November 13, 2013
Contract faculty at Wilfrid Laurier University are holding a strike vote this week. The Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association (WLUFA), who represent part-time faculty, filed for a no-board last Thursday after two unsuccessful days of conciliation. The contract faculty unit continues to push for job security and benefits, in an attempt to improve their precarious working conditions.
Contract faculty across Ontario face similar struggles, yet it is difficult to know the true extent of the problem. A thorough examination is required, but this research is hampered by poor data. We don’t know how many contract faculty there are, or the working conditions they experience. OCUFA has called on the Government of Ontario to fund an impartial research project to explore precarious academic work. This research is a necessary first step in addressing the challenges that face contract faculty.
Contract faculty make up a significant portion of academic staff teaching at Ontario universities. At Laurier, these instructors teach more than half of students in classes, tutorials, labs and seminars. Yet, their compensation only made up 3.3 per cent of total operating revenues last year. In response, the We Teach Laurier campaign is raising awareness about contract faculty issues and telling the stories of these hard-working teachers and researchers.
The struggles of contract faculty are widespread, but they are now beginning to collectively confront the issue of precarious work. In the US, where institutions now use a huge number of contract faculty to teach courses, there have been recent gains. More contract faculty are creating and joining unions, including recent certifications at Tufts and Georgetown University.