U of T sessional instructors to unionize, despite opposition
By Marshall Bellamy
According to sessional teachers at the University of Toronto,
they will no longer be getting the short end of the stick — now
that they have voted in favour of unionizing.
“We have a clear majority of all of the ballots,” said
Mikael Swayze, staff representative for the Canadian Union
of Public Employees local 3902.
According to Swayze, of the 180 ballots submitted 102 were
counted and 56 per cent came back in favour of joining the
union, though the rest of the votes still need to be counted
and finer details needed to be worked out.
The union vote has met with disapproval from the University
of Toronto Faculty Association, Swayze noted, adding UTFA felt
only teachers with a one-course load could join the union. “They’ve
taken a strong position against some people joining the union — it’s
too bad [UTFA] decided to do that. I find it sad.”
George Luste, president of the UTFA, pointed out sessionals
with terms of 12 months were targeted for union membership
and many part-time professors were members of the UTFA.
“You’ve got to be careful with the term part-time — it
varies from person to person,” he said.
The definition between sessional teachers and part-time professors
is often overlooked, Luste explained; sessional teachers are
hired on a short-term basis to teach a course, while part-time
professors often have long-term commitments and teaching positions.
According to Luste, many schools have both sessional and full-time
professors under the same umbrella. “In general, if everyone
was under the same tent, then we’d all be better.”
Swayze noted the UTFA is not a trade union, therefore CUPE
is better suited to representing their interests, such as pensions,
dental and drug benefits, and perhaps a system of transition
to full-time status. “Now that we have a union, we can
ask ‘what do you want?’”
Luste is quick to cite UTFA, while not having sessional members,
has done a lot for part-time professors, such as benefits,
but he laments the lack of sessional membership. “This
is a reflection of the underfunding of higher education in
Talk for sessionals joining a union has been going for the
last four years, Swayze said. The efforts began early last
year with cards being signed throughout the spring, and a vote
was held in the summer, he added.
One issue Swayze said he hopes will arise is job security,
as most sessionals have to fill out applications every year.