In 2010, one of our bargaining proposals was for a unified minimum salary scale for all sessionals. We have this as one of our bargaining objectives this year as well. Here is the rationale we provided to the members in 2010:
One of the basic ways to prevent teaching-intensive positions from becoming a ghetto for the academics who uphold UBC’s teaching mission is to guarantee respectable minimum salaries. Currently there are four different minimum scales for sessional faculty, varying across Faculties. These minimum scales are based on a notion of “percentage of full-time work per term” that a sessional faculty member is assigned. Thus, if a Faculty decides that a full-time per term load for teaching appointments is 6 credit hours (e.g., Architecture), then the minimum pay for a 3-credit course is $2,890. If another Faculty determines that a full-time load per term is 15 credit hours (e.g., Education and Applied Science), then the minimum salary for a 3-credit course is $1,155. Obviously, a Faculty that wants to save money on its teaching mandate by paying less to sessional faculty can decree that a full-time load is 15 (or more) credit hours per term, as then the minimum salary for a 3-credit course could be driven down considerably.
The current way of calculating the minimum pay for a 3-credit course cannot be justified by the University. Minimum scales don’t mean that everyone gets paid the same; they just establish a reasonable base-line upon which to build. Though we accept that there are market differences across disciplines, determining minimum scales based on an invented and fluctuating notion of full-time teaching loads is arbitrary at best. Our proposal on minimum scales emphasizes that a 3-credit course is a 3-credit course, no matter what Faculty it’s taught in. We’ve proposed that the standard scale should be the one currently governing the majority of sessionals: Faculties of Arts, Science, Medicine, and Health Sciences.
Another way to think about this issue is to use the following analogy. You and I both want to employ someone to clean our house once a week. We both think $100 is a fair price to pay for such a task. The difference is that I think that for $100, the person should work for 10 hours, and you think to earn that $100, the person should work for 4 hours. That’s about the same logic that describes the differences in the minimum salary scales across the faculties: how many hours a faculty thinks its sessionals should work in order to earn $100. This number varies significantly, and we would say arbitrarily as well.
It is for these reasons that we are fighting for a unified minimum scale for sessionals.