Sessionals: Appointments and Salaries

Categories: Appointment & Reappointment, Bargaining Updates 2014, Salary Scale, Sessionals

While the parties have agreed on many issues there are a number of issues still in dispute. On some of these issues the parties are likely to engage in further discussion that might lead to resolution, others will have to be decided by an Arbitrator. Please note that any items agreed to at the bargaining table will not be implemented until the interest arbitration is complete. This is the twelfth in a series of blog posts to discuss both the matters that have been agreed to and those that are still in dispute, and the fourth dealing with matters still in dispute.

The Association has a number of proposals that relate to Sessionals but many pertain to benefits or workloads, which will be covered in different blogs. In this blog we are focussing on two other issues: right to accrue work and salary.

Right to Accrue Additional Work

Currently continuing Sessional Lecturers have the right to an annual appointment “for a period of time equal to the same length of time and on the same basis, full- or part-time, as the appointment he or she held in the winter session of the academic year (July to June) in which the Continuing Appointment becomes effective.” Non-continuing Sessional Lecturers have a right to reappointment of one course per year. In terms of work assignment, Sessional Lecturers come dead last. Work available to Sessional Lecturers, over and above the minimum to which they are entitled, is residually determined after all other teaching classifications are assigned work. There often are additional course assignments available over and above the minimum required assignments.

You might think that, in any given department, any additional course assignments would be given to Sessional Lecturers who had previously taught that course, or at least to Sessional Lecturers who are qualified to teach that course, and that the longer the service the member has given, the more secure they should be in their ability to acquire additional course assignments up to a full-time load. But that is not what happens. Often, without cause, very senior Sessional Lecturers are denied courses that they have been teaching for years, and every Sessional Lecturer is potentially in the perpetual state of continually having to apply for their own jobs. One member wrote us and suggested that having to reapply annually for their jobs is “a reminder to sessional faculty that our status in the University is precarious, that our jobs are not secure, and, by implication, that we should not complain or resist in any way because our livelihood might legally by taken from us at any moment.” Well put.

Not all Sessional Lecturers want additional course assignments, over and above the amount to which they are entitled, but our proposal is that for those who do, they be entitled to accrue, out of this pool of extra work, courses for which they are qualified, on a seniority basis, up to full-time.

Sessional Salary Scales

This has been a long-standing issue for the Association and was identified as one of the top issues to be solved by the Sessional Faculty Committee in the past several rounds of bargaining. Simply put, the minimum salary a Sessional Lecturer can earn per course depends on the Faculty they are in. In Education, for example, new Sessional Lecturers can be hired at $3,756 per three-credit course. In Arts, the minimum salary for a new Sessional Lecturer would be $6,254. That seems an unwarranted difference. Our proposal would be for the minimum salary scale for all Sessional Lecturers, regardless of Faculty, to be the same as the one that currently applies to Arts.

These proposals are hardly new: In our Bargaining Blog of April 27, 2012 (i.e., the last round of bargaining) we said: “The Association is proposing [three] simple, yet important, modifications to the existing language pertaining to Sessional Lecturers…. [T]o give Sessional Lecturers the right to accrue, on a seniority basis, courses in the ‘sessional pool’ for which they are qualified. [And] to ensure that 12-month Lecturer appointments are filled internally, from the pool of Sessional Lecturers, and are only advertised externally in the absence of qualified internal applicants.” Although these proposals may seem modest, we think they will improve the job security of that one-quarter of our members currently employed precariously as contract academic faculty. In other words, our position has not changed.

In our Bargaining Blog of June 8, 2010 (yes, two rounds ago), we said: “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 Sessional Lecturers: Faculties of Arts, Science, Medicine, and Health Sciences.”

These are long-standing problems with simple solutions. Once again we will be arguing our case before the Arbitrator. If UBC had more respect for its Sessionals, we wouldn’t have to make our case to the Arbitrator. Our proposals are sensible, fair, and very inexpensive.