Ontario’s Ministry of Labour has announced consultations on how the Labour Relations Act, 1995 and Employment Standards Act could be amended to “best protect workers while supporting businesses in our changing economy.” One of the key trends to be examined is “the increase in non-standard working relationships such as temporary jobs, part-time work, and self-employment.” As the use of contract faculty is on the rise at Ontario’s universities, OCUFA will be pushing hard to ensure that the needs of these professors will be prominent in the discussion.
The consultations will be led by prominent labour lawyer C. Michael Mitchell and former justice of the Ontario Superior Court John C. Murray. Upon completion of the consultations, the advisors will make recommendations to government in a written report.
Although comprehensive data on contract faculty is hard to come by, we know that they teach more than half of undergraduate courses. OCUFA research has shown that the number of courses taught by contract faculty has jumped by 87 per cent. Although skilled teachers and researchers, contract faculty struggle with poor job security, low pay, and often lack access to benefits. It is therefore essential that the consultations consider ways to protect precarious academic workers, while making recommendations that recognize their unique circumstances.