Our Bargaining Priorities: Job Security & Advancement
Written by Peter Stoll, SLIII and Bargaining Team member
Hello Unit 3 members! Some very exciting things in the areas of job security and advancement are on our agenda for this round of negotiations. We are trying to “move the needle” forward for our members in a substantive way, by fighting for more pathways to stable and permanent employment, as well as a clear and more streamlined advancement process.
Some of us have been employed as sessionals at U of T for 20 years or longer, and have seen fancy new permanent positions created for outside “stars” whom the administration wished to recruit. Meanwhile, our own teaching accomplishments, student rapport, unpaid efforts and overtime are “appreciated” but go unrewarded. The attitude seems to be, “If we don’t have to do anything else to advance your livelihood, why would we bother?” Well, for one thing, our working conditions directly impact the quality of education delivered at U of T. That should matter.
Securing Our Work
We aim to put an end to this dead-end class system! So your Bargaining Team is going to bat to tell the administration to re-conceptualize sessional workers: we deserve to the right to a reasonable path to ever steadier and more reliable, and ultimately permanent, employment. We are asking U of T to value continuity in teaching, for the benefit of the students and of the university as a whole.
Therefore, we are proposing the creation of a Writing Instructor III rank, to parallel the Sessional Lecturer III rank. We are tabling language to have work done in different departments and/or campuses counted together when determining seniority and eligibility for advancement. We are demanding an increase to the number of 3-year contracts for WIs, and that Sessional Instructional Assistants, as well as TAs who later become members of Unit 3, have all of their prior UofT experience counted towards advancement within Unit 3.
We are battling to remove vague language in the current Collective Agreement that allows, without restriction, the re-assignment of our work to current or retired UTFA (University of Toronto Faculty Association) members (i.e. full-time appointed staff).
Some respondents to our unit-wide bargaining survey indicated a desire for a more streamlined, easy-to-understand process to advance from one rank to the next, and we are tabling specific proposals to make this process easier for all to undertake. We also want all members who have had unsuccessful applications for advancement to understand clearly their right to the appeals process. To that end, we are insisting that the right to, and process of, appeals be presented up-front to all applicants for Unit 3 work.
We will forcefully argue for a candidate’s right of approval over outside evaluators, to be used in any advancement process. We will propose that teaching and other experience outside of UofT be counted towards a sessional’s entry-level rank and early eligibility for advancement.
While in past rounds we have made important gains in terms of advancement, the process is not without its flaws. Unit 3 survey respondents describe courses being offered only intermittently, or being cancelled or moved out of the bargaining unit, just as a sessional would become eligible for advancement. We are therefore proposing major changes to how eligibility is determined. These include adjusting the advancement requirements to lower the thresholds for the number of courses taught, and calculating them over fewer semesters or years. This is intended to avoid the ‘almost there and then no!’ phenomenon too many of our members encounter. The proposals to count work as a TA or SIA toward advancement, as well as lowering advancement thresholds for hourly-paid instruction, would significantly impact a large number of our members’ eligibility as well.
Conversion to Full Time
Beyond advancement, we are, for the first time at the University of Toronto, proposing a “conversion” process. If we win this at the table, those longer-serving sessionals who meet the eligibility qualifications would be able to apply to have their position converted to a full-time teaching-stream position. This will mean a transition to a tenure-track, UTFA appointment, with all of the rights and duties that accrue to such a position.
It’s important to note that this will be a voluntary process, as it’s understood that not all sessionals wish to undertake the greater commitments that such an appointment would entail. But we believe that those who have proven their worth in longer-term teaching at the university should be able to advance their employment opportunities to a full-time level. Again, many of us have worked as sessionals for 20+ years, and many of us are pillars in our departments. It’s high time we are recognized as such.
A similar process has been in place for decades at York University, and we are in discussion with members of their CUPE sessionals unit, as well as the York Faculty Association, to explore what they have found to be the most workable details of such a process, as well as any problems they have encountered. It is our intent to insist that there be an annual quota of these conversions, to prevent the employer from allowing them in principle but avoiding actually advancing members to full-time status.
Tell Us What You Value
We believe that taken altogether, these proposals will constitute the most significant attempt to upgrade our member’s job security and potential for reasonable and continual advancement since the introduction of the CUPE sessional ranks and presence on campus. The employer may not value continuity in your life and work. Be we do, and we know you do too.
Please consider becoming engaged with the Bargaining Support Committee’s activities, and stay tuned for bargaining updates and meetings. Any questions or concerns you have can be directed to: u3bsc[at]cupe3902[dot]org.