Sessional instructors at Memorial now have their own union. Sessional, or per-course instructors, are not full-time or tenured faculty members. They teach one or two courses per semester and frequently teach first-year students.
Almost 65 per cent of instructors voted last fall to form a union the Lecturers Union of Memorial University of Newfoundland or LUMUN. The group is now in the process of forming a bargaining committee and negotiating its first contract with the university.
Lesley Thompson, a lecturer in the Department of French and Spanish, is the president of LUMUN. She said she’s excited about the union drive and is looking forward to negotiating a contract.
“Our main issue is job security,” explained Ms. Thompson. “We are considered temporary workers and we work under temporary conditions but the fact that we keep coming back proves that we’re more than that.
“Pay is an issue for us as well.”
She said a key problem for sessional lecturers is that there is no mechanism for standardizing hiring.
“It’s very different between departments and there’s nothing that guarantees that just because you’ve taught the course 10 times, there’s no guarantees that you will be chosen over someone that’s never taught it before. So we’re very interested in getting a seniority mechanism.”
Lecturers in St. John’s voted Nov. 21-22, and ballots were collected from distance instructors and those from Grenfell College over the following three-week period.
When the ballot box was opened Dec. 21, 201 of the 309 sessional lectures had cast votes 196 said yes, five said no. That worked out to 63.4 per cent of lecturers. Just 50 per cent plus one is required to form a union in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The union is now preparing for collective bargaining with the university. The Public Service Alliance of Canada, with whom LUMUN is affiliated, has provided the fledgling union with a negotiator. They will be consulting with members throughout the winter, formulating and prioritizing demands and striking a bargaining committee.
“Our next stage is to go into bargaining with the university and try and get our first collective agreement,” said Ms. Thompson, adding that the process has been quite collegial so far.
“The administration was incredibly co-operative during the union drive, through the whole process,” she said. “So we’re hoping that they will continue to be co-operative and that it’ll be a relatively smooth process.”
Karen Hollett, the university’s director of Faculty Relations, said that the university is also “looking forward to a co-operative and successful negotiation with LUMUN.”