The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of B.C. wants to level the playing field for contracted faculty members at many B.C. colleges, teaching universities, and institutes.
According to FPSE president Terri Van Steinburg, these profs on contract can earn up to 80 percent less than the wages paid to salaried faculty members.
Van Steinburg told the Straight by phone that about 30 percent of the teaching done by her members in postsecondary institutions is on contract.
“Women, Indigenous, and racialized faculty are overrepresented in that 30 percent,” she said. “And we don’t think it’s right that their work be valued any less than that of their colleagues.”
She said that the shortfall for contracted faculty is having a “pretty major impact” on their lives.
Whereas a professor on staff might earn $70,000 or $80,000 per year, Van Steinburg said that contracted faculty members may only earn $25 or $30 per hour.
Yet they must still spend many hours outside of the classroom meeting students, preparing lessons, and marking papers.
Van Steinburg is on leave as a professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, where she teaches career development for women.
“As a woman, I wouldn’t want my work devalued against, say, a male counterpart,” she declared. “I feel my work should be valued exactly the same and I should be paid the same for the same work.”
Van Steinburg pointed out that some of the contracted faculty work at several institutions to cobble together a living wage, even though they’re highly educated and qualified professionals who are hired through the same processes as everyone else.
The FPSE represents approximately 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public postsecondary institutions and several private-sector schools. Contracts at public-sector colleges, teaching universities, and institutes expired on March 31, 2019.
“Pretty much all of our locals have the issue of contract faculty being paid less for the same work, with the exception of Vancouver Community College and Langara College,” Van Steinburg said. “At both of those, the contract faculty are paid on what we call the provincial salary scale.”
She questioned why other public postsecondary institutions haven’t made this a priority in the same way that VCC and Langara have.
“We’re still talking,” she said. “That’s about all I can say at this point in terms of our bargaining and what we’re talking about at the table.”
Van Steinburg insisted that the time to fix this inequity is now, whether at the bargaining table or through provincial policy. The minister of advanced education, Melanie Mark, is an Indigenous woman. The labour minister, Harry Bains, is a person of colour. And the finance minister, Carole James, is a Métis woman.
“I think the government has a role,” Van Steinburg said. “We believe it’s good public policy for them to invest in people. And we know that…equitable pay for everybody is an important issue.”