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CAUT Bulletin Archives

June 2011

Deemed Hours Need to Reflect Total Work

CAUT has released a bargaining advisory on hours of insurable employment for contract academic staff.

“While working to achieve the pro-rata model for their contract members, academic staff associations continue to face the reality of having to set fair terms for one-course stip­endiary contracts,” said James Turk, executive director of CAUT. “Fair terms must include the ability of members to apply for and receive employment insurance benefits during periods of unemployment such as during the summer term when contracts are less numerous.”

He said employers are generally reluctant to allow self-reporting of hours, and instead rely on a maxim of fixed number of hours required to deliver a course. This number varies widely, as do the formulae by which it is produced.

At Acadia University for example, a course is deemed to require 10 hours of work per week. At the University of Toronto, a course is deemed to require a maximum of 460 hours of work — the threshold required to qualify for employment insurance benefits — and a half course, 230 work hours.

However, Canadian courts have rejected deemed hour figures when employees can demonstrate their actual hourly commitment was greater than the “official” record.

In the case of Franke v. Minister of National Revenue (1999), the appellant Mark Franke produced a detailed log of hours, which the court was willing to accept. However, keeping a detailed record of hours put into delivering a course places an undue burden on contract academics.

“It would be far better to negotiate strong contract language that establishes a reasonable level of hours per course,” Turk said.

In addition, the contract language should allow for exceptions such as large-enrolment classes, the level of the course, and the amount of first-time preparation required.

“Deemed hours need to reflect the totality of the work that goes into delivering courses and need to allow contract academics to sustain themselves during periods of involuntary unemployment,” said Leslie Jermyn, the chair of CAUT’s new standing committee on contract academic staff.

“As we all know, teaching effectively involves a wide range of scholarly activity beyond the minimum work of preparing for classes and grading papers. Bargaining for reasonable deemed hours is one way to expand our recognition of the contribution contract academic staff make to our institutions.”