Bargaining Themes: Three Big Issues Emerge

Categories: Bargaining, Bargaining Updates 2014, Instructors, Workload

When the bargaining preparation committee analysed the input we got from members in face-to-face meetings, from emails, and from the survey, particularly the comments sections of the survey, three major issues emerged, in addition to widespread concern about salaries. Members can see that most of our non-salary proposals deal with these issues in one way or another.

First, we are increasingly observing what can only be described as symptoms of burnout. Members complain of too much to do, with too little time, and too few resources. They report a sense that they have lost the capacity to influence the decisions that affect the quality of their worklife. They report significant concerns about the equity of the reward structure and a sense that the university does not value their contributions. Amongst many members there is a sense that the university’s priorities no longer reflect the values that attracted them to academic careers in the first place. These complaints are classic, almost textbook, symptoms of burnout.

Terms like “bullying,” “no consultation,” “unfair,” “inequitable”, and “minimal information” appear repeatedly in the comments. Examples of such comments include:

  • “Faculty are more and more burdened with the downloading of administrative duties and not getting much credit for taking it on.”
  • “Management treatment of faculty is horrendous.”
  • “Toxic work environment.”
  • “ More comprehensive language around transparency.”
  • “Can the deteriorating work environment be addressed in any way by bargaining?”
  • “I believe the largest generation of long-term problems for faculty at UBC is the increasingly disconnected nature of the decision-making progress of upper levels (finance, initiatives like the Vantage program, IT, etc) from the faculty. Decisions are constantly being made with either no consultation with the faculty/staff members who these decisions will impact, or a sham of consultation.” 

Second, there is significant dissatisfaction with the status of contract academic staff. Over 25% of our members are contract academics, mostly Sessionals but increasingly Lecturers as well. Salaries, job security, access to benefits, and pension contributions are all inadequate. Comments from Sessionals and Lecturers were scathing of course, but many members in tenure-stream positions also made a point of conveying their dismay about the conditions of contract faculty.

Third, there is a great deal of dissatisfaction among members in the educational leadership stream (Instructor I, Senior Instructor, Professor of Teaching) about the lack of respect the university shows them.  Many expressed concerns that their heavy teaching loads would not allow them to complete the educational leadership requirements that are now required for tenure and promotion in that stream. These problems arise from lack of clarity in the Collective Agreement about the role of the educational leadership stream at the University.

We really appreciate the time people took to share their comments with us as we prepared for bargaining. It was very helpful to us in formulating our proposals.