Reality Check: Different countries, same problems for contract faculty

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Australia’s National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) recently released the results of a survey of “casual” academic staff who are appointed on a per-course or research contract basis, equivalent to part-time, sessional, or contract academic staff in Canada. Almost two-thirds of respondents aspire to an academic career, preferably a permanent full-time position with teaching and research responsibilities. Teaching-only positions were the least desirable of the full-time options.
 
Almost two-thirds are women, and almost two-thirds have been employed as casuals for three or more years at the same university. Of those surveyed, 15 per cent have been cobbling together a living with appointments at more than one university.
 
The survey also found that unpaid work is a problem. Fewer than half reported that there was sufficient time allocated in their contracts for lecture preparation and class time. When it came to tutorials, less than two-thirds had adequate paid time for preparation. And while over 80 per cent of per-course faculty reported that they had consulted with students outside normal hours, three-quarters were not paid for the activity.
 
Not only does the pay end up being meager, but access to resources is limited. Most share an office and a computer and only half had space for consulting with students.
 
OCUFA has noted that similar problems – ‘permanent casualization’, multiple appointments, lack of paid time for preparation, and unequal access to resources – exist for Ontario’s contract academic staff. We believe that all academic jobs should be ‘good’ jobs, with job security, fair compensation, and the resources needed to fulfill their responsibilities. When we invest in contract faculty, we invest in both their quality of life and in the quality of our higher education system.

This article originally appeared in the OCUFA Report. To receive stories like this every week in your inbox, please subscribe.

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