by Carol McQueen
More than 200 part-time faculty members from across Quebec, Canada, the
U.S. and Mexico will be on campus the weekend of October 4-6 for the fifth
conference of the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labour (COCAL).
According to 1998 figures from Statistics Canada, contingent academic
labour part-time faculty members who do not hold tenured positions
constitute about 40 to 45 per cent of the total teaching staff
of universities across Canada.
This is a chance to take stock of the gains made in recent years in terms
of increased salary and respect, and brainstorm on how to tackle remaining
inequities, including lack of job security.
Maria Peluso, president of CUPFA, the Concordia University Part-time Faculty
Association, describes the salary divide in stark terms: Its
cost-efficient for universities to have part-time faculty. We cost 30
cents per faculty dollar.
Such inequity is felt most severely by those academics for whom part-time
university teaching is their only source of income. They earn approximately
$6,000 per course at Concordia, with no pay between contracts. It creates
a vicious circle for many part-timers.
When youre trying to earn an income, its too difficult
to do research, said Angela Ford-Rosenthal, who has taught courses
in sociology since 1987. Not being paid during the summer also severely
restricts her research opportunities, and without research publications,
its almost impossible to gain access to tenure-track positions.
Often, part-timers work at more than one university or CEGEP to make up
Improvement in recent years
Conditions for part-time faculty members were even worse only a few years
ago, but Quebecs strong tradition of unionization has brought important
gains for part-timers across the province. This includes Concordia, which
has CUPFA and the Concordia University Continuing Education Part-time
Faculty Union (CUCEPTFU).
Conditions have been much, much better since the collective agreement
[negotiated by CUPFA in 1997] has been in place, said June Riley,
a part-time finance professor for the past 14 years. Its been
a transformation in the way weve been treated at Concordia.
Not only were pay rates increased, but part-time faculty members now enjoy
a seniority system. Those with 90 credits are allowed to teach up to 18
credits a year, or six courses, for a total of about $36,000. They also
gainedsome benefits and some integration into decision-making bodies at
This improvement in working conditions is one of the reasons the predominantly
American COCAL voted to have the conference outside U.S. borders for the
The American members of COCAL have always looked to Canada as an
example because we have much better labour laws, said Vicky Smallman,
co-organizer for the conference for the Canadian Association of University
Teachers (CAUT). Its easier for us to unionize, and we have
a much greater percentage of academic staff in Canada represented by certified
Since almost all of the part-time faculty unions in the Montreal area,
including those at Concordia, are renegotiating their collective agreements
this fall, Brenda Grant, president of CUCEPTFU, said that the conference
is also a way to raise our profile, let people know who we are.
Thus, on the Friday afternoon of the conference, a mobilization
walk will take place from Concordia to the Université de
Québec à Montréal.
What bothers the Music Department part-timer Louise Samson is that she
has less time to play the piano in public concerts because she is just
trying to survive financially. If she were to fall ill, she would
only be covered to 80 per cent of her pay for the rest of her contract.
What do you do after that? she asked.
Pierre Ouellet, vice-president of CUPFA and part-timer in the Political
Science Department since 1992, knows he is one of the lucky ones in terms
of seniority vis-à-vis other part-time faculty, but he still has
no idea as to whether or not hell get a course from one term to
David Vivian, who has taught in the Theatre Department since 1996, finds
it difficult to meet with students when he must share an office with 18
other part-time faculty members. He also worries about the low level of
part-time faculty representation on university bodies when part-timers
at Concordia number nearly 900 people.
We only have two representatives in Senate, and no one there for
us from the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science, or from the John
Molson School of Business, he said. On the Board of Governors,
we have one representative, and he is there only as an observer.
June Riley, of the Finance Department, probably speaks for all part-time
faculty members at Concordia when she says there is always more
work to do. The COCAL V conference, with its thematic title Its
time for a new deal, is where they intend to start.
For more information about the COCAL V conference and how to register
for it, please see http://www.cupfa.org/COCALV/.