With classes barely underway at Concordia, speculation is already heating up about a possible strike by Concordia’s part-time faculty.
Although expressing support for the negotiations, Maria Peluso,
President of Concordia’s part-time faculty union (CUPFA) reiterated
last week that her union members are serious about forcing a
satisfactory contract from the university.
“It’s quite early to be talking about (breaking off talks),” she said,
“but let me tell you; we’re prepared to go out on a full strike if these negotiations aren’t working for us.”
Although talks resumed in earnest late last month to try and stave off any work action by the university’s part-time faculty, the union has been without a contract for the better part of seven years and many union members privately express skepticism about a positive outcome, given Concordia’s present financial position.
Last year, a breakdown in negotiations between Concordia’s part-time faculty and the administration led to a series of rotating strikes by CUPFA members.
At the time, strikers’ representatives demanded an increase in their wages (currently $5,400 per three-credit course) and in job security.
These strikes, which saw only a few dozen professors cancel classes, were relatively painless for most Concordia students.
However, according to Richard Schmidt, Chair of the Department of
Education, any full strike by the part-time faculty this year would be devastating for the university, and particularly for his department.
“We’re maybe seventy-five per cent part-time faculty in this department,” he said. “It would basically shut down our program.”
Schmidt also noted that many international students were likely to be severely affected by any union action.
“One hundred per cent of our ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers are part-timers,” he said. “ESL would be totally frozen.”
Chris Mota, Concordia’s Head of Media Relations, said that, although the university would not comment on negotiations still underway,
Concordia’s approach to a disruption will be determined by the union’s tactics.
While noting that the university has a financial responsibility to students in the event of a strike or disruption, Mota said Concordia could not guarantee students would be fully protected in the event of union disruption.
“We can’t just hire replacements for striking teachers,” she stressed.
“That would be against the law.”
“I can guarantee,” she said, “that we will do everything to minimize the penalty to students if the part-time teachers do go out (on strike).”
According to one full-time professor, who asked that his name not be published, part-time faculty is far better off than their union claims.
“Many of these teachers work one or two classes here, and then teach full-time someplace else, like at one of the CÉGEPs; or else they’re working at two or three universities.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said, “they’re all good teachers, but some of these people make more than I do.”