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CAUT Bulletin Archives

January 1999

UBC Faculty Association Launches Sessional Drive

Association wins voluntary recognition for all sessional faculty.

The Faculty Association at the University of British Columbia has launched an organizing drive aimed at bringing all sessional lecturers into the association. The drive to sign up those sessionals not already in the association will bring hundreds of new members into the organization, many of whom teach just one class. Until now they have been unrepresented.

The faculty association's executive voted unanimously to launch the organizing drive. "We are very excited about the prospect of having all teaching faculty under one roof," said faculty association president Mary Russell. "It is something we have been pressing hard to achieve for some years and follows bargaining proposals made to the university last spring."

The drive got a big, indirect boost this past week when the university agreed to voluntary recognition of the part-time sessionals. What remains now is the actual sign-up of the new members.

The inclusion of all sessionals is long overdue, says Russell, and comes after much stonewalling by the administration. The university has in the past taken advantage of holes in the contract when hiring sessionals, according to the association's president.

"In 1993, we were able to get all sessionals teaching half time or more into the bargaining unit", Russell said. "At that time, the typical sessional lecturer was teaching two or three classes. But after we signed that agreement, the number of sessionals teaching just one class - placing them outside the agreement - increased dramatically. In our view this was done so the university could avoid paying benefits."

The issues of greatest importance to the sessionals are those involving seniority, remuneration, benefits, and having greater participation in the academic affairs of their departments. One of the objectives of the effort to bring all teaching faculty into the association is to end the isolation of many lecturers from the broader university community.

Universities across the country are facing enormous problems in terms of public funding and academic freedom. "The trend of universities seeking more corporate money means we have to be extremely vigilant in defending academic freedom and the public purpose of universities," said Russell. Beyond the issue of working conditions, it is now more important than ever that teaching faculty speak with one voice.

But the bottom line for the association and the sessionals is working conditions. "Our fellow faculty members have been without bargaining power and recognition for far too long. We are confident that era is over," said Russell.