Professors calling for fairness for contract faculty at universities across Ontario this week

Posted October 25th, 2016 By OCUFA

TORONTO – University professors are calling for fairness for contract faculty across Ontario this week. Public events and outreach activities will aim to educate students and community members about working conditions for the growing number of professors working on contract who face job insecurity, unpredictable scheduling, unfair wages, and lack access to benefits.

“We’re going to be out talking to people about fairness for these talented scholars because every professor deserves respect regardless of whether they are working on contract,” says Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) President Judy Bates. “We need to make sure the next generation of academics are supported – that opportunities are available for them to do important research and teaching, and contribute to their communities.”

With the provincial government’s Changing Workplaces Review underway, the question of how to address the rise of precarious work is top-of-mind for many Ontarians. Positive changes to Ontario’s outdated employment and labour law could ensure equal pay for work of equal value and equal access to benefits for all part-time and contract workers, as well as require that all workers receive reasonable notice of their schedules. This would go a long way to support contract faculty at Ontario universities.

OCUFA estimates that the number of courses taught by contract faculty in Ontario has doubled since 2000. But a recent poll showed that Ontarians believe universities should be moving in the other direction, with 94 per cent saying that universities should be model employers and support good jobs in their communities.

Some good news for those advocating for fairness for contract faculty arrived in September when Statistics Canada announced it would take steps towards collecting data on contract faculty at universities and colleges. This positive step comes at a time of increased interest in addressing insecure, unfair working conditions at universities and in the broader economy. OCUFA is one of over 50 community and labour organizations that are advocating for decent work for all as part of the Fight for $15 & Fairness.

“As a contract professor, collaborating with workers from different sectors has been very rewarding. We see that contract and part-time workers are facing similar challenges right across this province,” says Fran Cachon, a contract faculty member at the University of Windsor, and chair of OCUFA’s Contract Faculty and Faculty Complement Committee. “On campus, we’ve also gotten a lot of support from students who understand all too well the realities of insecure work and mounting student debt. Students are shocked to learn that many of their professors don’t know if they have a job from semester to semester.”

Dr. Cachon and her students understand that the working conditions of professors are the learning conditions for students. “I am passionate about postsecondary education and I love my job,” says Cachon. “We’ve got to get this one right. Investing in fairness for contract faculty is an investment in high-quality university education.”

This week is Fair Employment Week hosted by the Canadian Association of University Teachers. Supporters of fairness for contract faculty can sign a pledge that was launched by OCUFA’s We Teach Ontario campaign. Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 28 faculty associations across Ontario.  For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.

Faculty took part in Rally for Decent Work

Posted October 2nd, 2016 By OCUFA

Contract faculty from across the province took part in the October 1 Rally for Decent Work. Thousands of workers from a wide range of sectors and workplaces gathered at Queen’s Park to call for improvements to employment and labour law that would address the rise of precarious work. For contract faculty, key issues include equal pay for equal work, more job security, fair scheduling and equal access to benefits. To support fairness for contract faculty, you can sign the pledge at weteachontario.ca.

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Government of Canada brings back the UCASS survey

Posted September 19th, 2016 By OCUFA

On September 14, 2016, the Government of Canada announced that it was re-activating the University and College Academic Staff Survey (UCASS). This Statistics Canada program is a vital source of information on professors across the country.

UCASS was cancelled in 2012, as a result of federal budget cuts. This cancellation deprived policymakers from useful data on university and college faculty, and removed information used by many faculty associations in contract negotiations. Faculty across Canada therefore welcome the return of this important survey.

In its announcement, the Government of Canada emphasized the importance of UCASS in building diversity among Canada’s academic staff. Said Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan:

“The survey’s reinstatement is a crucial step toward understanding Canada’s community of university researchers and faculty. Once we understand the face and composition of Canada’s research community, then our government can begin the real work of collaborating with universities to help them recruit faculty that reflect Canada’s diversity. Diversity, after all, is the source of our nation’s strength.”

OCUFA is particularly pleased that Statistics Canada plans to enter into consultations with universities to include data on contract, or sessional faculty, in UCASS. Right now, the lack of comparable, system-level data on contract faculty prevents us from knowing exactly how many sessionals are working in Canada’s universities, how they are paid, and how their terms and conditions of work are structured. We know there has been a huge increase in the number of contract faculty, but we don’t know exactly how many, who they are, and how they work. The UCASS consultations are an opportunity to close this data gap.

Quoted in the Globe and Mail, OCUFA President Judy Bates said, “We need to understand who these contract faculty are.”

OCUFA will be monitoring the roll out of the revived UCASS survey, and will report on the latest developments and the progress of the contract faculty consultations.

University faculty urge government to keep pursuing fairness for contract faculty

Posted July 27th, 2016 By OCUFA

The government-appointed Special Advisors of the Changing Workplaces Review released an Interim Report today. It details options for responding to the changing nature of work in the province, including the rise of precarious work. The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) hopes the report will serve as a starting point for a bold plan to address precarious work and promote good jobs at Ontario’s universities and throughout the broader economy.

“I am deeply passionate about postsecondary education and love my job. But working contract to contract, and being paid less than your colleagues for the same work is inequitable and it can be demoralizing,” says Fran Cachon, a contract faculty member at the University of Windsor, and chair of OCUFA’s Contract Faculty and Faculty Complement Committee. “Now, the government of Ontario has an opportunity to bring more fairness and security to the workplace, a chance we can’t afford to miss.  The working conditions of professors are the learning conditions for students. When we invest in workplace fairness, we invest in high-quality university education.”

OCUFA estimates that the number of courses taught by contract faculty in Ontario has doubled since 2000. These talented scholars face job insecurity, unpredictable scheduling, unfair wages, and they lack access to benefits. The growth of precarious academic work has brought the need for stronger employment and labour laws into sharp focus.

OCUFA has recommended that labour law be updated to ensure equal pay for work of equal value and equal access to benefits for contract workers, as well as require that all workers receive reasonable notice of their schedules. OCUFA has also suggested that the labour relations board be empowered to change the scope of existing bargaining units, and that labour law be modernized to ensure fair rules are in place for joining unions and maintaining effective union representation.

These recommendations were set out in a written submission and 13 presentations made by contract faculty, tenure-track faculty, and academic librarians across the province last year. Today’s report marks the beginning of the next stage of consultation. OCUFA is pleased to see many of its recommendations reflected in the report, and plans to be actively engaged in the upcoming consultations.

Ontarians agree that change is needed. In a recent poll, over 84 per cent of people believed that contract faculty should receive equal pay for equal work, the same access to benefits as their full-time colleagues, and have opportunities to be converted to full-time positions. And, 94 per cent said that universities should be model employers and support good jobs in their communities.

“When it comes to precarious academic work, something has to change. We’re looking to the provincial government for leadership,” said OCUFA President Judy Bates. “Universities are just one example of where better laws will improve the lives of precarious workers. If the government commits to stronger legal protections, they will be creating stronger communities and a stronger economy.”

OCUFA is one of over 50 community and labour organizations that is part of the Fight for $15 & Fairness across Ontario. Supporters of fairness for contract faculty can sign a pledge that was launched by OCUFA’s We Teach Ontario campaign.

Ontario faculty throw weight behind day of action for $15 & Fairness

Posted April 15th, 2016 By OCUFA

University professors and academic librarians are joining in a day of action for $15 & Fairness across Ontario today. Workers from a range of workplaces and sectors will be taking part – all of whom are facing common challenges such as unpredictable scheduling, job insecurity, poor access to benefits, and unfair pay.

“The idea that a PhD is a golden ticket to a good job is increasingly inaccurate,” said Fran Cachon a contract professor at the University of Windsor. “Today, young scholars – who are increasingly women and people of colour – are struggling to find footing in the academy. It is our frustration with this reality motivating us to demand fairness alongside other workers in our communities.”

Contract professors must struggle with unfair pay, poor access to benefits, and must often string together multiple contracts at different universities just to make a living. The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) estimates the number of courses taught by contract faculty teaching at Ontario universities has doubled since 2000. But a recent poll showed that Ontarians believe universities should be moving in the other direction, with 94 per cent saying that universities should be model employers and support good jobs in their communities.

With the Ontario government currently reviewing employment and labour law to address the rise of precarious work, the timing is right to consider change. OCUFA has made recommendations to the Changing Workplaces Review on how to raise standards for contract faculty and to update labour law to ensure all workers can organize collectively in a union. The proposals include requiring equal pay for work of equal value and equal access to benefits for contract workers, and requiring that all workers receive reasonable notice of their schedules.

“We’re standing up today to say contract workers in all sectors deserve better,” said OCUFA President Judy Bates. “Faculty working conditions are the learning conditions in our classrooms, labs, and libraries. When we ensure that every academic job is a good job, we create a quality learning experience for students.”

OCUFA is one of over 50 community and labour organizations that is part of the Fight for $15 & Fairness across Ontario. Supporters of fairness for contract faculty can sign a pledge that was launched by OCUFA’s We Teach Ontario campaign.

New poll shows Ontario’s overwhelming support for good academic jobs

Posted February 11th, 2016 By OCUFA

Today, OCUFA released the results of a public opinion poll examining attitudes to precarious work in Ontario’s universities – the first of its kind in the province. This new research demonstrates a strong level of support for good working conditions in our universities.

Highlights from the poll include:

  • 94 per cent of Ontarians think universities should be model employers and support good jobs in their communities.
  • 88 per cent want part-time professors to be converted into full-time positions.
  • 64 per cent of Ontarians want to be taught by, or have their child taught by, a full-time professor with job security and benefits.
  • 60 per cent are in favour of more public funding for universities to promote long-term employment relationships with faculty

“The poll results clearly show that Ontarians want universities to employ full-time professors, and to treat their contract faculty with fairness and respect,” said Bates. “In other words, the people of Ontario want every academic job to be a good job.”

The complete poll results are available from OCUFA. The poll was conducted by Mission Research on behalf of OCUFA with a sample of 1000 individuals with results accurate to within +/- 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Ismael Thaore’s Story

Posted November 6th, 2015 By OCUFA

Ismael teaches sociology at McMaster.

What is your proudest teaching moment?

Reading the reflection pieces of my students that reflect real change in their thinking and development of critical thought.

How do you use your knowledge, research skills, and teaching ability to improve your community?

I engage in social organizing with anti-oppression groups and offer my academic and research skill, and other privileges for the struggle for justice. I also make educational documentaries.

What challenges do you face at work?

I am an under-paid, over-exploited, one-term contract worker.

Lauren Barr’s Experience

Posted October 29th, 2015 By OCUFA

Lauren teaches sociology at Western.

What is your proudest teaching moment?

It may sound cliche, but every moment I teach makes me proud. When students throughout my career reach out to tell me that I changed their life somehow, I know that I am in the right career doing what I do best. Each student touches my life in their own way and their successes become mine.

 

How do you use your knowledge, research skills, and teaching ability to improve your community?

I am an active member of the teaching community at Western trying to empower students and improve their education experience. I support students, TA’s, other faculty anyway that I can to make higher education better. 

 

What challenges do you face at work?

I have been teaching for 10 years. Sometimes part-time, sometimes ‘full-time’ (which is limited), sometimes while working another full or part-time job. I have a young family and I am completing my PhD. It is just wild to try to get everything done in a day. I do my best, I am open with my students and department, but I never feel like I am 100% because I am stretched so thin. I would love to take the time to fully develop everything from start to finish and just be in the moment more often.

Annette Amba’s Story

Posted June 3rd, 2015 By OCUFA

Literary Studies, McMaster Unviersity

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for more than 18 years. I currently teach Literary Studies. I love my job because I love learning and being in a teaching environment is the best way to stay informed and alive. I’ll never forget when a student first claimed that a course I taught had changed their life. I’m extremely proud of the time I didn’t let pride push me into false humility 🙂.

If contract professors became full-time faculty, we could offer so much more to universities, students and Canadian research. As a full-time faculty member, I would spend more time reading literature and criticism about literature. It would also mean I could stop spending my time applying for jobs that I already do and have done for over 10 years now. On a more personal level, I could stop worrying about whether I’m “good” enough at something I’ve been doing for over 10 years because my courses could be cut at any time.

Each week, I travel over 500 kms to get to work and do countlesshours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have nobenefits. This is on top of $10,000-$20,000in student debt I owe after studying at to become an expert in . My current income is below that of a full-time faculty member. I currently have little job security, which makes it hard to feel confident about my future.

Overall, I want to tell you that contract faculty are no less qualified than full-time faculty to teach university courses. They are simply not given a fair wage for their work because they work by contract. Why do we do it? Because we have little other choice if we want to continue on the career path we spent over 10 years preparing ourselves for because we love to learn. Oh the lessons I’ve learned…

Laura Gagne’s Story

Posted June 3rd, 2015 By OCUFA

Greek archaeology, University of Toronto

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for 3years. I currently teach Greek archaeology. I love my job because I love to share my enthusiasm and passion for my subject with my students. I’ll never forget when one of my students was featured as a student success story on the university webpage and said she had changed her major to Greek and Roman studies after taking my class and falling in love with the subject. I’m extremely proud of the time I developed a hybrid course, embracing the technology that used to make me nervous..

If contract professors became full-time faculty, we could offer so much more to universities, students and Canadian research. As a full-time faculty member, I would be able to develop new courses and improve the ones I teach (knowing I would be teaching them again). It would also mean I would have money for research. On a more personal level, I could pay off debts, pay off my mortgage, and plan for my retirement.

Each week, I travel 70 (each trip) kms to get to work and do 30 hours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have nobenefits. This is on top of <$10,000in student debt I owe. My current income is too low and insecure. I currently have almost no job security, which makes it hard to plan my future.

Overall, I want to tell you that Part-time professors put in as much work as full-time professors, but are not recognized. We never know from term to term whether we will be teaching because we must apply for every course. If someone with more seniority also applies for your course, you lose out even if you are a subject matter expert, have more education (PhD rather than MA), or have taught the course many times before. It is impossible to develop courses properly when you only have a few weeks lead time. With more job security, I could spend more time working on pedagogy, enriching the experience of my students.

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