Ontarians believe fair university workplaces are key to high quality education

The majority of respondents to a new poll commissioned by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) support policy measures that would address precarious academic work and ensure fairness for contract faculty members.

The poll surveyed 2,001 people across the province, including 500 in southwestern Ontario. The regional results show strong support for better working conditions for contract faculty, with 89 per cent supporting equal pay for those teaching the same courses as their full-time colleagues and 85 per cent supporting equal access to benefits, including health insurance and pensions. Three out of four individuals living in southwestern Ontario agreed that declining faculty working conditions would negatively impact education quality.

The data show a positive alignment between public opinion and the position UWOFA is actively taking on behalf of its members, said UWOFA president Stephen Pitel.

“It’s very heartening to see that public opinion across the region, and indeed across the province, is on board with those steps and efforts and goals that UWOFA is engaged in,” Pitel said. “As we’ve seen, the poll results show that students want their university courses taught by professors who have job security, who have fair pay, who have benefits. Prospective students understand the importance of having professors who are paid for their research; are paid for service to the university community; who have offices; who have the resources they need in order to prepare their courses; to mentor their students; and who have access to benefits. The public gets the equation that faculty working conditions are student learning conditions.”

Pitel and UWOFA past president Ann Bigelow joined OCUFA president Gyllian Phillips at a press conference at Western on Tuesday, April 3. Bigelow spoke on behalf of contract faculty members who may feel threatened to speak out about their positions, stating they deserve a commitment from their employers.

“I want to talk about all the people on this campus and across Ontario that work hard to make themselves as indispensable as they possibly can to their university employers; who have committed themselves to their students in order to do the very best for them but who receive very little or no commitment in return from the organizations they work for,” Bigelow said.

It is timely to have data that shows the public supports remedial measures to mitigate precarity for contract faculty members. UWOFA will begin negotiating its next Faculty Collective Agreement with the employer this spring. Bargaining goals UWOFA is committed to enhancing regarding contract faculty include:

  • The creation of a continuing teaching appointment
  • Improve various aspects of a type of contract called limited term no end date
  • Increase the number of conversions for long-serving part-time members over to being full-time limited-term appointments
  • Ensure part-time faculty are paid fairly and equitably relative to full-time faculty