Same Work, Same Rights - It's not complicated

In an era of increasingly precarious employment, more and more people are seeking additional education and training to help them get a leg up in the job market. The days when a high school diploma or even an undergraduate degree were synonymous with a good job are but a distant memory. The irony is, of course, that students trying to escape the world of precarious employment are often being taught by contingent faculty who, themselves, are trapped in precarious work.

The reality is that BC’s public colleges and universities are relying as much on a part-time, contingent work force as other sectors. Over a third of post-secondary instructors now are contract academic staff, or sessionals, working for substantially lower pay than their full-time counterparts, few if any benefits, and no job security.  In some BC institutions, over half of the instructors are contingent faculty. 

Contract academic staff rarely have an office in which to meet students, usually work several jobs to make ends meet, and are not paid to perform the services for which students nonetheless rely on them, such as writing reference letters. To compound the indignity, those temporary workers rarely qualify for Employment Insurance benefits, leaving them scrambling financially at the end of each semester, never knowing if they’ll be re-hired the next semester. 

Colleges and universities often proclaim the merits of the higher education programs they offer.  That is why it is troubling to see them falling back on an underpaid, overworked, casual work force that, ironically, represents the very type of work most students are there to avoid. More and more, Canada’s public institutions are being run like private corporations, driving down costs on the backs of their most vulnerable workers.  And like private corporations, those savings are simply getting plowed back into the ever growing ranks of managers who then pay themselves ever growing sums of money.  The students, on the other hand, get to pay higher tuition.

To make things worse, real per-student operating grants - the largest single investment that the BC government makes in post-secondary education - has dropped by more than eight per cent since 2001. The steady decline in funding has led to increased pressures on all faculty to do more with less, an outcome that not only frustrates faculty and their work, it also limits access for our students and diminishes the quality of their education.

Students don't know if their instructor is sessional or permanent faculty. That's because we all do our best for our students and our communities. When you do the same work, you should have the same rights. It's not complicated.

We know fair employment makes sense. Now we need governments at all levels to invest in a post-secondary system that provides the best education and opportunities for good jobs for everyone.

This fall, let's vote for a government that makes post-secondary education a priority. Sign our vote pledge here.

About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.