The working conditions of contract academic staff (sessionals) are of both local and national concern, which is why the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) annually promotes and plays a coordinating role in Fair Employment Week (FEW). This year, FEW runs from October 7 to 11 and is a national event that raises awareness of the difficulties inherent in being a member of the contract academic staff. These academics are often on the front lines of attacks on academic freedom, quality, fair treatment, and the value of research.
Normally, sessional instructors at the University of Calgary are contract academics who are hired to teach individual courses; they are not expected to do research and they are not offered long- or short-term commitments beyond the individual courses. These academics often work for lower pay, and with the uncertainty of whether or not another short-term contract will be offered to them.
Last year, the CAUT published the first national survey on Contract Academic Staff in universities and colleges. A copy of the survey entitled “Out of the Shadows: Experiences of Contract Academic Staff” can be found online here. Some key findings from the survey include:
The Faculty Association at the U of C was not surprised by these results and many of the responses to the survey reflect the anecdotal experiences of sessionals we have been privy to year after year. In March 2019 the Association took a snapshot of academic staff at the U of C which revealed that 24% of academic staff at that time held sessional positions. The number of sessional academic appointments in Winter 2019 was greater than the number of Associate Professors. In addition, over half of sessionals are female which is in contrast to statistics for ongoing academics. Sessionals are employed in every corner of the University and some Faculties employ more sessionals than continuing academics. In some cases the number of sessional instructors make up a third to over a half of academic staff in a Faculty.
Canadians are concerned about the increased reliance on sessional academics for instruction. According to a 2019 national survey commissioned by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) 52% of Canadians believe that a trend towards more reliance on sessional instructors is hurting the quality of post-secondary education.
It is important to emphasize the incredible dedication of sessional academics to their jobs since they are highly-qualified individuals who care deeply for the University and their students. However, the Association advocates for the Governors to create pathways for sessional academics to be appointed to continuing academic appointments when there are continuing staffing needs. The Association has always recognized that the concerns of contract academic staff should be the concerns of us all. Please let your colleagues and administrators know that the unfair treatment of sessionals at the U of C needs to be resolved.
Currently, as was negotiated by the Faculty Association, the University of Calgary is offering sessional travel grants to offset the cost of travel for sessional academic staff. Eligible Sessional Instructors can apply for up to $1,500 reimbursement. The joint committee, which includes Association and Governors representation, reviews applications twice a year with deadlines in the fall and winter semesters.
The deadline to apply for this round is November 7th, 2019, 4:00 pm. Application forms and procedures can be found on the UofC HR website. Additional information can be found in the Collective Agreement, Schedule B, Article 10.
The campus community is invited to make nominations for the Faculty Association Inspired Service Award – Community Service. [Deadline: November 8, 2019].
The Community Service Award recognizes members of the Faculty Association of the University of Calgary who have provided exceptional service to the community and gone above and beyond the requirements of the position. The members honoured have thus made outstanding contributions of personal time and effort for the benefit of others. New this year, a group that has been involved in the same project/initiative may be nominated as a group.
Special emphasis will be placed on those service activities that involve outreach to the community beyond the University and activities that go beyond the regular duties of the academic staff members. In this context, service may include volunteer work, as well as educational outreach or the application of research and other scholarly activities in the community.
Paul Rogers, Faculty Association President, and Sheila Miller, Association Executive Director, met with the Honourable Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Advanced Education on September 17th.
Rogers and Miller stressed the importance of collective bargaining and raised opposition to interference from the Alberta Government, specifically Bill 9: Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act. When the rules governing the Faculty Association were moved into the Alberta Labour Relations Act, it left the Association without the guarantee of going to binding arbitration without the agreement of the Governors. Such an agreement with the Governors to go to arbitration for wages was pivotal in obtaining a collective agreement in the last round of bargaining and Bill 9 puts that at risk. For this reason, the Association filed a Statement of Claim against Bill 9 over the summer.
Rogers spoke to government funding and pointed out that the University has been fiscally restrained for a number of years already. He conveyed that there is not much left to cut without directly impacting the quality of teaching at the University. However, while salaries for academic staff at the University of Calgary have been falling behind those of other comparable universities such as the University of Alberta, the hiring of other personnel like management staff (who are not delivering courses) has been rising rapidly.
This meeting was the beginning of a dialogue with the Minister. The Association will continue to speak with the Minister and advocate for the academic staff at the University of Calgary.
The Faculty Association had very high interest and attendance at the retirement planning seminars which were held in February and June 2019. The next retirement seminars will be held at the following times:
Thursday, November 21st – 9:00am to 11:30am (Main Campus)
Thursday, November 21st – 1:00pm to 3:30pm (Main Campus)
The seminar, which will be the same as the ones held previously, will include a presentation by Steve Preece and time for questions.
Steve is a Bachelor of Commerce graduate from McMaster University. He has been delivering financial workshops to the general public since 2012. As this is an educational program, there will be no promotion or solicitation of financial products. Examples and illustrations will be generic, without reference to specific products or services. All costs associated with this workshop are being covered by the Association.
The seminar may include general information about the retirement process at the University of Calgary and where to find that information in the recently updated policies. However, the seminar will not provide significant information or specifics regarding the academic pension plan.
What can you expect to learn?
This seminar is open to any Faculty Association member who is planning their retirement. Early to late career members are encouraged to attend as many of the benefits of planning for retirement are enhanced by planning early.
As materials are prepared in advance for use in the workshops, only those who register prior to the date of the seminar will be permitted to attend. While we make every effort to accommodate all individuals, we are constrained by room sizes and encourage you to book early to ensure your spot. To register, please contact the Faculty Association office by email, email@example.com or by phone (403) 220-5722.
The federal election campaign is well under way, and the marathon will last until October 21. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has developed an election toolkit that focuses on four key issues affecting academic staff. More information from the CAUT can be found here.
Bill 9, the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act, which prohibits any wage reopener arbitrations taking place until after the end of October, came into force on June 28, 2019. As a result, the arbitration the Association and the Governors had scheduled for 30th September and 1st October did not occur.
After consulting with legal counsel, the Association filed a Statement of Claim against the Alberta Government. Note that a number of other unions in Alberta who have been impacted by Bill 9 are also taking legal action.
The Association and the Governors have re-scheduled the wage re-opener arbitration for the 2nd and 3rd of December.
There is increasing demand on the Students’ Union foodbank and they put out an urgent call for support from the community. In response, the Faculty Association stepped up with a $2,000 donation. The support from the Faculty Association will allow the foodbank to purchase food staples that will help feed members of the campus community.