Post-secondary education workers are increasingly being forced into positions of precarity or seeing their positions contracted out to private, for-profit employers.
These contract and casual employees often earn lower wages, do not get paid sick leave, and receive few if any health benefits. Many have no pension. Too often, they do not receive the basic tools and resources that they need to do their job properly, which has an impact on the quality of education and services students receive.
Research by the Canadian Union of Public Employees and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that more than half of faculty appointments are now contract appointments. These contract instructors are expected to perform the same teaching and research as permanent staff at significantly lower wage levels and with fewer resources and institutional supports.
To cover tuition cost and living expenses, many graduate students take on jobs as Teaching Assistants or Research Assistants, taking on the brunt of undergraduate tutorial and laboratory teaching, marking, and invigilating exams, often with minimal resources, poor wages, and no training.
Postdoctoral Fellows and Research Associates are frequently subject to unreasonable hours, unsafe working conditions in aging laboratories, dangerous equipment, and low wages. They often do not have access to sick leave or benefits, even though 75% of respondents in a survey of post-docs indicated that the extreme stress associated with their position caused them to experience stress-related adverse mental health effects.
From overseeing admissions and financial aid, providing clerical and administrative support, keeping our campuses clean and functioning properly, ensuring that needed technology is available, and preparing and serving food, support workers are essential to the smooth functioning of our institutions. But universities and colleges are increasingly relying on contract and casual staff to carry out these roles – replacing full-time positions with part-time or temporary positions.
Women, racialized people, Black Peoples, Indigenous Peoples, newcomers, people who are gender-nonconforming, trans, or queer, and persons living with disabilities are more likely to be in precarious positions, both as contract academic staff and as support staff.
Education for All must include fair wages and working conditions and secure employment for workers. Without it, the quality of education and student services is in jeopardy.
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