With over 900 members, Unit 1 is the largest bargaining unit of our local. Unit 1 Collective Agreement represents
Part-time Instructors (also called sessionals, contract instructors, or adjuncts in the U.S.)
Who are CUPE 4207 INSTRUCTORS?
We’re Instructors who Love to Teach and Share our Knowledge with our Students
We’re over 200 Instructors at Brock who teach undergrad courses.
We’re members of CUPE 4207 Unit 1 along with Teaching Assistants, Lab Demonstrators, Marker/Graders and Course Coordinators.
We’re highly educated and bring a wealth of knowledge to the classroom. Many of us hold PhDs. Some of us have been teaching at the university level for many years, even decades.
As Course Directors, Instructors perform the same work as full-time, tenured Professors (who are members of BUFA – the Brock University Faculty Association). We prepare courses, deliver lectures, lead seminars, meet with students, grade papers and coordinate multiple seminars taught by Teaching Assistants.
However, our Collective Agreement with Brock University expired on September 6, so we’re in the process of bargaining with the university for a new agreement. Our teaching conditions are your learning conditions, so all of this matters to you!
We are Precariously Employed
As Instructors, we apply for courses and are hired (or not!) on a term-by-term basis for individual courses, with no real job security. From year to year, we don’t know what (or if!) we will be teaching. We lack stability and security in our jobs. And we’re teaching your courses.
Across Ontario, most Sessional Instructors are female. Most have completed a PhD. And most would like to obtain a secure, full-time academic position. However many universities across Ontario have moved increasingly to a model of part-time, precarious or casual employment. Across Ontario, as older Professors retire, they aren’t being replaced with permanent, full-time, tenure-track hires. They’re being replaced with precariously employed Instructors with minimal job security, lower salaries and fewer benefits.
We are Underpaid and Undervalued
As an Instructor at Brock, we’re paid $6,188 per half-credit course.
The maximum an Instructor can teach is four half-credit courses. So, the most that an Instructor at Brock can earn is $24,752 (4 x 6,188) per year. That’s a pretty modest salary for an educated professional. As a result, most Instructors work elsewhere, if the work is available. They must combine their teaching at Brock with non-academic work, or piece together teaching contracts at other universities (in other cities). In either case, it limits their availability for students and their connection to the Brock University community.
Meanwhile Instructors at York University are paid $8,725 per half-year course. That’s a difference of $2,537 per course! Or, in other words, Instructors at Brock get paid 29% less per course than their colleagues at York University! And we’re not even going to mention the salaries of tenured Professors.
We are Workers without Benefits
Instructors at Brock don’t have a real benefit plan. We have no prescription drug coverage or vision coverage. If we are lucky enough get sufficient contracts, we may qualify for a modest dental plan that covers 80% of dental costs up to only $500 per year. However, there is a limited pool of money for the dental plan and it’s paid on a “first-come, first-served basis” so there is no guarantee that the dental coverage will be available when we need it. And there is no dental coverage (or any other benefits) for our spouses, partners, children or dependents.
This is where the gap between Instructors at Brock and elsewhere becomes extreme. At York University, Instructors (and their families!) have dental benefits of $3000 per year, vision benefits of $400 every two years, and paramedical benefits (includes physiotherapists, registered massage therapists and other services) of $3000 per year.
And, on top of that, York Instructors have 100% prescription drug coverage for themselves and their families! To repeat, Brock Instructors have zero coverage. Zero. The difference in benefits is huge!
Unlike our colleagues at other Ontario universities, Brock Instructors have few other benefits and funds in our Collective Agreement (such as the Professional Expense Reimbursements, Childcare Funds, Conference Travel Funds, Research Grants, or Professional Development Funds that exist elsewhere).
Who are TAs, LAB DEMONSTRATORS, COURSE COORDINATORS, MARKER/GRADERS?
We are frontline academic workers. We lead seminars and labs, mark and grade essays, exams and assignments. There are close to 800 of us at Brock. We are part of Unit 1, currently in bargaining.
We are academic workers who range from graduate students to long term returning members who have dedicated most of their working lives to Brock.
Some of us doing this essential academic work are graduate students and some are not students any more. We hold advanced degrees and do indispensable work at Brock University, which prides itself on the pedagogical value of a small group tutorial system for undergraduate students.
Course Coordinators are academic workers who are hired to coordinate course with large enrollment (usually introductory courses). Without their labour such a course would be unmanageable.
Marker/Graders are academic workers hired for the duration of marking and grading assignments. For example, a department can hire M/G to do this job in large courses with a great number of assignments where the TAs and Lab Demonstrators’ paid hours cannot absorb such a huge workload.
We pay more and earn less
Graduate students’ funding package, the money they are offered by the university to sustain them while doing full time graduate studies, include employment contract working as a TA, Lab Dem, Course Coordinator or Marker/Grader. The work load for graduate students is limited to 10 hours a week. They need as much time as possible for their course work, research and writing. They share their four and more years of university experience with the students they teach in seminars and labs.
Did you know that graduate students in Ontario pay 41% more than Canadian average graduate fees? Yet their pay is not increasing commensurately, which leads to loss of earning ability. For example a graduate student’s tuition fees hike up every year close to 5%, way above their wage increase and inflation; this means that every year their living standards decrease.
Brock grad students do not have tuition fee indexation as other university sector unions were successful to win – a tuition fee fixed to a year, or students being compensated for the rise in education cost. Will Brock set things right this round of bargaining?
We lack job security
TAs, Lab Dems, Course Coordinators Marker/Graders who are not students can hold multiple contracts with up to full time hours during Fall and Winter terms. They are academic workers with many years of experience in their respective fields. Most hold Master’s degrees, and many, taken by life on unplanned trajectories, took a paid position in the academia during their PhD studies.
Did you know that we have to apply for work every semester even though many of us have held contracts with the university for decades?
We have concerns over our workload
Whether grad students or non-student TAs/LDs are super busy during end of the term and exam periods. Term papers and lab projects are coming due and we collect them and grade them. Students ask for extensions, and our emails are busiest close to assignment due date. Winter holidays and April statutory holidays are hard for our families because we are buried in stacks of essays and exams. We finalize participation grades and total student grades. Speaking of statutory holidays, it would be nice if the university paid us for stat holidays according to the Employment Standards Act as any employer should.
We often mark and grade assignments that take much longer than the time we have allocated for it. This results in work that we do for free for the university because we are committed to high standards of teaching – we want to do our job properly. A student deserves their paper marked thoroughly and we want to be fairly compensated.
Did you know that Lab demonstrators often work with exceedingly large number of students in a lab, making in unsafe and unsound pedagogically? This is not of the Lab Dem’s choosing, we are assigned tasks by the university. Ask a Lab Demonstrator if they are compensated not only for their teaching time but also for preparing the lab for a class and cleaning it after it’s over.
We are highly engaged and invested academic workers
Many new and many returning members of our local regularly participate in workshops and educationals on teaching and classroom technologies offered by Brock’s Centre for Pedagogical Innovation. We are regularly upgrading our skills and updating knowledge of taught material.
As frontline academic workers, our direct contact with students in small groups for several months provides us with a unique opportunity to see the struggle and tribulations students experience at a university.
Did you know that we are responsible for the students’ entire grade for a course? Courses in the first three years can hold a very large number of students. Marking and grading students’ assignments, quizzes, exams, term papers, and their participation in seminars and labs is a job of TAs, Lab Demonstrators and Marker/Graders.
Yet, the University considers us disposable and replaceable, not worth a representation in the university governing bodies. Will the University finally come up with a language to allow us voice in the Senate and on Board of Trustees in this year’s bargaining?
We care about our work. We care about our students and the teaching/learning environment that conditions both our university and workplace experience. After all our working conditions are the students’ learning conditions!