It's been a long time coming. But all sessional lecturers are now officially members of the UBC Faculty Association. The change in status resulted from balloting by those sessional lecturers teaching less than half time. The vote, tallied on Feb. 9, was 91% in favour.
"We are really delighted with the result, particularly with the fact that every member of the teaching faculty at UBC can now be represented by a single, united voice," said faculty association president Mary Russell. "We are eager to get to work with the new sessional faculty members to begin talks with the university on fine tuning the collective agreement."
The association had been pressing the administration on the issue of part-time sessionals especially since last spring when the collective agreement expired. "There was no excuse for excluding so many of our teaching colleagues from the agreement and from the association," said Russell. The administration spoke of "inclusion" in its vision statement, Trek 2000, and the association argued that it was hypocritical to talk inclusion while systematically excluding large numbers of faculty members.
In early January the administration finally agreed to voluntarily recognize all sessional faculty, no matter how many classes taught, as members of the association. All that remained then was for a majority vote by sessionals in favour of joining.
The victory brings hundreds of new members into the faculty association which until the vote had about 2000 members. Changes to the collective agreement in 1994 and in 1998 brought many sessional members into the association. In 1993 the administration agreed to accept all sessionals teaching the equivalent of half time. At the time this brought the vast majority of sessionals into the agreement.
But the administration then began taking advantage of the agreement by hiring more and more part-time sessionals teaching just one class. By 1998 there were over 400 excluded sessionals compared to about 150 who were covered by the agreement. These faculty had no protection, seniority, benefits and could be paid whatever a department decided.
"The trend to using one-course sessionals is something that has to be reversed," said Russell. "It is completely unfair to sessional lecturers who wish to teach more and pursue a career at the university. It also undermines the integrity of the academic community. The administration, in order to save money, was creating a ghetto of low paid faculty, isolated from the rest of their colleagues."
The faculty association believes it is important to have all faculty under one agreement because of the multiple threats faced by public universities across Canada. Severe under-funding and the trend towards so-called corporate "partnerships" threatens academic freedom and the public purpose of universities, according to Russell. A united faculty is critical in facing those threats successfully.
"Now that we have achieved coverage of all teaching faculty we can turn our energies towards the substantive issues -- getting a good contract for our new members, and addressing the broader issues threatening our university," said the association's president.