The Association of Professors of Bishop's University (APBU) has certified a new bargaining unit.
The unit includes part-time instructors and music instructors who teach individual students on an hourly basis.
The process began in February, when a group of part-time instructors initiated an organizing drive. In just 10 days, 85 per cent of the university's contract academic staff signed APBU membership cards. This resounding majority was more than enough to meet the Quebec government's criteria for automatic certification.
"We are very happy with the successful results of the certification hearings," said association president Ruth Sheeran.
With the addition of the CAS bargaining unit, the APBU membership has now doubled in size.
"It's been a long time coming," said Daron Westman, chief steward for the new unit and a veteran part-time instructor in classics. "People have been so frustrated, not just with the low pay but also with the sense that we've been invisible, even to our colleagues."
He said contract academic staff want to be involved in the lives of their departments. "Because we don't have offices, email, phone numbers, or a listing in the faculty directory, we don't really feel connected. Now that we're part of APBU, we have an opportunity to be taken seriously, to be involved."
The addition of a second bargaining unit has brought a new structure to the APBU -- and a new energy. At the association's annual general meeting last month, members elected two contract academic staff representatives to the executive as well as two negotiators. A network of stewards is making sure there is a flow of communication between the union and the members, and committees have compiled the results of the bargaining issues' survey and developed first contract proposals.
Victoria Smallman, the CAUT organizer who assisted with the membership drive, said it's great to see a group take longstanding frustration and turn it into positive action.
"The energy and enthusiasm the contract academic staff is bringing to the APBU are very exciting. The creation of a steward's network is an important step towards mobilizing the new members for the next challenge: first contract negotiations."
Negotiations for a first contract will take place in tandem with collective bargaining for the faculty and librarians' collective agreement.