Manuel Marques

Tell the University of Guelph—Improve life for Sessional Lecturers!

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Manuel Marques
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Sessional Lecturers at the University of Guelph rely on the Right of First Refusal (RoFR) for their job security. However, the RoFR expires quickly and there are numerous situations where it cannot be applied. Sessional faculty thus far remain in a precarious work situation that has financial and mental health consequences. We are disapointed that previous rounds of bargaining with the University of Guelph have not adequately addressed Sessionals' concerns pertaining to precariousness, and we want this issue addressed in this round.

The intent of the RoFR process as it has been bargained in the past is to ensure continuation of work and employment stability for Sessional faculty. However, it only lasts four (4) semesters and the article can easily be bypassed by the University of Guelph in ways that dis-entitle Sessional faculty of their RoFR, including changing the course name/code, assigning the course to management to teach for a term or assigning the course to a tenured faculty. At the University of Guelph-Humber, the University of Guelph has engaged in contracting out university courses taught by Sessional faculty to Humber College instructors.

The ease with which the University bypasses the RoFR goes against the intent of the RoFR and the spirit of job security, and it hurts sessional faculty. Other universities are able to provide more robust job security, including RoFR's to their unionized contract faculty. There is no job security in the RoFR process without having the above components addressed and reflected in the new CA.

The impact of precarity on workers is well documented. Precarious workers are at significant risk for increased levels of mental health issues. The University of Guelph has identified positive mental health as a primary focus in the workplace. Precarious employment is the number one mental health issue that Sessional faculty face, and it is time it is meaningfully addressed by our employer.

During this pandemic , the university community is facing multiple unknowns. The difficulties of these uncertain times are intensely experienced by Sessional faculty. The precariousness, unpredictability, and unfairness of the current RoFR process must be corrected in this round of negotiations.

The RoFR issue is also important for Sessional faculty who desire the time to research, write and publish. A one-year paid sabbatical, to write, to research, and for professional advancement, is typical for most full-time faculty members. However, even an unpaid sabbatical is next to impossible for Sessional faculty to do because the RoFR would normally expire if they take a year off. Therefore, an eight term RoFR limit would be more appropriate.

In this time of economic constraint and in the spirit of fair negotiation, Sessional faculty are seeking expansion and strengthening of the RoFR. Doing so would come at no financial cost to the university as we ask, not for increases in wages, but for fair job security. It would bring Sessional faculty at the University of Guelph closer to the level of job security that contract faculty in other Ontario universities enjoy. Extending the RoFR from four (4) to eight (8) terms and correcting the issues raised in this letter that are undermining the RoFR process would significantly improve Sessional faculty mental health, their relations with the University, and ultimately benefit our students. It would improve life.

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