Make It Fair for Contract Academic Staff

Dr. Julia M. Wright, President, Dalhousie Faculty Association (posted October 11, 2019)

We’ve been talking a lot about affordability this election. Let me tell you what that looks like in Halifax for those on short-term contracts or per-course contracts at one of our universities.

Halifax universities offer some of the lowest pay in Canada. Under the CUPE3912 contract, the pay for a one-term course at Dalhousie is under $6400, including vacation pay. We all know how far that will stretch for rent in Halifax. Add food, utilities, and materials required for work, including a computer to answer e-mails and prepare lecture materials. Per-course faculty often end up working at multiple universities (add transportation costs) trying to get a living wage.

Keep in mind that the lowest tuition for a one-term undergraduate course at Dalhousie is $786.60. Per-course instructors are teaching some classes with over one hundred students enrolled. Faculty on limited-term appointments of 10 months or more are better paid and get some benefits, but they too often teach hundreds of students. These faculty often don’t have access to research funding, aren’t paid for research time, and face difficulties even planning research because that typically requires multi-year timelines.

To recognize Fair Employment Week, an initiative of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Dalhousie Faculty Association, Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers, and CUPE3912 are working together on events from October 17-23. We share a commitment to “Make It Fair.”

If we “Make It Fair,” more faculty will have more time to spend with students. If we “Make It Fair,” Canada will immediately increase its research capacity. The faculty on these short-term contracts are our graduates. Many had their graduate work supported by federal and provincial scholarships. If we “Make It Fair,” we’ll all get a better return on that investment.