A teaching fellows union in the works.
By Rachel Ward – March 30, 2011
The votes are in, and the Foundation Year Programme tutors are waiting to find out whether or not they can form the University of King’s College Teachers’ Association. Procedurally, the Nova Scotia Labour Board counts the ballots from the March 14 vote and waits for ten days for any objections
to either the voting process or union terms to be raised. As of press time, the results had not yet been released. King’s has never had a teachers’ union, but Scott Marratto, a senior teaching fellow, said 90 per cent of Canadian professors are unionized, which makes King’s an exception. “That’s the
normal arrangement,” he said.
Marratto, who has served on the executive of the union local representing teaching assistants and sessional instructors at the University of Guelph, speculates that King’s has remained without
a union for its teaching fellows because it’s “very small and collegial…in the sense that people work together with administration and decisions tend to be made in a collaborative way.”
A press release from the tutors says that the forming of the association is intended to “ensure that we are appropriately involved in decision-making in the University insofar as it pertains
to our work.” The teachers included are “non-professorial teachers” who often hold temporary positions on yearly contracts that can be renewed for up to three years. These teachers are heavily
engaged with the students, run student tutorials, mentor firstyear students, and mark FYP essays, but their jobs are by and large defined by the administration rather than by the teaching fellows themselves. A union would help establish a framework that clarifies their position. Teaching fellows who were approached for this article declined comment on the record. Dr. Daniel Brandes, acting director of the Foundation Year Programme, declined comment entirely.
However, President William Barker did say that on Mar. 23, he met informally with five tutors and Brandes. According to Barker, he called the meeting with all the tutors to “find out
where they were in all of this” and to “show our support in their ability to do this. I wanted to tell them that.” The administration will take the tutors’ concerns and suggestions seriously, he said. He added that it was discouraging for him to hear that the group feels like “they’re cut out of the collective.”
“In a small institution, you want everybody to be working together as a collective… and maintain enthusiasm for the general project, which is education.” Barker expects variations of collective bargaining to come from a potential teachers’ union, he said. This might include the election of representatives to debate specific points of the existing employee regulation manual, the Pink Book, instead of a full collective bargain, which is a full agreement on working conditions based on negotiations between the union and the administration or management. Ongoing discussions with teaching fellows have not included collective bargaining, he said. Should the vote result in a teachers’ association, Barker believes tutors would want “an enhancement of (the Pink Book and Nova Scotia labour laws) because they’re already very strict rules.”
Until then, it’s business as usual for the university and its faculty. “Right now, they’re still regular employees in the college,”
To read more about the 2006 efforts of the Novacos cleaning staff’s unionizing efforts as well as to
get up-to-the-minute updates on the teaching union and its creation, go to watchmagazine.ca or
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