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CAUT Bulletin Archives

September 2002

Conference Explores Plight of Part-Timers

CAUT is stepping up its campaign to educate its members about the overuse and exploitation of contract academic staff.

More than 80 delegates including tenured and contract academic staff from CAUT locals, CUPE members, and representatives of the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers attended CAUT's first contract academic staff conference held in Toronto, May 29.

Delegates heard how the university landscape is changing with the rise of contract employment and how in addition to spreading the "stronger together" message, faculty associations should work to educate their members about the impact casualization has on all academics.

And delegates heard the profoundly moving story of activist Barbara Wolf, who was also a guest speaker at the conference. Wolf, a U.S. filmmaker, chronicled her journey editing the footage she collected for her latest work, A Simple Matter of Justice: Contingent Faculty Organize, also screened at the conference. A sequel to Degrees of Shame, the video workbook on organizing efforts among part-time faculty features five case studies, including the recent organizing drive at Bishop's University, that document how contingent faculty have come together to win improvements in wages and working conditions.

Other conference sessions included lessons on how to build solidarity in a diverse academic labour movement, to specific collective bargaining priorities like negotiating access to a career path. Skills-building workshops focussed on lobbying and working with the media and creative ways to mobilize the membership.

"People in the workshops were really interested in the 'how,'" said Cindy Oliver, president of the College Institute Educators' Association of British Columbia. Oliver facilitated a workshop on job security which profiled CIEA's successful regularization campaign."They wanted to talk about how to organize non-regular faculty, how to get them to become active members and how to spark solidarity between full and part-time faculty."

Among the many issues raised was the need for increased communication, support and information sharing between individuals and associations representing part-time faculty and a higher profile for contract academic staff issues both locally and nationally.