e duobus duo?

Well, yesterday’s post was probably the first time in a few years that one interesting tension in the Ontario College Faculty bargaining unit was mentioned in print – namely, the fact that our bargaining unit includes both Full-Time faculty and Partial-Load (contract) faculty. If memory serves, that fusion of groups in the bargaining unit was originally the result of a court ruling in the early days of the Bob Rae government (on the grounds of gender equity, I believe), but I’ll be happy to be corrected by somebody who might have more accurate, first-hand recollections.

In the past, where any grumbling had occurred regarding any difference in the needs of the two categories, I remember that it typically came from some of the more politically-committed full-timers, who at times expressed dissatisfaction that Partial-Load faculty were less inclined to vote in favour of a strike (since striking isn’t necessarily to the benefit of one who has no guarantee of teaching 15 weeks in the future) .

But judging from the e-mails that I’ve occasionally fielded as a Local President, and the occasional hallway conversation, it appears that more of the discontent is now coming from Partial-Load faculty, who increasingly question whether the current composition of the union can ensure that the interests of contract faculty can be adequately represented if yoked to the interests of Full-Time faculty.

It’s an interesting question, both on the level of principle and practice. I hadn’t really planned to open this particular can of worms, but I think that it’s an issue that’s probably best worked out in a respectful, mediated forum like this one, so . . .

* * *

We’ll devote today’s post to two opinions—both providing very different responses to yesterday’s reader contributions, which suggest that Seneca’s jettisoning of Partial-Load faculty positions is rooted in the new Collective Agreement and, more fundamentally, in the dynamics of bargaining that (according to at least one opinion yesterday) are rooted in the mixed FT/PL composition of the bargaining unit.

Our first contributor argues that the selfishness of Full-Time faculty ensures that contract faculty will be treated as . . . fungible.

You nail the elephant in the room munchin’ up the munch. I’m F/T but would be happy with 60K a year if EVERYONE made 60K, janitors, deans, P/T and F/T. Fat chance. Too many faculty think they get their salary because they are “special”–many feel hard done by if they don’t get a raise. When a raise is dangled, they grab it, to hell with other issues. The F/T bourgoisie’s interest ain’t that of the P/T precariat. But the incremental acceptance of crappier CA’s will get us all. The writing is on the digital wall: Pearson is applying to be a degree granting institution (surprise); we have given up the cap on sections… it’s going to be e-learning efficiencies innovating our jobs away. If it happens slowly, it’ll stay the selfish status quo. If done too quickly, some might fight back. We’re too busy now buying mutual funds, thinking we have earned and deserve the sunshine. Not much solidarity in that.

Speaking personally, I don’t think that I get my salary because I’m “special”; I think I get it because I’m a qualified expert and award-winning teacher who spent over 10 years as a full-time postsecondary student, accumulating student debt and opportunity costs, in order to obtain a credential that my current position requires. And I can’t speak much to mutual fund investments, seeing as my pre-tax annual salary is currently one-tenth of the average price of a detached house in the city in which I work.

I guess my question would be: Whose interests are best served by the notion of a “zero sum” economy – by the notion that gains to Full-Time faculty must necessarily come at the cost of contract faculty? I’m accustomed to that sort of rhetoric from politicians preaching austerity or “fiscal responsibility”; I’m less accustomed to it from people who bemoan a lack of solidarity.

Our second letter offers a different opinion, identifying Seneca’s decimation of Partial-Load positions as originating less in a Collective Agreement that was voted on by the membership, and more in legislation that was not.

It is depressing to read this. Especially when one considers that even if *all* of the union’s demands going into bargaining had been accepted, as the last three readers hint at, that would not have completely stopped Seneca management from doing what they are doing.

It is all thanks to the highly flawed Colleges Collective Bargaining Act (CCBA) 2008. All of the tools are in the hands of management. Save for one tool. And that’s the ability to organize part-time and sessional faculty. It is not a perfect tool. It is not perfect because even if you were to “blow up” the union and start with a clean sheet of paper as the last reader suggests, you’d still have two separate and distinct bargaining units thanks to the CCBA. Save for a political miracle, I can’t see the CCBA being fixed anytime soon.

That leads to the only possible way out of this funk: have both faculty bargaining units represented by a union and working closely together.

As I said, it’s the only tool we have. It’s amazing what you can do with just one tool though. If you were to take away all of my tools and leave me with just a hammer, it is still a hammer. The old adage may be true that if all you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail! But that’s OK, you can still build plenty of things with just a hammer and nails.

It’s about time we got that hammer.

So, this leaves us with a couple of questions:  Should we understand gains to Full-Time faculty as coming at the expense (or elimination) of Partial-Load faculty?  Just how inexpensive would Partial-Load faculty need to be, in order to convince Seneca management not to replace them with non-Unionized Part-Time faculty?  And who benefits by the fact that such are the questions that we are asking in Ontario, in 2014?

As ever, feel free to respond either to ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com.

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