NewsFaculty union expected to fight for wages won in 2017 college strike

ETC StaffNovember 20, 20195 min

Kristen Cussen, News reporter

Nestled between the staff lounge and Faculty of Health and Wellness office in K Building at North campus lies Humber’s faculty union office (OPSEU 562). Virtually undisturbed by students, the faculty union is a quiet office with a lot to say and even more at stake.

The Ontario government’s Bill 124, passed last week, caps public-sector wage increases — including the pay of college faculty — at one per cent a year, about half the annual increase of the cost of living.

“Of course, unions are not going to agree with this and there will be a charter challenge because it goes against bargaining rights,” said Urszula Kosecka, the North Campus faculty steward of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellness.

The bill negates the 7.75 per cent pay raise over four years as set by an arbitrator which ended the five-week 2017 strike by about 12,000 Ontario college faculty. 

Student protestors hold up signs urging the College Employer Council to resolve the strike during an OPSEU rally on Oct. 25. 2017 (Zach McGregor)

With wages capped below the rate of inflation, faculty will actually absorb a salary decrease, Chandra Hodgson, an English department professor said. And while such issues might seem irrelevant to students, they have an impact on academic life at Humber.

Humber faculty are hired on a tiered system. Full-time workers make up a fraction of faculty while part-time, partial-load and sessional workers dominate the workforce. The faculty union only includes those employed under full-time or partial-load status.

For Humber students, having a teacher dedicated to programming, course content and student success is a crucial part of the college experience. Lack of job security impacts faculty member’s ability to meet student needs.

Instructors, especially part-time, partial load and sessional employees, will find it difficult to “deliver quality” while struggling to make ends meet, Kosecka said. 

“It’s physically impossible,” she said. 

“You’ve got people in your classrooms who are not being paid to find good readings for your classes, not paid to develop courses, not paid to get professional development to do their research and maintain their expertise,” Hodgson said. “That’s a quality issue for students.” 

In 2017, faculty fought for equal pay for equal work, an annual pay increase that would rise adequately with the cost of living and job security. Efforts to unionize other tiers of faculty have been delayed.

“In the next collective agreement, we want to work on job security not just have people with contracts that — maybe — get contracted next semester, but you know, making more full-time jobs,” said Rena Borovilos, a North campus Chief Steward.

The faculty union “welcomes any students that wish to work with the union to improve the quality of education within the college,” Borovilos said. She encourages students to get in touch, ask questions, and engage in discussion.