University faculty urges government to keep pursuing fairness for contract faculty and precarious workers everywhere

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The government-appointed Special Advisors of the Changing Workplaces Review released an Interim Report today. It details options for responding to the changing nature of work in the province, including the rise of precarious work. The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) hopes the report will serve as a starting point for a bold plan to address precarious work and promote good jobs at Ontario’s universities and throughout the broader economy.

“I am deeply passionate about postsecondary education and love my job. But working contract to contract, and being paid less than your colleagues for the same work is inequitable and it can be demoralizing,” says Fran Cachon, a contract faculty member at the University of Windsor, and chair of OCUFA’s Contract Faculty and Faculty Complement Committee. “Now, the government of Ontario has an opportunity to bring more fairness and security to the workplace, a chance we can’t afford to miss.  The working conditions of professors are the learning conditions for students. When we invest in workplace fairness, we invest in high-quality university education.”

OCUFA estimates that the number of courses taught by contract faculty in Ontario has doubled since 2000. These talented scholars face job insecurity, unpredictable scheduling, unfair wages, and they lack access to benefits. The growth of precarious academic work has brought the need for stronger employment and labour laws into sharp focus.

OCUFA has recommended that labour law be updated to ensure equal pay for work of equal value and equal access to benefits for contract workers, as well as require that all workers receive reasonable notice of their schedules. OCUFA has also suggested that the labour relations board be empowered to change the scope of existing bargaining units, and that labour law be modernized to ensure fair rules are in place for joining unions and maintaining effective union representation.

These recommendations were set out in a written submission and 13 presentations made by contract faculty, tenure-track faculty, and academic librarians across the province last year. Today’s report marks the beginning of the next stage of consultation. OCUFA is pleased to see many of its recommendations reflected in the report, and plans to be actively engaged in the upcoming consultations.

Ontarians agree that change is needed. In a recent poll, over 84 per cent of people believed that contract faculty should receive equal pay for equal work, the same access to benefits as their full-time colleagues, and have opportunities to be converted to full-time positions. And, 94 per cent said that universities should be model employers and support good jobs in their communities.

“When it comes to precarious academic work, something has to change. We’re looking to the provincial government for leadership,” said OCUFA President Judy Bates. “Universities are just one example of where better laws will improve the lives of precarious workers. If the government commits to stronger legal protections, they will be creating stronger communities and a stronger economy.”

OCUFA is one of over 50 community and labour organizations that is part of the Fight for $15 & Fairness across Ontario. Supporters of fairness for contract faculty can sign a pledge that was launched by OCUFA’s We Teach Ontario campaign.

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