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CAUT Bulletin Archives

January 1999

The Ups and Downs of Two Faculty Unions at One University

Diane Huberman-Arnold
At the University of Ottawa, there are two faculty associations, one union for the full-time professors, and another for the part-time professors. From the perspective of a part-time professor, I will lay out the pros and cons of this union division.

There are many disadvantages for part-time professors belonging to a separate union. Full-timers are taken as the gold standard. They have a career; they are serious academics; they are professionals. They have much more status and respect, both within and without the university community. They are paid a lot more, something like ten times the money for three times the work. Full-time professors have tenure, job security, titles, promotions, automatic pay raises, and advancement through the ranks. Their contract provides better fringe benefits. They have e-mail and voice-mail and mail boxes. They have offices. They have unlimited library privileges, taking books out for an entire term. We get two weeks' book borrowing time, and only after we sign a contract. They have the ability to earn a living wage in their chosen career. They have more opportunity for grants, even grants internal to the university, and they receive professional development funds. They can have sabbaticals. Part-time professors are guaranteed none of the above.

Moreover, it is not coincidence that the majority of full-time professors are men and the majority of part-time professors are women. We can regard part-time university teaching as another female ghetto. The part-time association has no access to the university's status of women committee because it is a committee of the full-time union.

The division of union protection means that part-timers are marginalized within the university administrative structure. We are not on the 'in'; we are not in the loop. We are rarely represented in departmental assemblies, or on departmental committees. We are not, for the most part, represented on university committees, and certainly have no say on the important and influential ones. Students have more say on departmental, faculty and university policy than part-time people do. Part-timers are not regarded as career academics, even those part-time professors with PhDs and good research and publication records. The full-time professors receive certificates of appreciation for long time service. Part-time professors, even after 25 years of service, get no acknowledgment; we are still classed with graduate students who are given a course to teach, only we are older.

At the university every year each full-time professor must complete an official annual report, in which all profession-al activities are detailed, publications and conferences listed, and honours credited. Service to the university and to the community are listed, as is student supervision. Current and future research projects and plans are also requested.

Part-time professors do not fill out these forms. No one asks us what we have done during the past year, nor what we plan to do in the future. This may be because it is taken for granted that we do not do anything that matters during the year, or that no one cares whether we do or not. The university gets the benefit and credit for our professional activities, while we get no credit or benefit at all.

Though there are almost as many part-time teachers as full-time teachers at the University of Ottawa, and statistics show that 30 per cent of the teaching done is done by part-time professors, the administration does not see us playing a vital role in the university, and treats us accordingly. We are expendable.

So, I was very pleased this year to be able to join the university's equity committee, representing the part-time professors. It has been an eye-opening experience. The equity committee has concerns about the disabled, and visible minorities, mostly within the student body, though occasionally with full-time faculty as well. I have discovered that the university has not documented statistics for the part-time professors on disabilities, minority representation, or anything else. We are not included in the surveys. When I raised some equity issues concerning part-time professors at the equity committee, I was told that these were employment equity issues, and should therefore be taken up at the employment equity committee. I said, I thought this was the equity committee. But it turns out there really is an employment equity committee, only it is a committee of the full-time faculty association, and only full-timers can be on the committee, and only equity issues of full-timers can be brought to the committee.

So, no part-time employment equity issues can be brought before 'my' equity committee, as employment is not in their jurisdiction. Yet we have no access or recourse to the official employment equity committee, as it is the sole province of the full-time faculty association. Therefore, employment equity issues for part-timers are in no jurisdiction at all.

The part-timers also suffer weaknesses in bargaining position, because we belong to a separate union. Those people teaching part-time in the professional schools, like medicine and law, are also not members of our union. Therefore, where the full-time union has lawyer members who can help with contract negotiations, we have no one, except a hired pay-as-you-go labour lawyer, who is expensive and nowhere near as concerned or involved.

Also, since only the full-time union is a member association of CAUT, the part-time union does not get the benefit of CAUT current information, or the negotiation training, assistance, networking and support that CAUT offers to its members. Moreover, the full-time union in negotiations, cites as a basis of comparison, other Canadian universities and their comparable salaries and benefit packages, since all are CAUT members. When the part-time faculty association tries to make comparisons with part-time professors' contracts at other Canadian universities, we are told they are irrelevant to our case, since we are not members of a broader, umbrella organization.

At our university, there are other people who teach part-time, yet are members of neither faculty association. Perhaps if we were all afforded the same coverage and protection under the umbrella of one union, these people would also be members. As it stands now, they are excluded and this adversely affects the part-time union in the following ways: The association does not collect dues from these people, nor does it have any semblance of control over those part-time jobs which these people hold. The professors who are exempted from the part-time association are often retired, formerly full-time, professors, hired back to teach a bit. This means that they are receiving university pensions and fringe benefits, and still have a de facto association with the full-time union. They therefore expect, and get, the professional status they had already enjoyed for many years. They are even paid more than unionized part-time teachers.

The other group exempt from belonging to the part-time faculty association, are the so-called 'visiting' professors, classed as experts, who are usually not visiting from anywhere, but are classified as visiting to give them a particular status. This status also confers near equality with full-time professors in input for departmental policy and committees, and also allows such professors to be paid a great deal more than faculty association part-timers.

The point is, this undercuts the power of the part-time faculty association, and also undercuts the efforts of the members of the part-time faculty association, who are by any standard undervalued anyway. In comparison with those exempt from our union, unionized part-time professors appear less worthy, less important, and less valuable to their departments and university community. Therefore, it appears that we deserve lower regard, lower pay and benefits, less respect and professional status. And that is exactly what we get.

There are some advantages to having two separate faculty associations. It is a shorter list than the one above, but there are definitely some favorable aspects. I regard these advantages as most important in our union organization and participation.

With a union only representing part-time professors, we have autonomy and self-regulation. We have a more relevant and specific collective agreement. We are more aware of the shared and common problems the membership faces, and more focussed to do something about those problems. In our own pond, we are not small fish. We avoid the risk of being voiceless and powerless, as the weakest link in a larger union.

Grievances can be handled more directly, with less bureaucracy and more concern for fairness and equity. Individual grievances can be easily converted to policy grievances, if the problem noted is widespread.

With a large turnover in membership, union direction has access to fresh insights and contributions, and does not become part of the establishment of the university administration, doing things the way they have always been done. Approximately one third of the part-time association membership earn their living outside the university; this allows us to be concerned about equity and justice outside academia.

Since we are all part-timers, we are all on equal footing. We are not low men and women on the totem pole, nor do we have to depend on the goodwill of others to be treated equally within the union. We have no competition within the faculty association. The concerns and benefit of the part-time professors form the only mandate of the association.

Some might say that many of the disadvantages I have enumerated are simply due to being part-time instead of full-time, and not because of having two faculty associations instead of one. But I do not believe that this is the case. There is nothing inherent in teaching part-time that precludes decent and equitable treatment and respect within the work environment. We simply do not receive that treatment. Part-time professors, whether members of no union, a separate union, or a joint union, deserve better than they receive now.

Diane Huberman-Arnold is a part-time professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ottawa.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of CAUT.