All sessional instructors are members of the Faculty Association and sessional contracts are governed by the Collective Agreement. We believe that many of the gains that have been made for sessionals are due, in part, to the united front the Faculty Association is able to maintain through representing both ongoing and sessional academic staff members. The Association has worked to strike a balance between trying to slow the casualization of academic work while trying to improve the compensation of those academics while they are in sessional positions.
The following is an overview of some of the provisions of the Collective Agreement relating to sessional staff. The key articles of the Collective Agreement for sessional staff are Article 23 and Schedule ‘B’.
Salary rate minimums for sessionals, which are outlined in Schedule ‘B’ of the Collective Agreement, are established as steps. After a sessional teaches 8 half-course equivalents they are automatically moved up to the next step on the grid. The Collective Agreement, ratified in June 2022, introduced two new steps to provide additional salary progression for long-term sessionals. It is important to note that salary rates are set as minimums only, so although sessionals must be paid at least the minimum at the step they are hired, they can also be paid more at any given step.
The current minimum salary for sessional staff ranges from a base of $6,417 to step 7 at $7,443. Sessional academic staff pay will increase by 1.5 per cent on December 1, 2023. An additional 0.5 per cent Gain Sharing increase shall be applied retroactive to December 1, 2023, if Alberta’s Real GDP for 2023 is at or above 2.7 per cent. These increases will be applied both as across the board increases to sessional staff earning more than the minimum and increasing the step minimums. The full details of these steps and the negotiated increases can be found in Schedule ‘B’ of the Collective Agreement.
Sessionals with contracts longer than six months with duties of six or more half course equivalents (HCEs), are entitled to a maximum of 10 consecutive workdays as casual illness. After 10 days, if sick time is still required, these members are entitled to receive sick pay at 50 per cent of salary or $1,000 per month; whichever is greater.
For sessionals with contracts shorter than six months or duties less than six HCEs, the number of casual illness days is 10 workdays.
The Collective Agreement has provisions to accommodate maternity leaves for sessionals under Article 23.14. All sessionals can get leaves, including parental leaves, as required by the Employment Standards Code. For sessionals who have contracts of six months or longer with six HCEs or more, those who take maternity leave receive salary top-up pay for 15 weeks or to the end of the sessional contract, whichever is less.
Recognition of Other Appointments
After a sessional instructor teaches seven (7) half-course equivalents they gain the right of first refusal for courses they apply for, provided they have taught within the last five years and subject to having a good record of performance plus the requisite knowledge, skills, and professional qualifications for the position (Article 23.12).
Access to Resources Between Contracts
The provisions of Article 23.16 establish that sessionals have access to necessary services between contracts. The provision states that in cases where sessional staff signed a contract that hasn’t yet commenced, “the Governors shall endeavour to ensure that at least 30 workdays before the contract commences the sessional appointee has access to the services normally provided to academic staff to prepare to teach a course.” Also, when a sessional appointee has a contract and signs a successor contract, the Governors must continue to provide access to such services in the intervening period.
Professional Expense Reimbursement
Sessional academic staff may not be aware of provisions in the Collective Agreement for professional expense reimbursement (PER) for sessionals, similar to the one for ongoing academics. Sessionals are eligible for $175 per half-course equivalent up to $1,750 per academic year. We recognize that sessionals often have periods of time when they are outside of contract employment, and we have worked to improve the flexibility for using PER and other University resources while between contracts. Unspent PER may be carried forward to subsequent appointments in the following academic year. In addition, sessionals can submit eligible expenses incurred up to 3 months in advance of the commencement of their contract and up to 3 months after the end of their contract, so long as the expenses were incurred in relation to fulfilling the respective contract.
Sessional Travel Fund
The Faculty Association first offered Sessional Travel Grants in 2013. These grants provided funding to assist sessional academics with making scholarly presentations, attending conferences, or other scholarly activity in their field. This fund was eventually negotiated as an employer paid benefit in the Collective Agreement with the establishment of a joint Sessional Travel Fund Committee and an annual fund of $30,000.
While the Governors have agreed to continue to fund the program with $30,000 per year, the Collective Agreement, has shifted responsibility for the administration of the fund to the Faculty Association. As noted in this newsletter, applications to use the Sessional Travel Fund are now being accepted.
For more information or questions related to sessional appointments, please contact the Faculty Association at 403-220-5722 or [email protected]. As is the case with all dealings with the Faculty Association, your inquiries will be held in the strictest confidence.