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Sessional Faculty

The working conditions of sessional academic staff are of local and national concern. Typically, sessional instructors at the University of Calgary are contract academics hired to teach individual courses. They usually aren’t expected to do research and receive no long or short-term commitments beyond the individual courses. In other cases, they are hired as short-term replacements (12 months or less) for regular academic staff.

Sessional staff often work for lower pay and few benefits, and live with the uncertainty of whether they will be offered other short-term contracts in the future. Due to the nature of these positions, they are especially vulnerable to attacks on academic freedom and unfair treatment.

Article 23 of the Collective Agreement governs sessional appointments including the assessment of sessional staff members, the recognition of contracts in hiring decisions, and leaves available to sessional staff. Sessional compensation and benefits that are available to sessional staff can be found in Schedule “B” of the agreement.

Reasons for Sessional Appointments

Sessional appointments must be for 12 months or less. However, sessional appointments can be back-to-back. There are 13 specific reasons a sessional appointment can be offered under Article 23 of the Collective Agreement.

Access to Resources for Sessionals

Sessionals should have access on the same basis as continuing staff to facilities and participating in department meetings – voting privileges are decided by the department.

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.

Assessment of Sessionals

A sessional member who has taught 4 half-course equivalents (HCE) in a department or has completed 2 years of service, whichever comes first, should be automatically assessed.

Graduate Student Sessionals

Under Article 23.4 of the Collective Agreement, students enrolled in a Master’s or Doctoral program at the University of Calgary may be offered sessional teaching opportunities for a maximum of two half-course equivalents (HCE). In such cases, the Department is not required to post a hiring ad for the position, and the rights of first refusal cannot be invoked. Likewise, courses taught under this section of the Collective Agreement are not considered in granting the right of first refusal to an individual.

Consideration of Other Appointments and the Right of First Refusal

Under Article 23.12.1 of the Collective Agreement, sessional members who have held a sessional appointment in the past five years and apply for a sessional appointment within a specific department (or faculty in non-departmentalized faculties) are considered to have the right of first refusal after they have taught seven half-course equivalents (HCE) with a good record of performance, and they have the requisite knowledge, skills, and professional qualifications for the position. Courses taught within the past five academic years where the individual previously held a Limited Term, or a Contingent Term appointment also count toward the right of first refusal.

When there are two or more individuals with the right of first refusal and substantially equal assessments, the position shall be offered to the individual with the most experience relevant to the course at the University.

Sessional Compensation Structure and Negotiating Higher Compensation

Schedule B of the Collective Agreement establishes 7 steps for sessional compensation. These are the minimums that a sessional can be paid for performing duties equal to 1 half-course equivalent (HCE). These are simply the minimums and do not preclude Faculties from offering higher compensation nor sessional from negotiating higher compensation. It does not matter what step the sessional is at, the compensation can be higher than the minimum for that step. There is no limit on sessional compensation imposed by the Collective Agreement. A sessional member cannot be paid less than they received for teaching the same course or courses offered by the same Department or Faculty (in non-departmentalized faculties) in a previous year.

July 1, 2022 April 1, 2023 December 1, 2023*
Base $6,338 $6,417 $6,513
Step 1 $6,482 $6,563 $6,661
Step 2 $6,628 $6,711 $6,812
Step 3 $6,771 $6,856 $6,958
Step 4 $6,916 $7,002 $7,107
Step 5 $7,061 $7,149 $7,257
Step 6 $7,206 $7,296 $7,406
Step 7 $7,351 $7,443 $7,555

* An additional 0.5% Gain Sharing increase shall be applied retroactive to December 1, 2023, subject to the following Gain Sharing Formula.

Alberta’s 20-year average (2000-2019) of Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is 2.7%. Provided that the “Average of All Private Forecasts for Alberta’s Real GDP” for the 2023 Calendar Year is at or above 2.7% as of February of 2024, then an additional 0.5% will be added to wages retroactively effective on December 1, 2023.

“Average of All Private Forecasts for Alberta’s Real GDP” for the 2023 Calendar Year would be a simple average of Alberta’s Real GDP for 2023 across the following independent forecasting institutions:

  • Conference Board of Canada
  • Stokes Economics
  • BMO Capital markets
  • CIBC World Markets
  • Laurentian Bank
  • National Bank
  • RBC Royal Bank
  • Scotiabank
  • TD Bank

The most recent publicly available forecast for Alberta’s Real GDP for 2023 would be sourced from each institution at the time the pay-out determination would be made in February 2024.

Sick Time and Casual Illness

Sessionals with contracts less than six consecutive months and/or the extent of duties is less than six half-course equivalents (HCE), are entitled to up to ten days of paid casual illness.

Sessionals with contracts longer than six consecutive months and duties of six or more half-course equivalents (HCE) are entitled to have time for sick time and casual illness as follows:

  • Casual Illness

Illness causing a sessional member to be absent from work for ten consecutive work days or less is a department matter. During a period of casual illness, a sessional staff member will be entitled to full salary and benefits. A sessional staff member shall advise their Department Head or equivalent as soon as possible when absent from work due to casual illness.

A sessional staff member who is not otherwise absent from duty, and who is prevented from performing their regular duties and responsibilities as a result of the illness of their spouse or dependent children, shall be permitted to utilize one (1) work day of casual illness entitlement for the purpose of making arrangements for the care of the person who is ill. This provision may be used on not more than three (3) occasions in each year of employment.

  • Illness More than Ten Days

If the illness is longer than ten consecutive work days, a sessional staff member shall be entitled to receive sick pay at the rate of $1,000 per month or 50% of the member’s normal salary (whichever is greater) for the duration of the illness, or for the duration of the appointment, or to a maximum of six (6) months, whichever first occurs.

Payment in Lieu of Vacation for Sessionals

Sessionals are not entitled to paid vacation, but they do receive pay in lieu of vacation in the amount of 4 % of their salary (Schedule B; Clause 6.). Although sessionals are not entitled to paid vacation, they are entitled to several paid holidays (Schedule B; Clause 3.)

Paid Holidays and Payment in Lieu of Benefits for Sessionals

Sessional staff members are not required to work and receive pay at their regular rate on any day which is designated by the University of Calgary Governors as a paid holiday.

Paid holidays consist of at least the following:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Alberta Family Day
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • Victoria Day
  • Canada Day
  • August Civic Holiday
  • Labour Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Remembrance Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Three designated workdays between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day

Payment in Lieu of Benefits for Sessionals

Sessionals are not entitled to benefits, but they do receive pay in lieu of vacation in the amount of 4 % of their salary (Schedule B; Clause 5.).

Maternity Leave for Sessionals

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.

Professional Expense Reimbursement (PER) for Sessionals

According to Schedule B; Clause 7 of the Collective Agreement, sessional academic staff are entitled to receive reimbursement of eligible expenses to a maximum of $175 per HCE not to exceed $1,750 per academic year. Unspent PER can be carried forward to future contracts and details on this can be found in the Collective Agreement. 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

Normally, twice per year, the Faculty Association oversees the distribution of the Sessional Travel Fund according to Schedule B; Clause 10 of the Collective Agreement.

Sessional academic staff members are eligible to apply if they have held a sessional contract at the University of Calgary within the last five years; and

  • they are or will be holding a sessional contract at the time of the expense; or
  • they expect to have a sessional contract within the next academic year.

Sessionals can apply for funding to help with expenses, whether or not travel is involved, related to the applicant’s academic work, or attending conferences. Applications can be made for future or past expenses. The nature of the travel or conference must be relevant to the sessional staff member’s current or expected work at the University of Calgary. Essentially the travel/conference must be beneficial to the University as well as the academic. However, the fund cannot be used for expenses that arise directly from the contracted work.

Applications are generally accepted mid-fall and mid-winter – keep all the receipts and watch for advertisements from the Association when applications are being accepted.

Fair Employment Week

The Association regularly participates in Fair Employment Week. Fair Employment Week is a national event organized in part by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT ) that raises awareness of the difficulties inherent in being a member of the contract academic staff.

Some of the difficulties include:

  • the lack of research opportunities
  • no long- or short-term commitments beyond individual courses
  • working for lower pay and few benefits
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