Dear AASUA Members,

Today marks the first day of Fair Employment Week (Oct. 17-21), which is organized by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) to raise awareness about unfair labour conditions for academic staff on university campuses.

The AASUA is participating in this initiative because one out of three AASUA members work on contract. Many of these colleagues are trapped in short-term contracts, which do not provide the job security they need to plan their lives. This includes our Academic Teaching Staff (ATS), who teach about half of all undergraduate classes at the UofA. However, the problem is much larger than a reliance on sessional instructors to deliver the educational mandate of the university.

Our Trust Research Academic Staff (TRAS) are integral to our research labs but lack job security. Our Temporary Librarians, Administrative and Professional Officers (TLAPOs) also struggle with not knowing whether they will have employment on our campuses next year.

Instability in our community impacts all of us; therefore, I want to encourage all AASUA members, regardless of whether you personally have job security, to participate in an action this week to show solidarity with our precarious colleagues.

Here are some of the concrete actions you can take:

1.     Start a conversation with your Department Chairs and Deans. Ask how we can commit to moving our colleagues on short-term contracts into ongoing positions, since the need for these workers is clearly ongoing.

2.     Talk to your students about how labour conditions on our campus impacts their learning conditions.

3.     Use this template on the AASUA website to send Bill Flanagan, the President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Alberta, a postcard that asks him how precarious employment on our campus contributes to his claim that he is “repositioning the U of A for long-term success”.

4.     Write a letter to your local newspaper sharing how you are personally impacted by precarious employment. You don’t have to be precariously employed to know the impacts this trend is having in our departments, libraries, and research centres.

5.     Visit the information tables set-up in the Humanities Centre between 10 AM and 1 PM on Wed. Oct. 19th and the Student Union Building 10 AM and 2 PM on Wed. Oct. 19th and Fri. Oct 21st to learn more about precarious employment at the UofA.

6.     Contact your MLA and/or the Advanced Education Minister [the Honourable Demetrios Nicolaides – 780 427-5777, Email the Minister] and/or the Premier [the Honourable Danielle Smith– 780 427-2251, Email the Premier] to explain how government funding decisions relate to the problem of precarious employment.

6.     Participate in the ‘Social Media Day of Action’ on Wednesday, Oct. 19th using the hashtag #MakeitFair and tagging our employer @UAlberta.

8.     Watch the film Professor Precarious. AASUA has a license for our members and the public to watch the film during Fair Employment Week.

In addition, you could consider participating in national events organized by the CAUT:

1.     Keynote address: ‘Organizing to Win for Contract Academic Staff’ Wed., Oct. 19, 11:00 AM (Mountain Time): Hear from Richard Bradbury – a member of the bargaining team at Open University and member of the Executive Committee of the University and College Union in the UK – about how they were able to secure permanent contracts for their sessional instructors in their last round of bargaining. Register here.

2.     Social Media Day of Action Wed., Oct. 19 (all day long): Help spread the word online about Fair Employment Week and the realities of precarious employment on our campuses. CAUT has developed a social media tool kit (see here) and digital resources to support associations’ engagement in this day of action. Remember to use the hashtags #MakeitFar and #Fairness4CAS.

3.     Virtual Contract Academic Staff Social Fri., Oct. 21, 11:00 AM (Mountain Time): Contract academic staff from across the country are invited to an informal Zoom social to talk about the unique issues facing CAS, discuss strategies to improve working conditions, and join in celebration of the work and contributions CAS make to our universities and colleges. Register here.

Let’s use our voices together to bring attention to this pressing problem. Taking these actions now, will put us in a stronger position for our next round of bargaining, where we will continue to press for fair working conditions for all AASUA members.


Gordon Swaters

AASUA President