McMaster University has jeopardized the success of students enrolled in its summer programs, first with its refusal to address the job security concerns of its contract instructors and then by starting the countdown to a lockout or strike.
The university has requested a “no-board” report from the Ministry of Labour, putting a July 22 deadline on ongoing contract negotiations with its 300-odd contract instructors, also known as sessional faculty.
These workers deliver much of the frontline instruction to students in the faculties of Music, Social Sciences, Humanities, Science, Engineering, and Business. They also make up one of the most precarious groups of workers at McMaster, which forces them to reapply for their jobs up to three times a year.
Bully move by university starts clock ticking on job action
McMaster University’s contract instructors, many of whom have worked at the university for decades, expressed dismay at negotiators’ decision to begin the countdown to job action.
“This is shocking way to treat a group of dedicated professionals,” said Chris Fairweather, president of CUPE 3906. “By starting the clock ticking on job action, the university has not just signalled that it is ready to lock out its workers or provoke a strike. It is also risking the disruption of students’ education and the loss of many experienced, talented, and highly qualified instructors. This makes McMaster’s decision a betrayal of students, as well as workers.”
A small number of contract instructors work June to August with students who are enrolled in McMaster’s summer programs, but the majority of instructors were expecting to return to their jobs in September.
Fairweather noted that the university has targeted a small group of precarious workers, whose wages have been suppressed by provincial legislation Bill 124.
“Job insecurity is something that members want to deal with through collective bargaining, but the university has simply refused to consider even setting up a committee to look at the issue,” said Fairweather. “McMaster contract instructors were not considering job action, but neither they be intimidated.
During the period leading up to the lockout/strike deadline, negotiations will continue with a provincial mediator in an effort to avert job action, with Fairweather vowing to do “everything possible to avoid such an outcome.”