Bargaining Update: Workload

Categories: Bargaining, Bargaining Updates 2019, Workload, workplace experience survey

Workload is a major concern for UBC faculty and librarians alike.

In every bargaining survey from 2010 to the present, we have consistently heard that you are struggling with unhealthy workloads and work-life stress. You also report being significantly dissatisfied with the transparency and equity of workload assignments. The University’s Work Experience Survey (WES) confirms this unhappiness with workload: fewer than half of respondents responded favourably to each of WES’s work/life questions. Only 1/3 responded positively to the statement “I have energy left at the end of most workdays for my personal life.”  Only 18% of EL faculty responded positively to that statement. UBC’s “wellbeing strategic plan” asserts that “at UBC, we recognize the foundational importance of wellbeing to our success as individuals, as a university, and as a community. We aspire to support our people to achieve their full potential in teaching, learning, working, and research by making wellbeing a priority that guides our daily interactions, decisions, policy planning, and program development.” It is clear that UBC’s current workload policies and practices do not yet meet this expressed commitment to wellbeing.

Our proposals are aimed at this problem: improving the ways in which workload affects our wellbeing and that of the UBC community at large. In this round’s survey we asked, for instance, if we should make it a bargaining priority that every member have the time to do all the elements of their work for which they are being evaluated. You not only overwhelmingly supported this priority, but 282 members also gave us comments which provided significant nuance to these problems our members face. We discovered a host of issues adding to workload, including increased student numbers, expanding teaching loads, increasing administrivia, less staff support, more grantsmanship requirements, and fewer colleagues.

The first step to addressing these problems that both we and the WES survey have uncovered is to bring our contract language on workload up to the standards in the Collective Agreements of other large research-intensive universities. We have brought this proposal to the table in previous rounds, but UBC’s administration has strongly resisted our attempts to deal with workload issues. However, once again we are tabling language that does attempt to address at least some of these most pressing issues affecting our wellbeing and ability to contribute to the health of UBC as an institution.

Our primary objectives in this round are to:

  1. Specify factors to be considered by units in assigning the teaching component of workloads, including an explicit recognition of the need to take into account the student mentoring and advising work that has increasingly been associated with faculty in historically marginalized and underrepresented groups. We hope that an explicit recognition of factors like class size, types of courses, student-mentoring loads, etc. will help reduce some of the workload inequities our members report. This type of language is very common in Collective Agreements of research-intensive universities. To see a good example, read section 4.2 of the University of Toronto’s procedures.
  2. Ensuring that all faculty members have adequate time to perform all aspects of their duties. This is crucial for all members but particularly for those in the Educational Leadership stream, where we have heard many, many, members tell us they are not being given time to perform the very Educational Leadership tasks on which their tenure and promotion depend.  
  3. Ensuring that elected and volunteer service to the university, to professional organizations, and to the community at large are accorded the same value as assigned service. This seems obvious, but it’s not, at least to UBC’s administration. When members agree to serve on Senate, or the Board of Governors, on SAC, or in similar elected and volunteer service roles, that service should be recognized when other unit service duties are assigned.
  4. Ensuring that faculty members in tenureable ranks cannot be required to teach assigned courses in both the winter terms and the summer session in any academic year. Just about every university in the country has such a provision in their Collective Agreement. Time off from teaching is necessary for both research and educational leadership. We are unsure, especially in light of their commitment to wellbeing, why the UBC administration has continued to resist this proposal. There may be specific programs where one term without teaching won’t apply, and we can address those cases. But we think it is vital to confirm that research does actually require some uninterrupted time each year.

We are aware that the workload problems our members face are many and varied. Some may be intractable. But we intend to do everything in our power to make improvements, starting with the protections afforded by most other Canadian universities. This is our chance to help the university’s goals for our work-life balance and work wellbeing actually come to fruition.


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