This post focuses on the benefits (pension, health benefits, and professional development funds) denied to our colleagues on sessional contracts.
Pension and Health Benefits:
Our UBC Faculty Pension Plan is a defined-contribution plan. What that means is that, unlike a traditional defined-benefit plan that pays an annual amount during your retirement based on the number of years you contribute and the salary earned in (usually) the most recent few years, our plan is basically an RRSP. For most members the University puts approximately 10% of our salary into a tax-sheltered investment account (members are also required to add ~ 5% into the plan).
Unfortunately, this is not true for all members. Sessional Lecturers are unfairly treated twice. First, the university doesn’t put exactly 10% in the plan. UBC contributes 10% on the first $3500, plus any amount above $57,400, but only 8.2% on the amount between $3500 and $57,400. So for someone earning $100,000, UBC would pay $9030, or a little over 9%, but for someone earning $45,000 (and many Sessional Lecturers earn less than that) UBC puts in only $3,753, or about 8.3%. The actual percentage of salary that UBC contributes to the pension plan is higher the more you earn, and since Sessional Lecturers are our lowest-paid members, they get hit the hardest by this unfairness. We have, in the past, grieved this inequity (unsuccessfully). Members may read the arbitrator’s ruling here.
Second, and more egregiously, for Sessional Lecturers with appointments of less than 50% or four months, UBC does not contribute anything to their pension plan. Nothing. This is profoundly inequitable. A Sessional Lecturer in (say) Education who teaches two three-credit courses each term in the Winter session gets no pension contribution. If the same member teaches the same four courses in one term, they get their pension contribution. This makes no sense.
This same group of Sessional Lecturers who are denied pension contributions are also denied full health benefits. To get access to the Extended Health Plan, a sessional colleague with an appointment under 50% and supporting at least one dependent has to pay $87.23 per month. It’s $91.02 per month for the Dental Plan. Our hypothetical member in the Faculty of Education teaching two courses each session in Winter term would have to pay $1,426 over the eight months to maintain the same benefits that other members get at no cost. If the member can’t afford these benefits on a salary that could be as little as $22,000 over those eight months, no problem–UBC allows them to just do without dental, extended health or drug benefits.
Professional Development Funds:
All members except Sessional Lecturers without continuing status have access to a Professional Development Fund that accrues by $1,100 per year (we know: that’s the lowest in BC and about the lowest in all of Canada, but that’s a matter for a different blog). For Sessional Lecturers without continuing status, the accrual to the PD Fund is only $25 per credit taught. A Sessional Lecturer teaching twenty-seven credits (more than almost any Sessional Lecturer teaches) would still under the current system accrue only $675 in their PD fund in a year. UBC’s new Focus on People plan proposes “a phased approach to delivering professional development that supports career growth, agility and engagement.” Our modest proposal: raise the per-credit rate for non-continuing Sessional Lecturers to $100, with an annual accrual cap of $1100, in line with the amount available to other members, and in support of the Focus plan vision that “faculty…are creative and innovative and can grow professionally.”
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