Part-time academic workers at Trent University, members of CUPE 3908 Unit 1, voted overwhelmingly to give their bargaining committee a strong mandate to take whatever action they feel is needed to achieve a fair agreement. This mandate includes strike action if the committee deems it necessary. Voting took place online between January 17-24.

Contract instructors are hired to teach on a course-by-course basis. They are effectively laid off every four months and have to re-apply for their positions, no matter how long they’ve worked at the university. The union is pushing for increased stability for their members.

The union’s contract expired on August 31, 2019. While the union has taken bargaining seriously, Trent’s administration has been unresponsive to proposals by the union to enhance job security and reduce precarious employment for Contract Faculty.

“The strong mandate from our membership indicates the importance they attach to job security,” said CUPE 3908 President Mitch Champagne. “We represent dedicated educators who are not given the respect they deserve from their employer. That has to change.”

CUPE 3908 Unit 1 represents some 400 academic workers at Trent, including course instructors, clinical instructors, markers, tutorial leaders, workshop leaders, academic counsellors, academic skills counsellors, and lab demonstrators. About one-third of courses taught at Trent are delivered by CUPE members. Many teach multiple courses each year, and a significant number have taught at the university for a decade or more. They have little job security or access to benefits.

“Precarious employment and poverty-level wages are bad for post-secondary education and for our community. It’s time for Trent to recognize that our members are deeply committed to quality post-secondary education and negotiate a fair contract that addresses our members’ very reasonable expectations,” said Champagne.

Negotiators for CUPE 3908 and Trent University will meet again on February 7, in an effort to bargain a settlement.