CAUT’s workshop in Ottawa (Oct 28-29) began by laying the legal framework and history of how professionals gained the right to grieve in NA labour laws, beginning with the Masters and Servant Act (1824) and examining the acquisition of individual, employee rights in the greater employer and employee relationship. The sessions were focused on the legitimate rights of librarians to grieve, what constitutes a grievance and how grievances are used within the workplace to address individual rights as outlined in, for example, the Canadian Human Rights Act, Canadian Labour Code and Sexual Harassment legislation and the Collective Agreements between universities and faculty associations.
The intensely emotional and difficult nature of grievances were the focus of one session by Prof. Michael Piva, CAUT Assistant Executive Director. It was noted that the vast majority of librarians who are forced to initiate a grievance are often penalized, isolated and reprimanded in some way that breaches their professional rights.
The session by Douglas Vaisey, Librarian at Saint Mary’s University, reported the results of a survey he undertook via CAUT on the grievances and academic librarians. These results will be made public at a later date on this blog. After being asked if they had ever considered grieving and why they had not, here are a few startling statistics from our academic communities: 64.8% fear reprisal, 39.9% are insecure about the grounds for grieving, 22.2% fear of isolation if they do and 19.4% fear there will be an impact on other colleagues.
The message from CAUT yesterday was clear. Librarians need to grieve. There is no other way of acquiring our professional rights if we do not bring them out into the open. Being silent is the worst injustice we do to ourselves and our colleagues. We have rights, workplace and professional rights. We work in an academic community which strives to teach academic excellence, which means it is a model for basic academic principles, fairness, equity, freedom to express your professional expertise and opinions without fear of reprisal. If our situation differs from this, we need to be more pro-active, support our colleagues are not afraid and acknowledge their efforts to secure these rights – for those are silent. More later on today’s sessions.