UBC’s Bizarre Minimum Sessional Salary Scales

Categories: Bargaining Updates 2016, Salary Scale, Sessionals

UBC does not have a single Sessional salary scale. It has four, and because of that the minimum Sessional salary per section differs greatly among Faculties. This has been a bone of contention between the parties for a very long time, and remains so. The Association has proposed to have a single salary scale which would apply to Sessional Lecturers in all Faculties. The effect of this proposal, if accepted, would be that the minimum salary for a three-credit course section would be the same in every Faculty.

The mechanism for differing per-section salaries is the definition of a full-time Sessional, which differs amongst Faculties. The Association is proposing that full-time be defined as 9 credits per term for all Faculties, as it is in Arts and in most other Faculties. Currently full-time is defined as less than 9 credits per term in some Faculties (like Law) and more than 9 credits per term in other Faculties (like Education).

The University’s position, well and forcefully articulated in the 2010-12 bargaining round, is that the different salaries per three-credit course sections were designed so that all full-time Sessionals in the University who are on the scale would get about the same monthly salary. This is true. This is indeed how the four scales were designed. Currently, a full-time Sessional at the top of the scale is paid approximately $5,305 per month in every Faculty.  UBC argued that it would be unfair to pay people the same amount per section in every Faculty because the amount of actual time required to perform all the duties associated with teaching a three-credit course differs amongst Faculties, suggesting that the number of sections that constitutes full-time employment must also differ amongst departments. If that were true, the University’s position would make some sense.

The Association accepts, of course, that the amount of work to teach a course section is far greater than the amount of time in the classroom. The work involved in teaching includes preparing and delivering classroom instruction; preparing and marking evaluation instruments; supervising teaching and lab assistants; being accessible to students; keeping up with recent developments in the fields, etc., etc., etc. The University has deemed that, in Arts, Science and most other Faculties a Sessional spends 67% more time per course section performing all the duties associated with teaching than a Sessional in (say) Education.

We are not sure how this number was first derived – the multiple scales have been a feature of our Agreement for a long time. We do not believe for a minute that there is any empirical justification for asserting that the actual work involved in teaching a three-credit course systematically differs among Faculties.

Truthfully, the actual amount of work involved in teaching a course section depends  on many factors, including the total number of students in the section; the number of scheduled contact hours; requirements for supervision of independent student work, like undergraduate theses, etc.; additional preparation required for a course that is new to a Member, or new to the department, or substantially revised; the relationship of teaching duties to the Member’s area of expertise; the availability of marking, teaching or laboratory assistants; the requirements for supervision of marking, teaching, field, or laboratory assistants; the level (introductory, upper year, graduate) and type of instruction involved (lecture, laboratory, field, practicum, performance, clinic, seminar, reading courses, studio); the nature of the subject; teaching and evaluation methods, including the mode of delivery and the amount and type of marking. The list goes on. We think these differences apply across Faculties, rather than differ by Faculties.

The position of the Association is that each department should develop a workload policy that takes these things into consideration when determining teaching loads for non-Sessional faculty members (UBC hasn’t agreed to that, either). That would simply be a matter of adjusting teaching loads for members whose salaries do not depend on the number of courses they teach.

Sessional Lecturers are different. They are paid by the number of 3-credit courses taught. A clear, consistent method for counting work is needed for the purposes of determining salary, and a clear, consistent definition of full-time is needed for the purposes of benefit and pension entitlement and length of service calculations. At UBC and at many other universities the numeraire is the number of credits. We have no problem with the numeraire. We are well aware that no simple numeraire can possibly capture real differences in the amount of work needed to teach any given course but we simply do not believe for a minute that there are systematic differences across faculties in the amount of work needed to teach a course. This is something the University has asserted, not demonstrated, and this Faculty-specific derivation of per course salary for Sessionals exists nowhere else in Canada.

The Association’s position is that the higher number of credits a member must teach in Education to be paid the same full-time salary as someone in Arts has nothing to do with differences in real work required per course, but rather is simply, and cynically, a mechanism to pay some Sessionals less for the same amount of work.


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