How Far We Have Come In 30 Years
Before our Union local was established, sessional lecturers at the University of Saskatchewan did not bargain collectively. Individual sessional lecturers were arbitrarily given jobs at the whim of their academic units. That is, even if an academic unit had an opening the next year, a sessional lecturer currently teaching could never be sure of being offered that position. Very often, (s)he would not even hear of a vacancy unless (s)he were being offered the position. Dismissal was simply a matter of not being offered another contract, and such departmental decisions could not be officially challenged. Proposed classes could be cancelled at short notice with no remuneration for the preparation done by the sessional lecturer. We were not entitled to either sick leave or health benefits and had non contractual protection of copyright or academic freedom. Emphasizing the temporary nature of our jobs, the administration did not allow us to have a voice in academic decision-making. Professional development was not supported nor was it appreciated.
Although much remains to be done, especially in the areas of job remuneration, benefits and security, CUPE Local 3287, the sessional lecturers’ union at the University of Saskatchewan, has improved working conditions for us.
These gains did not come all at once. Our bargaining committees and general membership fought for these improvements over time:
In our first Collective Agreement with the University, sessional lecturers won open posting of vacancies; Right of First Refusal; a course cancellation fee (10%); sick leave; maternity/paternity leave (unpaid); death benefit; travel insurance (for members who must travel to teach); and contractually-recognized copyright protection (for lectures, printed, artistic, recorded works, and computer programs).
In our next contract, sessional lecturers gained reimbursement for course development; the Professional Development Fund ($6500) was established, as was a voluntary pension (5%) and group life insurance. Mechanisms for sessional lecturer participation in academic decision making were put in place.
This time, we gained tuition-waiver for a 3-credit course; the Critical Illness Fund and the Health Spending Account were established, and our academic freedom was recognized.
In this Collective Agreement, we established compensation for committee work and a retirement savings contribution (6% to eligible members).
In the 2008 Collective Agreement, a sessional lecturer once paid $6,571 for a 6-credit unit course in 1992 now received $10,567 (Level 1), $11,017 (Level 2) or $11,467 (Level 3) in 2008. If a course was cancelled within a 3-week period, the sessional lecturer would be paid 25% of the stipend. The Health Spending Account rose to $500 per year per member and the Professional Development Fund grew to $30,000.
In this Collective Agreement, the Health Spending account rose to $600 per year per member. The Retirement Savings contribution was gone, but wages were increased by 15%. Given combined Basic Pay, Vacation Pay and Professional Allowance, Level One Sessional Lecturers make $6,606 per 3-credit course, at Level Two its $6,878 and Level Three its $7,150 for a 3-credit course.
In our latest Collective Agreement, our Health Spending account is gone, but all our members are now covered by a limited dental and drug plan. We now have more tuition waivers, and salary levels have risen.