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Part-time faculty files Labour Board complaint against Dalhousie

by Robert Devet

CUPE Local 3912 believes that non-unionized part-time faculty and Teaching Assistants at the Truro Agricultural College should  be allowed to join the union. The employer disagrees. Photo ALL CAPS Design
CUPE Local 3912 believes that non-unionized part-time faculty and Teaching Assistants at the Truro Agricultural College should be allowed to join the union. The employer disagrees. Photo ALL CAPS Design

(KJIPUKTUK), HALIFAX - The union that represents part-time university instructors and teaching assistants at Dalhousie University has filed a Bargaining in Bad Faith complaint against its employer.

The dispute arose as a result of the merger between the Halifax university and the Agricultural College in Truro in 2012.

The thirty of so part-time instructors as well as teaching assistants at the Agricultural College were never unionized, and Dalhousie would like to keep it that way, CUPE National Representative Marianne Welsh tells the Halifax Media Co-op.

But the union is arguing that the workers should automatically join CUPE Local 3912, the local that represents part-time faculty not only at Dalhousie, but also at St Mary's and Mount St. Vincent Universities.

The situation of part-time instructors and teaching assistants is precarious even when represented by a union, says Steve Cloutier, president of CUPE Local 3912, and a part-time instructor at the St. Mary's English department.

“I have been at St. Mary's for 15 years now,” says Cloutier. “Yet I have no pension, no benefits, no job security. I make enough to cover the bills, but that's about it.”

The increasing reliance on part-time faculty is part of a trend across North America, Cloutier says.

“Universities more often are simply not hiring full time faculty. For example 50 percent of our faculty members at St Mary's have been teaching part-time for more than 10 years,” Cloutier says.

Graduate students employed as teaching assistants, even when unionized, are in an even more vulnerable situation. Wages are frequently well below the poverty line.

“Often they are given more work than allowed They don't always know their rights, or they don't want to rock the boat, their position is even more precarious than ous,” says Cloutier.

Given all these pressures it is very important that the Truro contingent be allowed to join the union and enjoy at least some protection, Cloutier believes.

Meanwhile this issue is holding up the bargaining process. The 1,600 or so Dalhousie union members have been without a contract since August 2012.

See also: Tentative agreement reached at Acadia University

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert

 

 

 


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