Can You Say “Precariat”?

Categories: Bargaining, Bargaining Unit, Bargaining Updates 2022, Equity, job security, Lecturers, Salary Scale, Sessionals, Workload

Full-time teaching for Sessional Lecturers in Education at UBC is 15 credits/term (yes, really), and they make less per credit than anyone else at UBC. If they teach fewer than 7.5 credits in a term, they are still considered less than half-time and do not qualify for most UBC benefits.  We need to fix these inequities for our Sessional Lecturer colleagues at UBC, and not just in Education. Most Sessional Lecturers hold PhDs or other terminal degrees and teach a significant number of UBC’s courses; many Sessional Lecturers also do curricular work, service, and research in their disciplines on their own time, unpaid. All Sessional Lecturers deserve to be treated fairly and paid as the highly-qualified professionals they are.

Addressing the deep inequality in the pay and precarity of all of our Sessional Lecturer colleagues is a key priority again for this round of bargaining. In the last round, we sought several changes to make Sessional Lecturers’ pay more equitable across UBC, and we had partial success: we got rid of the salary steps for Sessional Lecturers, locking in the pay rate at the top of the old scale, a move toward meeting the industry standard of equal per-course minimum pay. However, UBC is the only university in Canada that has differential definitions of “full time” for different Faculties, so some Sessional Lecturers (like those in Education) are still paid significantly less per course, gain less seniority, and have fewer benefits than those in most other Faculties. In this round, we have once again proposed a single minimum salary scale and a reasonable and uniform definition of full time across UBC.

Even as they teach 9, 12 or even 15 credits a term, Sessional Lecturers’ work is also precarious because of their very limited rights to work: Sessional Lecturers who do not have a “Continuing” appointment are guaranteed just one course per year. Ignoring experience, excellence, and service to UBC, the University can hire external candidates for all remaining available courses beyond that one. We are proposing to raise the minimum guaranteed course-load to two courses per year when unit needs and expertise meet, as an essential step toward an ethical and equitable workplace.  Our members consistently support proposals to mitigate this unnecessary vulnerability forced onto our colleagues.

Another frustration that we hear each round is that Sessional Lecturers are required to do significant amounts of work outside of their contracted period of employment. This work includes course design and preparation, book ordering, and Canvas development that has to be done long before the first day of contract, as well as administrative work and communications, late assignments, and Standing Deferreds that can come weeks or months after term end. UBC recognizes this issue but has only standardized compensation for this work in one context: Sessional Lecturers can claim $250 per course for marking outside of the contract period, if the exam is scheduled within a few days of the end of the appointment. We have proposed more comprehensive and standardized compensation for all of this necessary extra-contractual work.

We are pursuing another important step toward equity with the simple proposal that UBC provide full benefits for all members, instead of short-changing Sessional Lecturers who have teaching loads under 50%.

Finally, a spot of bright news: one of our proposals was to have UBC guarantee that between appointments, Sessional Lecturers would maintain access to the essential tools of our profession: library, databases, email, CWL One Drive, software licenses and Canvas. We are told now that Sessional Lecturers are put “on leave” for the period between courses and for up to the 24-month recall period after a contract ends, and that these tools can be expected to be automatically available for that period. The FA has proposed that this new standard of practice be formalized in the collective agreement so that all of our members can be confident in their professional entitlement to these services.