Ontario’s professors and academic librarians are hopeful that government consultations will result in needed improvements to employment standards and labour legislation. Faculty representatives will be presenting their views as part of the hearings on reform of the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act being held today in Toronto.
“One of the most dramatic changes at Ontario’s universities over the last quarter century has been a shift towards precarious and casualized work,” said Kate Lawson, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). “Although skilled teachers and researchers, contract faculty struggle with low pay, limited access to benefits, and poor job security. Not only does this affect the wellbeing of individuals stuck in precarious work, it also threatens the quality of education received by students.”
OCUFA estimates that the number of courses taught by contract faculty at Ontario universities has nearly doubled – increasing by 97 per cent – between 2000-01 and 2013-14.
Professors and academic librarians are recommending that Ontario’s labour laws ensure that part-time, contract workers do not face less favorable treatment than their full-time colleagues. It is also important to prevent employers from using short-term contracts to avoid payment of severance or avoid pension contributions. Bargaining unit structures should also be allowed to evolve as workplaces change. Faculty with a “community of interest” should be allowed to voluntarily merge their bargaining units.
“Every job – on campus and across Ontario – should be a good job,” added Lawson. “These reforms will help make this a reality for workers in our province.”