Langara College and faculty yet to negotiate terms of expiring contract

Job security a priority for sessional instructors


Reported by Kim Lau

Correction Feb. 11, 2019: A previous version of this story stated that wages and working conditions were not part of the LFA survey. In fact, wages were not identified as a main issue but LFA survey did include questions associated with working conditions.

With the existing five-year collective bargaining agreement between the Langara Faculty Association and college set to expire in just seven weeks, instructors and administrators are now working towards defining their priorities.

Both sides were careful to not give away their negotiating position, but instructors have mentioned some of their top concerns include support for international students and temporary work contracts.

“There’s been increasing pressure on all of us,” LFA President Scott McLean said.

CBAs are commonly signed between the LFA and the college in three-year terms. However, the last one was for five years and expires March 31, 2019. The longer term was negotiated through the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC and was a part of each individual CBA with member institutions.

The head of the college’s negotiating team is Dawn Palmer, vice president of people’s services. She acknowledged wages were not identified as a main issue but some of the questions on the LFA survey sent out to union members were associated with working conditions.

“We are at the very beginning stage right now, but I think we are all doing our homework on both sides,” Palmer said.

Increasing international student population adds challenges

For Latin American studies instructor Jessie Smith, the main issue is international student enrolment, which has increased significantly since the previous agreement was enacted.

Smith said while all teacher care for their students and want them to do well, some of these students lack basic academic discourse and critical thinking skills. However, they care about all students, regardless of where they’re from.

She also wants to see more support to prepare students before they enter academic courses.

“We want them to learn and do well, but they lack basic academic discourse and critical thinking skills,” Smith said.

McLean also stated that term contracts leave sessional instructors without job security and make it difficult to do any long-term life planning.

“It’s the issue of unpredictability for a lot of people to live their lives and to make a commitment to work and teach in college under this condition,” he said.

Erfan Rezaie is one of the lucky instructors to have a regular contract. But for three years, he taught as a sessional.

He agreed that job security is important for him and his family.

“I want to be more involved in the union to help others to fight for job stability and job permanence,” Rezaie said.

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