New law lets Ontario profs teach beyondage 65

Many profs glad mandatory retirement was abolished

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Allan Gedalof

Jon Purdy

WORDS OF WISDOM. Western English and film studies Professor Allan Gedalof says he believes abolishing mandatory retirement won’t result in many more people working beyond age 65.

Next year, students may notice a few older professors have stuck around to continue teaching instead of retiring.

On Dec. 12, 2006 the Ontario Liberal government abolished mandatory retirement. Before the change, Ontario law required workers to retire at age 65.

The Ending Mandatory Retirement Statute Law Amendment Act was passed in December 2005. It provided a one-year transition period so employers could adapt their human resource policies and practices to comply with the law.

Prior to the abolition, the McGuinty government consulted major stakeholders by holding province-wide hearings, in which members of Western’s administration and faculty association took part.

Both favoured the abolition. However, they presented different cases for how the change should take effect.

Western’s faculty association, along with every Ontario faculty association, argued mandatory retirement is a violation of human rights and should be abolished immediately.

“Human beings don’t have best-buy dates or shelf lives that are universal across the species,” said Professor Allan Gedalof, a professor of English and film studies and former UWO Faculty Association President.

Alan Weedon, Western’s vice-provost for faculty, planning and policy, said administration’s main concerns, like those of many other Ontario university administrations, revolved around budgeting.

Weedon said until the abolition, administration based its contracts with faculty on the assumption they would retire at age 65 and planned its budget accordingly.

He said administration asked the government to delay the abolition at universities for a couple years to let them re-plan their budgets.

“We never said we were against it,” Weedon said. “We just wanted the government to be aware of the consequences.”

Gedalof and current UWOFA President Kim Clark said the latest studies show assumptions about the abolition’s effects are grossly exaggerated.

“At institutions similar to Western, where mandatory retirement has been abolished, the average age of retirement goes up by as much as one year,” Gedalof said. “And that’s from 62 to about 63 and a half. That’s still under 65.”

Weedon was concerned the abolition may temporarily slow the hiring of new faculty. In particular, it may slow the hiring of women.

He said out of approximately 1,100 full-time faculty, only 28 to 29 per cent are women. To address the disparity, Weedon said Western has specific plans to try to increase the number of female faculty and felt abolition may slow them down.

Clark said mandatory retirement already unfairly disadvantaged women. She said because of certain life patterns, women sometimes start their careers later than men and might not have the opportunity to contribute enough to their pensions by age 65.

Clark said Western has a defined contribution pension plan, as opposed to a defined benefit pension plan, meaning the longer professors work, the more funds they accumulate in their pensions.

Shannon Dea, president of the Society of Graduate Students, said while she and her peers have concerns, they ultimately support the abolition.

Though graduate students hope the abolition won’t affect their chances at getting jobs in academia, Dea said those students also benefit greatly from many older, experienced and distinguished professors.

Gedalof said he believes despite the abolition, many professors who were hired in the 1960s will still retire soon, opening positions for graduate students.

Chris Bentley, minister of Training Colleges and Universities, agreed.

“Generally, only two to four per cent of people stay on past 65,” Bentley said. “It depends on the profession, but that’s not many people. You’ll get a few staying on, but frankly I think most won’t. In fact, the trend has been for people to take earlier and earlier retirement.

“The most important thing for me is that people now have a choice... We should be judged on the basis of the work we do, not on how old we are.”

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