When I started working at York University Libraries in 2007 I was amazed at how slowly everything went. I came from the private sector: for over a decade I’d worked at internet access providers and a couple of tech startups. Things moved fast there, of course. At York, in the libraries, sometimes it would take months just to talk to someone. A lot was handled with committees, and if someone said they’d have something ready for the committee meeting next month, and then didn’t, there wasn’t much anyone else could do, so we’d wait until the next month. And if there was a plan to do something over the summer to have it ready for September, but there was a problem along the way, the default would be to delay for an entire year to the next September.
Sometimes the slowness is good, certainly. The long time scale universities have helps makes them important institutions in society. Small units can move quickly, and in emergencies like the Covid-19 pandemic things get done very fast. But …
How about a decade? We’re now getting near the end of ten years of work on something I am very confident will soon end with nothing changing.
It’s a document: Criteria and Procedures for Promotion and Continuing Appointments of Professional Librarians and Archivists, which is the tenure and promotion policy for librarians and archivists in the York University Faculty Association, our union.
CPPCAPLA is part of our collective agreement. It was first agreed when librarians joined the union in 1978, and left alone until 2009 when some very minor procedural changes were made. (Meanwhile, the faculty T&P policy was updated and refined in regular bargaining every three years.)
With those changes made there was some appetite for more, because the document was over thirty years old.
This is what’s happened:
2010: First try starts A working group is formed to draft some changes to one part of CPPCAPLA, about promotion to Senior Librarian. One colleague says the whole thing should be revised and modelled more along the faculty process, but this is ignored. (She was right, though I didn’t see it at the time; this is what we ended up doing.)
2011: First try ends YUFA rejected our proposed changes and would not take them forward. I think an experienced YUFA staffer agreed we should renegotiate the whole thing, and there was no point in small changes. My notes from back then aren’t nearly as detailed as I keep now, but I did write, “Back it comes to the library and the [union] chapter … cripes, this will take a couple of years by the time it’s done.”
2013: Discussion Some discussion about getting back to the criteria.
2014: Discussion More discussion in the librarian and archivist union chapter. YUFA advises us that one way to handle this would be to get a memorandum of agreement (MOA) in bargaining to set up a side table to negotiate new language. Something this detailed and complex can’t be handled in regular bargaining.
2015: Preparation We get CPPCAPLA revisions into the YUFA primary negotiating positions. In the summer, the chapter sets up Working Group 1 to look at what areas of the document should be changed. In the fall the chapter votes on its recommendations and creates Working Group 2 to draft a new document.
2016: Bargaining The new YUFA collective agreement is ratified. New article 7.10 says: “Within three months of the ratification of this Agreement, the Parties shall name an equal number of representatives to sit on a joint committee to revise the existing Criteria and Procedures for Promotion and Continuing Appointments of Librarians and Archivists. The Joint Committee shall report to the JCOAA every six (6) months or on request from either party and will submit its proposed revisions to the Employer and the Association for approval or ratification.” (Thus setting up a side table through collective agreement language directly, not an MOA.) The bargaining teams form later in the year—I was one of three librarians working with an expert union staffer on the YUFA side of the table.
2017: Bargaining In January the chapter unanimously passes Working Group 2’s draft language. Bargaining begins in March. We have six bargaining sessions that year. The Employer cancels ten others.
2018: Bargaining Bargaining continues (we met off campus during the longest post-secondary strike in Canadian history) with sixteen sessions. The Employer cancels four, we cancel one, and there’s one mutual.
2019: New language voted down Bargaining session #23 in January is the last. We sign a memorandum of settlement with the new language. There is much internal chapter debate about whether three clauses (on criteria for research considered for promotion) are good or not. In March there is a general membership meeting and a ratification vote: vote yes or vote no. The MOS is voted down. In May the chapter meets with some YUFA executive members to discuss next steps. In June, YUFA writes to the Employer setting out three options and asks if any are of interest. We hope there is some way of salvaging something.
2020: Discussion In February the Employer responds to one option with a tentative suggestion of a possible way forward. In September the union chapter will meet with some Exec members to discuss the suggestion. (That’s right: in September 2020 we discuss a response to a proposal sent in June 2019.)
There are three potential outcomes of that meeting. The first (everyone likes the Employer’s suggestion) won’t happen. The second will halt everything at that meeting and the third will be rejected by the Employer.
Ten years of work—I can’t imagine how many people put in how many hours on this—that I am regretfully confident will end up achieving nothing. And it will be another decade before there’s any appetite for going back at CPPCAPLA.
(These are my opinions only and I am not speaking for anyone I’ve worked with on anything about CPPCAPLA.)