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The University of Toronto Faculty Association took its name in 1972, succeeding the Association of the Teaching Staff. The ATS was in turn the result of the 1954 reorganization of the Committee to Represent the Teaching Staff which dates from 1940.  In 1977, after considerable pressure from the membership for more faculty power, UTFA negotiated the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the University Administration.  The MoA has governed UTFA’s relationship with the Administration for 36 years. Through the MoA, the Association is recognized by the Administration as the bargaining representative of the faculty for purposes such as establishing (minimum) salary, benefit and pension terms, and since 2010, for workload.

UTFA’s bargaining accomplishments over the years have meant the faculty and librarians of the University of Toronto are the highest paid in Canada – a considerable accomplishment. The MoA also lists several academic policies that can only be changed with the mutual agreement of both UTFA and the Administration. But it remains the case that the members of UTFA have fewer rights for determining their working conditions than the members of the large majority of faculty associations across Canada. The vast majority of university academic staff have chosen to organize themselves into certified bargaining units, with the result that they have assumed the legal right to negotiate all the terms and conditions of their work. Faculty and librarians at U of T have not chosen that option to date.

But the desire for positive and constructive change among UTFA’s members is strong, just as it was in the period leading up to the 1977 agreement on the MoA.  That’s why the Association is pursuing the SJAC process, which is reviewing the MoA and could result in significant changes to it.  There is widespread support among our members for reform of the current arrangement, to provide a more rigorous form of representation as an alternative to leaving things as they are, but also as an alternative to conventional union certification.

UTFA’s colourful history is inseparable from the larger history of the University of Toronto. The story is engagingly told by historian Bill Nelson – a former president of UTFA – in his book The Search for Faculty Power: the history of the University of Toronto Faculty Association 1942-1992 (updated 2006).  We encourage all faculty, librarians, new members and retirees to read this excellent account of struggles and achievements.