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Bill 148 Consultations: Fairness for Contract Faculty

On Monday July 17, Local 110 President Darryl Bedford made a presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. His comments for the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act (Bill 148) consultation focused on the need for fairness for contract faculty.

It was great to see the support in the room for improving the working conditions of precariously employed college faculty. Namely from the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), UWO Faculty Association (UWOFA), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), English Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), London and District Labour Council (LDLC) Secretary Tina Stevens, and Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Region 1 Vice President Len Elliott. 

Here is a link to the handout that was distributed to the committee members and below are Darryl’s speaking notes.

 

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

My name is Darryl Bedford, President of OPSEU Local 110 representing full-time and partial-load professors, counsellors, and librarians at Fanshawe College.

Bill 148 moves in the right direction but I wish to add some context on how it might apply to Ontario colleges and where gaps exist.

On Friday the Committee heard about the contract faculty situation in universities.  It’s much worse in the colleges: it’s 68% contract, 32% full time at my own college and we estimate it is about 70/30 for the system.

It’s not sustainable. We don’t know for sure how many faculty would like to stay as contract; a survey conducted by Algonquin College management found that 65% wanted full-time. There will always be a need for contract faculty in the system. But when they are hired, they must be treated fairly. They are qualified to do the work: whether that be a Red Seal, or a Masters/PhD plus years of work experience.

We know from the College Financial Information Service that this 70% of faculty represents just under 10% of college budgets; they’ve not been a priority.

Reliance has grown over time. At my own college, we have about 1,100 contract faculty, an increase of 312% since 2002.

Contracts are typically for a 14-week semester. Faculty can spend years or decades on contract and there is no guarantee of future work. A faculty member I connected with on Friday has been teaching 20 years on contract.

Once I received a call from a St. Thomas professor who’d been promised a unionized partial-load contract. After much delay, the college gave him a non-union part-time contract at a fraction of the pay to sign the Friday before Labour Day. He refused to sign, quit, and the students had no teacher on Tuesday.

At Durham College and elsewhere, some contact faculty don’t receive their contract or pay until several weeks into the semester only exacerbating their paycheck to paycheck situation.

Contract faculty are only paid for their classroom hours. Most report that because they need to hold down multiple jobs, in industry or at another college, they are not able to spend as much time supporting students outside class time as they’d like.

Colleges are not covered by the LRA (Labour Relations Act) but rather the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act (CCBA). Its faculty classifications are confusing and lead to discrimination.

Up to and including 6 teaching hours per week is part-time. At my college, the average pay is $45 per classroom hour. Considering the time spent preparing and marking, the pay is more like $11.50 to $15 per hour. No benefits, no union, no sick days.

Partial load is 7 to 12 hours per week, they are union with a pay grid and some benefits.

But add just one more class hour per week, they become sessional, lose their union, lose their benefits and their pay goes down.

The current classifications permit people to work more hours for lower pay. They’re teaching the same courses and could have workloads that exceed a full-time workload.

From 1975 to 2008, under the CCBA it was illegal for part-time and sessional faculty to join a union. That’s changed but procedural roadblocks from college’s legal counsel have made the job monumental.

We’ve found some online teachers in K-W, the GTA, they could be based anywhere. How will they cast a certification vote?

I showed a list of a dozen names provided by the employer to a Steward and he didn’t recognize a single name despite the fact these faculty teach in his programs—that’s how massive  colleges are today. The CCBA needs the 20% union card threshold to disclose employee contact information so we can find them. The CCBA needs card check certification.

Prior to 2008 there had been a ban on replacement workers in the CCBA. Its removal contemplated a scenario that would benefit no one. The ban should be restored to the CCBA.

Since the college system was founded 50 years ago, colleges have changed. My college has four subsidiaries. It’s time to close the loopholes and have successor and related-employer language in the CCBA.

In closing, the changes to the ESA under Bill 148 are a good start. The immediate impact is that all faculty will finally have statutory holiday pay and paid sick days. There’s more to do. I will quote a Seneca professor: “It is easy for colleges to act in this particular way, when there are no restrictions on what they can do.”