Friday, August 18, 2017

FAUW Weighs in on Bill 148 – Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act

Faculty association representatives from more than ten Ontario universities recently presented at hearings on Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, including FAUW's president, Sally Gunz. Her full presentation is below.

Presentation: Sally Gunz, President Faculty Association, University of Waterloo to Committee, Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, Kitchener, 18 July, 2017

My name is Sally Gunz. I am president of the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW). FAUW represents all faculty members at the university except those who are hired to teach by course only. I am a professor of business law and professional ethics in the School of Accounting and Finance, and have worked at the university since 1981. I speak in my capacity as president of FAUW.

Members of the public often think of university professors as well paid, privileged employees. And indeed many are. But few are aware of the prevalence of precarious work on university campuses. My focus is on Bill 148 as it affects the many faculty teaching at the University of Waterloo who are employed solely on the basis of limited term contracts. I note that the university is presently revising its faculty hiring policies and issues around precarious employment are the subject of formal examination.

As background: it is important to understand that there is wide variance in terms and conditions of employment for contract faculty. For example, at the University of Waterloo:
  • Lecturers are mostly hired on one to five-year contracts, but a limited number are hired on an ongoing basis. I focus here on the former.
  • Sessional Instructors are hired by individual course. A distinction here is between those who teach in order to complement another, often professional, career, or to provide post-retirement part time work; and those for whom it is their full-time employment. The goal for many is to become full-time professors. In the meantime, they piece together contracts at Waterloo and often elsewhere, in some cases over very extended lengths of time.

While unstable employment may be used to meet legitimate short term university needs, increasingly such positions are created and sustained in response to real or perceived funding constraints. As university costing models become more sophisticated and transparent, the pressure to maintain flexibility by using temporary positions for high-level teaching tasks appears to be increasing. Let me give you two examples from Waterloo.
  • Case 1: a lecturer hired on one-year contracts for approximately 10 years teaches a range of courses in one discipline. He has received a high-level teaching award and provides strong service to his department, yet his employment remains year-to-year and dominated by no security. 
  • Case 2: in a professional program, instructors are hired to teach multiple sections of courses, sometimes far exceeding a full-time load, but without the benefit of full-time contracts. This denies them a reasonable income, pension, or benefits. The university is reluctant to commit to full-time appointments despite the obvious teaching need in a program in which students pay significantly enhanced fees. 

The use of exploitive hiring exists across universities. The case examples I cite are common. Highly qualified instructors have no employment security, comparatively low pay, and in many cases no pension or benefits. Where educational institutions face funding pressures, the increased use of ‘flexible’ hiring options is virtually inevitable. And while Bill 148 says that no employee shall be paid a rate lower than a comparable full-time employee of the same employer, there are broad exemptions to this rule.[1] What Bill 148 can do, and what I, on behalf of FAUW urge you to do, is to make exploitive hiring options economically unattractive at universities.

To summarize: FAUW is pleased by much of what is in Bill 148. It strongly supports the recommendations OCUFA has made for improvements. In particular it would ask this committee to consider:
  1. Extending the equal pay for equal work provisions to include access to benefits.
  2. Amending Bill 148 to prevent the use of discontinuous contracts as a means of avoiding stable employment. 
  3. Extending the notice period for scheduling of employment to at least two weeks in recognition of the extensive prior preparation needed for assuming a teaching position. 


[1] This rule would not apply where there is a difference in treatment between employees on the basis of: (a) a seniority system; (b) a merit system; (c) a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (d) another factor justifying the difference on objective grounds.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

OCUFA's 2017 Policy Exchange report summarizes faculty recommendations for improving Ontario’s universities

Republished from OCUFA.
In May, OCUFA brought together representatives of its membership to identify the policy issues affecting Ontario’s universities that they view as most critical, and to draft recommendations for addressing them. The final report summarizing these consultations is now available online.

OCUFA regularly conducts research, produces papers and briefs, and hosts conversations on targeted policy issues affecting higher education in Ontario. However, the 2017 Policy Exchange conference provided a unique opportunity to have a broad and interactive discussion.

Over the course of the two-day consultation, participants explored issues relating to precarious academic employment, university funding, and university governance and accountability. Through a series of group discussions, they established a clearer understanding of these issues and the steps they believe should be taken to strengthen Ontario’s university sector.

The recommendations collected in the final report of the OCUFA Policy Exchange encapsulate the discussions from the two-day consultation and provide the basis for a policy vision for Ontario’s universities that reflect the goals of the 17,000 faculty members OCUFA represents. What stands out in these recommendations is the clear commitment that faculty share to preserve and protect the core teaching and research mission of universities, and the centrality of this mission to ensuring that our universities and province thrive.

Moving forward, OCUFA will use these recommendations as the basis for further policy work and advocacy. It is hoped that OCUFA members and policymakers alike will see these recommendations as a useful starting point and valuable contribution to policy discussions regarding Ontario’s universities.