By Adrian Morrow
More than 20 instructors at Ryerson haven’t been paid in more than a month and aren’t legal employees of the university, academic council heard last Tuesday.
The sessional instructors have been waiting since the start of term for their contracts to be processed, said Donald Elder, a sessional instructor in the radio and television arts (RTA) program and president of Ryerson’s CUPE Local 3904, which represents part-time instructors.
“From our point of view, it’s unacceptable,” he said, adding that some instructors couldn’t log onto computers. “I had to log a colleague (onto the computer) so that he could use his Power Point lecture. It’s embarrassing.”
Working without a contract in place is also illegal under provincial labour laws, Elder noted at the meeting. The problem affects 18 instructors in the RTA program, including Elder, as well as a handful in the professional communications department.
The university been aware of about the problem for a while, said John Girardo, who has taught part time in RTA for 16 years. He was told that there was an issue with the contracts when he was offered his position for the semester.
When classes started, instructors couldn’t access Blackboard or Podium to set up lectures or post notes for students, he said, because the instructors technically aren’t Ryerson employees if they don’t have a contract.
“It made it harder for me to do my job,” Girardo said. Some new instructors are only now gaining access to Blackboard and their Ryerson One cards, he added.
When they complained to the school about the problem, they were originally told that the contracts could only be written by one person, who was on vacation for a month. “It became a series of finger-pointing exercises; everyone was blaming everyone else and no one was doing anything to fix it,” said Girardo.
On top of the pay delay, Girardo said, there was irritation at the mistake and that the instructors were unable to access basic resources at the university. Some of his fellow sessionals told Girardo that they were surprised something like this would happen. “It’s an embarrassment for the university,” said Girardo.
He was also bothered by what he felt was a lack of humility on the school’s part. With the exception of David Tucker, chair of the RTA program, no one apologized to the instructors for the mistake, he said.
The university said that the contracts will go through by March 9, but Elder later said that’s not soon enough.
Michael Dewson, vice provost faculty affairs, agreed with Elder and explained at the council meeting that the issue was due to a paperwork problem. The faculty affected by the pay loss would be issued emergency cheques, he said, to tie them over until the contracts are processed.
“There’s no excuse for people not getting paid,” he said later. He wasn’t sure why the contracts didn’t go through, but said that the procedures for processing contracts involve several steps and, if a mistake is made along the way, the entire system can fail to finish them on time. He said that the problem occurred somewhere between the departments and the dean’s office and that the university is currently reviewing the case to determine what went wrong.
“We’re going to make sure, to the extent that we can, that this doesn’t happen again,” he added.
The sessionals are scheduled to get emergency cheques this week.
“We’re waiting for Feb. 9 to see if we get our cheques,” Elder said. A similar problem came to light last fall when more than 100 teaching assistants went unpaid for weeks because their contracts weren’t in place.