MAYDAY: Today, May 1st, people across the globe celebrate the achievements of the labour movement, which range from worker protection legislation and social reforms throughout much of the world right down to the improvements in collective agreements in our home towns, where we work.
How has a union helped professors who teach part-time at the University of Ottawa? There are three main ways: Material advantage, job security, and justice.
On the material side, two examples: Wages for APTPUO professors have been significantly higher than at our neighbour Carleton University, which is under the same Ontario jurisdiction, mainly because professors who teach part-time at the University of Ottawa were unionized years before those at Carleton University. Working conditions have improved through better access to office space and equipment negotiated by the APTPUO (not that things are perfect yet!).
As for job security, your union, the APTPUO, has staved off numerous attempts by the Employer to discontinue APTPUO positions, including instances where we have attained grandfather clauses to protect our members from losing their jobs.
In the realm of justice, we have obtained extra pay for extra work: supplemental payments for those with large classes; for our professors who have to prepare and correct deferred exams; etc.
But the most important element of justice is the grievance system, which helps protect employees from arbitrary decisions of the employer. Thanks to the Collective Agreement negotiated by our union, there is a rule-based procedure for appealing a decision of the Employer, with the assistance of the Union available to you. A large number of grievances that have been launched — which range from not receiving a course contract to being given an "A" rather than a "B" designation for a course — have been resolved in favour of our professors. These are not just symbolic victories; in numerous cases our professors have won significant payments of thousands of dollars.
In this period of economic uncertainty and university restructuring, a strong union is essential to fight cutbacks and advocate in your interest. But this is even more urgent at the University of Ottawa, which has a long track record of rough labour relations.
To help make your union strong, please make it a priority to attend APTPUO activities, and contribute, as much as your time and energy allow, constructive assistance to the cause!