Contract teaching faculty strike averted

Wilfrid Laurier University and the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association (WLUFA) announced a tentative agreement has been reached on Nov. 16. 

The parties have been negotiating the benefits and working conditions of Contract Teaching Faculty at the university since May. 

On Oct. 6, Contract Teaching Faculty chose a positive strike vote. The deadline for the strike was set to Nov. 18. Contract Teaching Faculty includes professors who are paid on a per-course basis. 

About two-thirds of Contract Teaching Faculty derive their entire income from Laurier and they teach approximately 50 per cent of Laurier’s courses.  

In negotiations, WLUFA is hoping for job security, employer-paid benefits and increases in wages and sick days. 

“You’ve heard of the recent CUPE situation in Ontario. The big mantra that came out of that is ‘39K is not enough,’” said Rob Kristofferson, the president of WLUFA. “Well, at Laurier, 33K is not enough. The median income for our contract faculty is $24,900.” 

Kristofferson said one of the main reasons for the lack of equitable compensation is a lack of government funding.  

“The Ford government needs to restore funding to universities,” he said. “It’s basically flatlined for years now and in an inflationary environment, that puts universities in a very difficult situation.” 

“The Ford government needs to understand, as the government whose mantra is ‘open for business,’ that one of the chief things a government can invest in for an economic return is the world-class university system that we already have,” said Kristofferson. 

Sociology Professor and contract faculty member Kimberly Ellis-Hale said a full-time professor can be paid $18,000 with benefits for teaching a course. A contract professor would be paid $8,500 without benefits for teaching the same course. Some professors have been part of contract faculty for over 40 years. 

“They really put in a lot of extra effort and they need to be recognized for that,” said Kristofferson. “That’s what we’re asking for at the bargaining table.” 

“Laurier says it’s all about equity, that they’re really going to dig down and ensure that there’s equity across campus,” said Ellis-Hale. “I’d just like them to include contract faculty in that work.” 

Chief human resources and equity officer Pamela Cant said in an email that the parties are in the process of ratifying the agreement. Laurier reported on the results of the ratification this week. 

“We’re down to the primary issues of equity and fairness,” said Kristofferson. “It’s not acceptable in an economy as wealthy as ours for workers to be paid so little.” 

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