Ford government stopping university, college profs from ‘double-dipping’

University and college professors will no longer be allowed to “double-dip” by drawing a full salary and pension simultaneously, if legislation proposed by Premier Doug Ford’s government passes.

The provision is contained in Finance Minister Vic Fedeli’s omnibus budget bill, which would change 61 different pieces of legislation, including the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act.

Amendments would empower the government to force a post-secondary institution to reduce the compensation of any employees who are also receiving a pension. This includes the power to reduce pay to zero.

A spokesperson for Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Merrilee Fullerton confirmed Monday to CBC News that the intent of the legislation is to end double-dipping.

The budget document says the growing average retirement age among university faculty is “limiting turnover that would bring in earlier career professionals with new teaching methods and increase diversity.”

The budget says this has cost implications for the province, with some employees “drawing salary and pension payments at the same time.”

The proposed ban on double-dipping “could help achieve a more sustainable post-secondary sector and employee renewal,” the budget adds.

More than 1,200 full-time university faculty — nearly 10 per cent of the workforce — are age 66 and older, according to a report produced last year by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. Since mandatory retirement ended in 2006, the percentage of retirement-age full-time faculty has risen, while the proportion of faculty aged 35 and younger has been cut in half.

Faculty unions question whether the government is truly motivated by bringing younger professors into the system.

“We see no evidence that they’re particularly interested in hiring more tenured faculty as senior faculty retire,” said  Michael Conlon, executive director of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.

“We see a bit of a cynical game-playing here by the government,” said Conlon in an interview Monday. “The focus really is to push senior faculty out.”

He describes the move as “a full-fledged attack on collective bargaining” that would essentially rip up parts of negotiated contracts.

“It’s really not about making the system better or making the educational experience better for students, but really a Ford government agenda to undermine collective bargaining in public-sector unions,” Conlon said.

The budget bill would also mean universities and colleges face losing up to 60 per cent of their funding by 2024-25 if they fail to meet performance targets that have yet to be detailed.

These are the latest in a number of changes from the Ford government focused on post-secondary institutions.

It’s making it optional for students to pay activity fees for such things as student unions, clubs and campus media, but student fees to support college and university sports teams will remain mandatory.

The government is also reducing tuition fees while at the same time reducing the amount of grants available under the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).

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