Part-time and sessional faculty at colleges across Ontario voted this week on whether to join the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
Business School instructor Syeda Rownak Afza said she hoped for more job security if the unionization vote went through.
“When you’re really thinking about job security, with no insurance, no health benefits… how can you really focus on what you’re teaching?” she asked.
Afza said the current pay structure didn’t make sense to her. Instructors who teach up to six hours a week are paid at a lower rate per hour than those who teach seven or more hours a week.
Robert Bolf, the president of Humber College’s local union, described the differences in pay.
“When I’ve talked to people who are part-time, they tell me they get paid anywhere from one half to two-thirds what they would get paid as partial load,” Bolf said.
He said part-time and sessional faculty are not covered at all under the current collective agreement between the OPSEU and the colleges.
“OPSEU is trying to organize the part-timers and sessionals into the bargaining unit, to be unionized, to give them protection, higher wages, and clearer work rules,” Bolf said.
Current part-time faculty may have to work at multiple colleges to afford to live in Toronto. He said if a professor has to commute between colleges during the day, it may cut their availability to students.
“They’re not getting the attention and the time that they deserve to get from faculty,” Bolf said.
Denise Taylor, a part-time instructor in Humber College’s Film programs, said she thought the vote was an important one.
“I think that we should be given the opportunity to unionize,” Taylor said. “We make up the majority of the workers here, the labour force.”
Taylor said she hoped unionizing would bring about better representation and less uncertainty for part-time or sessional workers at the college.
“I don’t think that you can fully secure a person’s employment, but you certainly can offer your employees better opportunities to know whether or not they have a job three months from now,” she said.
Taylor said she thought the timing of the vote was good.
“With the strike coming up, people want to know if they’re going to be represented,” she said.