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By Joe Friesen

An epoch of bitter resentment for overworked and underpaid Ryerson faculty may finally be at an end.

The arbitrator’s decision, handed down this summer, provides faculty with the basis for a collective agreement, something they haven’t had in almost three years. Although the new deal has yet to be signed, issues of intellectual property rights and salaries have been resolved.

“By and large faculty salaries went up in ways that get them much closer to the norm,” said faculty association president David Checkland. “We’re in the ballpark, whereas before we were not.”

Faculty salaries make up about 80 per cent of the university’s operating budget. Before the arbitrator’s award, Ryerson professors were “at or close to the bottom” of the Ontario university pay scale, according to Checkland.

The average faculty salary is now about $71,000.

Michael Doucet, who led the faculty association during the bargaining process, hopes future discussions with the administration are less tortuous.

“It was very difficult. More difficult than it should have been,” said Doucet. “I don’t think Mr. Lajeunesse clearly enough understood how unions work in a university environment.”

When Lajeunesse was re-appointed president in Dec. 1998, the board identified seven critical issues which it expected him to address. Foremost among those was faculty morale, which was at an all-time low.

“There are still some issues that need to be resolved with respect to morale but the money issue has improved morale to some extent, there’s no question,” said Checkland.

Checkland says Ryerson’s workload maximums are significantly higher than most other universities.

“The general tendency at universities has been to increase class sizes to deal with funding problems,” said Checkland. Difficulties arise, however when the corresponding support systems of teaching, marking and laboratory assistants aren’t in place.

President Lajeunesse is quite pleased with the recent improvement in faculty relations. He points to the 87 new faculty hired this year as proof of Ryerson’s attractive working environment.

“We’ve made quite a lot of progress in this round of negotiation,” said Lajeunesse. “Not only what we pay and the working conditions of faculty but also what the faculty members have to do in return.”

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