By Stefanie Phillips
Contract negotiations between Ryerson contract lecturers and the university have arrived at a tentative settlement, according to union local president, Joseph Zboralski.
The settlement comes after 91 per cent of participating contract lecturers voted in favour of a strike, should negotiations become unsuccessful. Union representatives said they were unable to disclose the voter turnout rate, but described it as, “more than expected.”
Zboralski, who has been teaching at Ryerson for over 20 years, said the results of the strike mandate vote were key in prompting the two parties to reach an agreement.
“The university didn’t want a strike … and the contract lecturers didn’t want a strike either,” he said.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3904 represents over 2,500 contract academics at Ryerson, including contract lecturers, continuing education contract lecturers and graduate and teaching assistants.
“It has been constantly stressful over the years”
The union is comprised of three units. So far, only the unit made up of contract lecturers have reached a tentative settlement. Zboralski said it is still possible for the other units to go on strike but said it is “highly unlikely.”
He said union members still have to ratify the settlement by voting to give their formal consent to make it official. The ratification meetings are expected to take place after members return from reading week.
The union has been negotiating contract agreements since their contract ended in August 2017, citing job security and unfair wages as the main concerns.
A study released last week by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that temporary workers made up 38 per cent of the college and university workforce in 2016, up from 26 per cent in 1998.
Erika Shaker, an author of the study and CCPA’s director of education and outreach, said her study questions whether institutions are really “saving” by hiring more contract academic staff.
“The worker is having to take on additional stresses as a result of the low-quality jobs that are being provided”
“What it doesn’t factor in is the cost on the education they’re providing and frankly the cost on the worker because the worker is having to take on additional stresses as a result of the low-quality jobs that are being provided,” she said.
The study also cited testimonials from campus staff, who shared experiences of struggling with mental health issues due to job stress, conducting office hours out of their cars or in stairwells because of a lack of office space and feeling a fear of losing their job.
Dan Westell has been a contract lecturer at the Ryerson School of Journalism for 14 years, while working as a freelancer and teaching at other institutions on the side. He describes his experience at the university as having elements of precarity.
He said having to reapply to the job year after year has caused him stress and “life tension,” but it has never affected his ability to teach his students.
“There’s no guarantee that next year I’ll get the same courses. There’s no guarantee I’ll get any courses,” he said. “It has been constantly stressful over the years.”