Bill 100, or The Universities Accountability and Sustainability Act, proposed by Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan on 22 April 2015, is profoundly destructive legislation. It attacks collective bargaining rights and, more thoroughly, the core educational mission of our universities. Legal opinions from Pink, Larkin and Breen, CAUT, and others, are unanimous: this is a union-busting bill; this is a bill designed to accelerate and complete the university’s reduction to an instrument of business-industrial concerns; this bill is likely unconstitutional and, if it is not stopped, the damage to our members, to our students, and to our institutions will be tremendous. This document highlights key language in the bill for ANSUT members as well as for our allies.
Bill 101’s two pillars are “significant operating deficiency” and “revitalization plan”. They work together, in that “significant operating deficiency” triggers the Act’s measures, while “revitalization plan” is the “solution” to the “deficiency”.
1) Significant operating deficiency: means an operating deficiency of a university that, in the opinion of the person who is determining pursuant to this Act whether a significant operating deficiency exists, can reasonably be expected to threaten the ability of the university to continue as a going concern under the existing financial framework, based on a five-year financial forecast and opinion, verified by an independent financial professional, that forecasts:
(i) a significant annual operating deficit or significant cash flow deficiency in at least one year during the five-year period, or
(ii) a pattern of operating deficits or cash flow deficiencies during the five-year period. (The Act, 2[e])
2) Revitalization plan: universities “may participate in the revitalization planning process set out in this Act by submitting notice of its intention to prepare a revitalization plan, approved by an ordinary resolution of the university’s governing body, to the Minister” (5). The Act states that
A university’s revitalization plan must include
(a) a strategic assessment of the university’s strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and risks that may affect the university’s future, taking into account where the university fits within the national and international university enrolment and expected future changes in post-secondary education;
(b) a description of the university’s long-term strategy for financial sustainability, including present and projected student enrolment and plans for student retention;
(c) a plan to focus on high-quality, efficient and effective learning through appropriate delivery channels for students;
(d) a plan to achieve access and inclusiveness for students and faculty from a wide range of backgrounds, communities and groups;
(e) an assessment of the potential impact of the proposed revitalization plan on students;
(f) an assessment of the potential impact of the proposed revitalization plan on employees;
(g) goals and objectives for contributing to social and economic development and growth in the Province, including through world-class research and development that is internationally competitive, turning research into business opportunities, fostering a skilled, entrepreneurial and innovative workforce needed for economic growth in the Province and improving the quality and inclusiveness of courses and program offerings and their relevance to students and the wider society and economy;
(h) a plan for the effective exchange of knowledge and innovation with the private sector, including excellent collaboration between the university and industry;
(i) analysis of potential opportunities and cost savings that could be achieved through collaboration with other universities, including by the elimination, consolidation and specialization of faculties, departments and programs;
(j) human resources, financial, capital and operating-expenditure plans designed to achieve long-term competitiveness and sustainability, including outlines of the relevant assumptions and risks;
(k) proposals for partnerships, mergers, affiliations, federations or other arrangements;
(j) anything that the Minister requires to be included; and
(m) a description of any contingent factors that may be necessary to achieve the plan.
1) Section 8 immediately affects our members and their ability to combat “revitalization plans,” which should be understood as programme prioritization otherwise named.
According to Section 8, Once the Minister determines that a university has a “significant operation deficiency” and accepts its “revitalization plan,” none of that university’s unionized employees “shall participate in a strike against the university” (8[c]) and any trade union that represents them “shall not declare, cause or continue a strike by any of the unionized employees against the university” (8[b]).
Further, “neither the trade union nor any of the unionized employees shall commence or continue any grievance that relates in whole or in part to the development of the revitalization plan or the revitalization planning process” (8[d]). This strongly indicates that Bill 100’s authors anticipate that breaking collective agreements will be a matter of course for “revitalization plans”.
Even more egregiously, Section 8 states that not just trade unions, but also no person or organization shall: “(a) do anything to prevent or impede a unionized employee’s compliance” with the revitalization planning process “or aid or abet a unionized employee to not comply” (8[a-b]).
2) Section 23 lays out the consequences for non-compliance with Section 8’s provisions: “A person who contravenes Section 8 is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction (a) in the case of an offence committed by a university or trade union, or by a person acting on behalf of a university or trade union, to a fine of not more than $100,000 and, in the case of a continuing offence, to a further fine of $10,000 for each day on which the offence continues; and (b) in the case of an offence committed by a person or organization other than a university trade union, to a fine of not more than $1,000 and, in the case of a continuing offence, to a further fine of $200 for each day on which the offence continues.”
Bill 100 has many troubling measures; the language discussed above merely forms its “hard core” from institutional and labour relations perspectives. The malice toward faculty, staff and students that it evinces, in effectively criminalizing opposition to it, is matched only by its radically destructive implications for Nova Scotia’s universities and Nova Scotian post-secondary education as a whole.
The NS Liberal government has said that this bill is the first of its kind in Canada. No measure should be spared in fighting to ensure that it is also the last.