try to avoid a strike than to try to influence administration after a strike or lockout begins. Let your voice be heard!
- What is NUFSA?
Founded in 2005, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine University Faculty and Staff Association (NUFSA) includes all employees at the University including a bargaining unit in the NOSM University Local 677 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU-SEFPO) representing the faculty, professional librarians, and professional staff. NUFSA is a proud affiliate of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) & the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA).
- Is NUFSA pushing for a strike?
Faculty, professional librarians, and professional staff do not want a strike or lockout (this will be their first ever), but must defend the quality of education at NOSM University that we have spent nearly two decades creating. We are working hard to avoid job action, but we need the continued and ongoing support of students and the NOSM University community to remind the administration that faculty, staff, and our students should be the university’s first priority. If the NOSM U goal is to increase the number of trained physicians and to improve care for patients in the North, then gutting the teaching experience is not the answer.
- Why should NOSM University students and learners care about the Association’s negotiations?
The substandard working conditions proposed by the NOSM University administration would harm current students’ learning experience as they embark on their four-year journey to master medical curriculum to pass their licensing exam. It would also harm family medicine and other speciality residents to navigate through their program and practise in and serve our northern and rural communities.
Rolling back equity and quality at NOSM University will affect us all.
But just as important is the threat to accreditation. Changes proposed by the administration to task non-faculty managers and administrators with curricular decisions are contrary to accreditation standards by the accreditation body, the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools (CACMS). If implemented, the accreditation status of our university’s medical school will be threatened.
- What is the role of NUFSA members in Curriculum Renewal?
We are leading curriculum renewal!
The current Phase 1 Curriculum Renewal Activities approved by NOSM University were and are led by full time faculty members:
- Undergraduate Medical Education Curriculum Committee (UMECC) approved renewal of Phase 1 (year 1 and 2), Theme 1, 2, 3 and 4 and Community Learning Sessions (CLS) are currently underway and are beginning to be implemented.
- Faculty, librarians and professional staff are working hard to support this effort and to ensure NOSM University is a leader in Northern, Indigenous and Francophone medical education while supporting Francophone learning opportunities.
- Faculty are ensuring that the new curriculum will meet accreditation standards.
- Without faculty involvement in curriculum development, NOSM University could lose accreditation which means we couldn’t offer certain degree granting programs.
- Our contact details?
NUFSA can be reached at [email protected]
NUFSA will be posting updated information about the strike at its website nosmfsa.ca
- Can NOSM University afford to give Faculty, Librarians and Professional Staff a fair and equitable contract with all of the cuts going on right now?
The impasse between NUFSA and the administration is not over money. The Employer has not even tabled its monetary proposal: money has not even been discussed yet (except for a number of Administration proposed cuts to benefits and Intellectual property rights).
- But are we not a completely new University?
No. Although the NOSM recently became a University, the NOSM University Act confirms that NOSM is the same legal entity it always has been, and that all its pre-existing contracts and collective agreements continue to be in force. NOSM is over 20 years old.
- Did NUFSA file for Conciliation and a “no board” prematurely?
No NUFSA did not. The negotiations process started with NUFSA allowing the administration an extra year to prepare for this process during the transition to university status. This extension was provided by NUFSA to the administration based on negotiations in February 2022.
In February 2022 NUFSA agreed to the postponed negotiation period of one year, until February 2023. For NUFSA it is critical to conduct negotiations during the summer in order not to impact teaching.
Therefore, NUFSA offered 38 possible negotiation days in May, June and July 2023. The NOSM University administration only agreed to meet for 7 of those days, but later even cancelled 2 of those days.
NUFSA then offered to try and find meeting dates in August, but the NOSM University administration would only agree to 2 meeting days, stating that they would not meet at all between August 10 to Sept 5, 2023.
While the NUFSA bargaining team came prepared with heavily researched proposals comparable to other University medical schools associations, the administration tabled proposals attacking our working conditions. The Canadian Association of University Teachers have confirmed these are the worst set of Employer proposals in Canada. The NOSM University also proceeded to stonewall NUFSA proposals. No significant progress was made by the NOSM University Administration to come to a resolution.
NUFSA and NOSM University administration met with the Conciliation Officer on Sept 22, 2023. At that time, NUFSA offered 32 additional meeting days from the end of September to the end of November in order to continue to work towards a successful conclusion to the negotiations.
Initially, NOSM University administration only agreed to meet one of those days. Since that time, the NOSM University administration has only agreed to meet for a total of 3 days in November.
One main factor that has caused the current status of our negotiations is the administration’s new position that universities, specifically universities in Ontario and universities with medical schools are not appropriate comparators for NOSM University.
Throughout our NOSM history, we have always used those universities as our comparators to ensure equity in Northern Ontario medical education.
The administration does not think that our Faculty, Librarians and Professional staff should have the same working conditions provided at other universities. NOSM University’s ability to be a competitive employer has a direct impact on learning conditions and its ability to continue to attract highly competitive student applicants. NOSM University students deserve the same high quality learning conditions that are provided to students at other universities.
- Why are faculty, professional librarians and professional staff fighting to maintain academic standards that are comparable to University medical schools in Southern Ontario?
- Many of this NOSM administration proposals could threaten accreditation of NOSM University
- Administrators rather than the faculty decision making power over the curriculum will not be compatible with a quality medical education focused on allowing students to develop the skills to meet the learning objectives of the Medical Council of Canada
- NOSM University degree is highly regarded by other universities and especially post graduate programs in medicine; if the administration drastically reduces the ability to engage in scholarly activity and research opportunities on par with our comparators in southern universities it will be difficult to maintain this track record
- Northern Ontario needs and deserves the same quality of working conditions for academic staff and quality of education of their doctors as is offered to those in Southern Ontario
- Is this impasse about higher salaries?
- No, there has not, as of yet, been any discussions about salaries.
- What equity issues are at sake?
NOSM University Administration seeks to eliminate many equity protections. They include:
- Equity in the quality of Medical Education in the North
- Equity in the quality of academic working conditions in the North
- Gender equity
- Equity in fairness and justice