Concordia may be facing a strike by its part-time faculty in the coming weeks – one for which the administration admits it is unprepared.
At an upcoming press conference this Wednesday, it is expected that an announcement will be made on what measures will be implemented to “bring closure to the negotiations.” Concordia University Part-time Faculty Association (CUPFA) president Maria Peluso said this announcement is part of the latest bid to attain better wages and improved job security. There are roughly 900 part-time faculty members at Concordia and they teach roughly 40 per cent of courses offered.
“The major thing that came up is that members are very angry. I tried to calm things down. I ended up agreeing with the members . . . ” said Peluso.
When asked if the university has any contingency plans in the event of a walkout by part-time teachers, Chris Mota, director of Concordia media relations, said, “We don’t know what they’re saying. I know that the university has to plan ahead, but not knowing what’s coming – is it a strike? Is it pressure tactics? It’s hard. We’re going to have to wait until the press conference. Until [then], we don’t know any more than you do.”
The Fine Arts Students Alliance (FASA) and the Concordia Student Union (CSU) have both expressed support for part-time teachers during negotiations.
“These are our teachers and our staff. I think it’s useless to sit around the table and just talk about this, we are obviously in agreement over this,” said a CSU councillor before the unanimous vote to “support” CUPFA at the last CSU council meeting two weeks ago.
However, when contacted on the weekend, CSU president Angelica Novoa said the two unions have not been in contact at this time.
“I have to call [Peluso] to talk about what kind of support we can offer [part-time teachers],” she said.
When asked how the CSU will respond in the event of walkouts, she said, “I think the best thing for us to do is to hold a council meeting to figure out what to do.” She added that a special council meeting would be convened.
FASA President Arielle Jessop said she isn’t privy to what Peluso will be announcing on Wednesday.
“But I know they are thinking about having a strike, but that’s something [which] has been talked about for a while.”
“FASA does support part-time faculty even if it does go on strike, which is something which will affect students for sure . . . but ultimately, I think the blame lies on the university administration and that they drove the part-time faculty into this situation.”
Demanding for pay equity and job security
Peluso said the main issue for part-time teachers is the disparity in pay between the part-time faculty and full-time faculty. CUPFA calculates that for every dollar earned by tenured staff at Concordia, part-time professors earn 13 cents. According to her, this finding is based on the proportion of total salaries of part-time faculty staff versus those of the full-time faculty.
Part-time professors are paid $5,400 for each three-credit course they teach, and have to renew their posting at Concordia every year.
Reserve courses are also a point of contention, exemplified by CUPFA’s outrage at Concordia’s offering of $35,000 to former Quebec premier Bernard Landry last year. He was invited to teach a three-credit course at John Molson School of Business.
Both sides have shown a willingness to go the distance in a legal battle. CUPFA filed a grievance against the administration for violating an agreement signed in 2000, which stated that the pay for part-time faculty staff would be equal to that of their full-time colleagues. In back-and-forth litigation which made its way through three levels of legal framework, CUPFA secured a ruling against the administration from the Quebec Appeals Court on June 18 of last year. This issue must now be renegotiated as part of the collective agreement.
After the recent settlement between the Concordia University Support Workers’ Union (CUSSU) and the administration, CUPFA is the last employees’ union to have an outstanding contract negotiation that has lasted for so many years, according to Peluso.
CUPFA will be holding its press conference to discuss the contract negotiations this Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Nouvel Hotel on Rene-Levesque Boulevard.