This impacts us all: the mysteries of work assignment, de-mystified

By Diane Walsh, VP-Grievances

The assignment of work, especially for non-regular faculty members, can seem like a great mystery, and it is a somewhat complex business. Work assignments are one of the places where the rubber hits the road for faculty members, because this is how we make our living and pay our bills. Work assignments are also critical to becoming regularized, an especially important issue for non-regular faculty members. Anxiety about work assignments can become critical, especially in a climate of relative fiscal insecurity in the institution, where we hear administrators talking about finding ways to save money. How work is assigned also determines who shares in the load of departmental and Faculty-level work. The bottom line is there is a lot at stake for all faculty members, regular and non-regular alike, in how work gets assigned.

Our Collective Agreement spells out (in a charmingly dispersed set of paragraphs) how work should be assigned.

Regular Faculty Members 

Making our work a lot less precarious is the most important advantage of regularization for faculty members. Regular work is defined in Article 1.05 as ongoing work, so it follows that all ongoing work in the institution should be delivered by regular faculty members. (Please see previous article, “Routes to Regularization,” for more on how non-regular faculty members get regularized and how work is defined as ongoing.)

In assignment of work, regular faculty members have the right to ongoing work at their percentage of regularization. For 100% regular faculty members, this is a right to ongoing full time work, and for part-time regular faculty members, this is a right to ongoing work at their designated percentage of regularization.

Part-time regular Faculty Members

 For part-time regular faculty members, there is a right to access additional work. Article 4.12(a) says that “when additional non-regular work becomes available within a discipline/program, it shall be offered by the administrator responsible to qualified part-time regular faculty in the discipline/program who want additional work,” and this entitlement applies up to a 100% annual workload.

If you are a part-time regular faculty member who wants more work, but you notice non-regular faculty have been hired in your department, it’s worth an enquiry of the dean to see why you were not offered the work in question.

Non-regular Faculty Members

Non-regular faculty members are defined in Article 1.05(d) as “those that do not hold a regular position or who have not satisfied the requirements for regularization in Article 1.05(e).” There are two types of non-regular faculty members and their work and work assignment is defined differently, but the work of all these faculty members is precarious.

Non-Regular Type 2 (NR2) Faculty Members

Article 1.05(d) ii defines an NR2 member as “one who is assigned or reasonably anticipated to be assigned an annualized workload of 50% or greater for a future 12-month period.” This is achieved by means of “bundling” non-regular work and assigning it to faculty so as to ensure they have at least 50% of an annual load.

Having non-regular work in a department bundled into these NR2 assignments is advantageous for the departments, because, according to 1.05(d)(ii),

A non-regular faculty member who meets the qualifications for Type 2 above has the same rights and obligations as a regular faculty member and is entitled to all benefits provided by this Agreement on a pro-rated basis with the following exceptions (Article 6, and Article 7).

Even though it is generally disadvantageous to have too much non-regular work in a department, if courses are bundled and assigned to faculty so as to create NR2 positions, then these members have the responsibility to attend department meetings, perform service work, and so on. This means that we avoid having heavier and heavier workloads foisted on regular faculty members.

Employer Obligations to Assign Non-Regular Type 2 Work

Ensuring non-regular work is bundled into NR2 positions is addressed in the same article, 1.05(d)(ii). By August 1, the Employer must have planned the year in advance to anticipate the work available for each department.  Deans are obligated to first schedule regularized faculty at their annual workload, then offer additional non-regular work to part-time regular faculty members. At that point they must bundle the remaining non-regular work into NR2 positions, as far as possible. 

Furthermore, the article states that replacement of faculty on leave or on long-term disability or alternate duty should be with an NR2 appointment. In other words, this work should not be pieced out on NR1 contracts.

Non-Regular Type 1 (NR1) Faculty Members

An NR1 faculty member is defined in 1.05(d)(i) as one

who is hired for a defined period, to teach specific courses or perform specific work. Non-regular Type 1 faculty may only be hired for specialized requirements, experimental offerings, timetabling anomalies, substitution, vacation replacement, short-term emergency circumstances, work that is not expected to be ongoing or work that does not provide them with an assignment that qualifies for non-regular Type 2 status at the August 1 assessment date. All non-regular Type 1 faculty members will receive salary according to the provisions of Article 10. 

In plainer language, the issuing of NR1 contracts should be as rare as possible and should not become the norm. It is clearly disadvantageous for individual faculty members because NR1 faculty members are not paid on scale, they do not have access to benefits or leaves, and they do not get vacation or PD time.

It is also disadvantageous to departments to have work contracted as NR1 work because NR1 faculty members have no stated requirement to fulfill the responsibilities of regular and NR2 faculty members in departmental or Faculty-level work. Thus, if too many NR1 contracts are issued, heavier and heavier workloads fall on regular and NR2 faculty members.

Where Things Go Amiss

Your KFA office receives copies of contracts and appointment letters, and we have seen some cases where matters have not unfolded as they should. For example, part-time regulars might not be offered additional work before non-regular appointments are made. This should not happen in the normal course of events. Another example of incorrect practice is not offering additional work to part-time NR2 faculty members before issuing NR1 contracts. Yet another way in which things can go amiss is failing to offer non-regular work to members who have 2 or more years’ FTE service before offering non-regular work to members with less than 2 years’ FTE service.

A particularly troubling way things can go amiss is the issuing of too many NR1 contracts. NR1 contracts should be issued only as a last resort, and non-regular work should be bundled into NR2 appointments. When this doesn’t happen, there are a number of consequences. First, heavier workloads fall on regular faculty members and on NR2 faculty members, as described above. Another troubling potential consequence is the increasing precariousness that practice brings to faculty work.

Contingent Faculty Increases

Increasing precarity of faculty work is of concern across Canada. A wide range of articles describe the situation, and any search on “contingent faculty Canada” or “contract faculty Canada” will lead to a wealth of hits on the topic. It is a grim fact that at many institutions across Canada, particularly in Ontario, there has been an increase in the proportion of work performed by contract / adjunct / sessional /contingent faculty and a decrease in the number of regular / permanent / tenured faculty. In a 2014 report, Kevin McKay of OPSEU (Ontario) states,” In the colleges today the ratio of full-time to part-time faculty is approximately 1 to 3. The lack of full-time faculty means less time for dealing with students, less time for course and program development, and a greater challenge to maintain academic standards.” Another interesting report, is the report by Higher Education Quality Control Ontario, “The ‘Other’ University Teachers: Non-Full time instructors at Ontario universities.” While this report is not definitive of the situation in Canada, it does suggest that the numbers of sessional instructors at 4 out of the 5 universities examined in Ontario are increasing, and the report raises questions about the effects of this increase.

Can this happen here? Our Collective Agreement language should prevent this from happening here. However, there is a real financial incentive for administrators to attempt to maximize numbers of NR1 faculty at KPU. NR1 faculty are paid less than NR2 and regular faculty because of the secondary scale that continues to be in place. That’s why it is so important for members to bring any increases in numbers of NR1 contracts to our attention. The bottom line is that when more faculty work is precarious, when the proportion of NR1 faculty increases, we are all harmed, regular and non-regular alike.

If you have questions or concerns about your work assignment or about work assignments in your department, please contact me. Questions or comments about this article? Likewise, please contact me.