1. Who are the part-time instructors at the Mount?
There are roughly 200 part-time instructors at the Mount. They are contracted to teach various courses in the curriculum on a contractual per-course basis. They are paid a per-course stipend on terms negotiated in a multi-year contract between the university administration and CUPE 3912.
Part-time instructors receive no pension or health-care benefits and no assurance of continuing employment—characteristics of what has become known as “precarious employment”.
Part-time instructors may include recent post-graduate academics seeking to establish themselves in an academic career. They may also include individuals with significant business/governmental/social qualifications in technical fields with professional expertise not typically represented in academia.
2. What courses are taught by part-time instructors?
Part-time instructors may be assigned teaching positions at any undergraduate or graduate level—so long as their departments have determined that they have appropriate qualifications. Course offerings do not identify whether instruction is provided by a full-or part-time professional. Students are welcome to ask their instructor whether she/he is full- or part-time.
3. What is the current status of bargaining between the University and CUPE 3912?
The most recent collective agreement between the University and CUPE 3912 expired at the end of August 2020 and the last wage increase was in September 2019. CUPE 3912 has been in negotiation with the Mount since that time seeking a new contract which is proposed to expire at the end of August 2024.Following protracted negotiations (involving at least 19 meetings), during which the Administration was unwilling to discuss financial proposals, the union Bargaining Committee determined: “enough is enough”, and applied for conciliation.
Conciliation is a Nova Scotia Trade Union Act legal process whereby the parties request that the Minister of Labour appoint an impartial third party (Conciliation Officer) to help facilitate a settlement. The Conciliation Officer does not have the power to force the parties into a settlement other than via suasion and focusing the parties on labour relations reality and the consequences of not reaching a settlement.In good faith, CUPE 3912 engaged in the process for two scheduled meetings in early January 2023; however, were met with an intransigent Mount response regarding our wage proposal. An unusual third conciliation meeting will happen on Friday February 10, 2023.
4. Is the negotiating position of CUPE Local 3912 a reasonable request?
Members have not received an increase in their stipend since September 2019. Since that time, up to the end of last year, consumer price inflation has risen by 13.2 percent. The Mount has proposed a 10 percent increase in stipend over the entire contract period ending in August 2024. Although the most recent surge in prices has moderated, economists predict that inflation will remain significantly above target through 2024.
According to latest data from Statistics Canada, over the last year alone average weekly earnings rose 4.2 percent.
5. Are CUPE Local 3912 members remunerated at a higher rate than other local universities?
Part-time instructors in Halifax have been paid substantially less than at other Canadian universities—even lower than at other Atlantic Canada institutions—despite higher living costs in the city.
It took a 24-day strike at Dalhousie University to achieve some progress to a more equitable basis of remuneration. Saint Marys agreed to a similar settlement, without labour disruption. CUPE 3912 is asking for wage parity between the Mount and the other two universities. Many part-time instructors at the Mount also teach at the other two universities. In many cases they teach directly comparable courses. The union argues that the value-added by each such instructor is identical—equal pay for work of equal value.
6. Can the Mount afford CUPE 3912’s proposal?
The most recent financial statement released by the administration (for the period ending March 2022) reported an increase in revenue of $6 million or 9.0 percent. Income from student fees increased by $4.7 or 15.5 percent.
International enrollment (students paying differentially higher fees) increased 9.9 percent.
Salaries and benefits declined from 71 percent of expenditures to 70 percent.
7. What happens if CUPE 3912 go on strike?
The administration in an announcement to students, faculty and staff has noted: “If a strike by CUPE Local 3912 takes place, classes and labs taught by part-time faculty at MSVU will be cancelled. Classes taught by full-time faculty will continue.”
8. If the administration fails to meet the unions demand for wage parity does that put the student term in jeopardy?
The answer is complex. It necessarily depends on each student’s dependence on courses taught by part-time instructors for achieving their program requirements. For some, a protracted interruption might well make it impossible to fulfill their requirements on-time—which might present further complications respecting scheduled travel or employment plans.
CUPE 3912 members are resolutely committed to furthering the interests of Mount students—but have encountered a multi-year stalemate in reaching a satisfactory outcome with the administration.
9. What is the level of support among members of CUPE 3912
On the issue of whether to empower the executive to invoke strike action in the event of a failure to reach satisfactory resolution of differences, a vote held in December, was: 126 votes cast: 120 Yes (95.2%); 6 No (4.8%).
10. What is the position of full-time faculty respecting the possible withdrawal of service of CUPE 3912 member?
The following message has been disseminated by the Mount Saint Vincent Faculty Association executive to its membership:
CUPE 3912 members at MSVU recently voted to pursue job action, with over 95% in favour of a strike. CUPE 3912 is a separate bargaining unit representing part-time instructors. Though they are not on strike yet, job action is likely imminent.
Why have they voted to strike? Because it is obviously deplorable that part-time instructors at MSVU are compensated at a lower rate for work of equal value at other universities. At MSVU, part-time instructors are one of the lowest paid at undergrad universities in Canada (https://cupe3912.ca/bargaining/msvu/lets-compare-salaries/).
If CUPE 3912 goes on strike, their members are being asked to withdraw their labour from the normal work of their bargaining unit, which includes all duties related to teaching and student supervision.
CUPE 3912 has agreed to meet with the Conciliation Officer and the Mount representatives at 1:00pm on Friday, February 10, 2023, in a final attempt to resolve the outstanding financial matters.
Despite this labour unrest, we, as members of MSVUFA, must continue to fulfill our contractual obligations, as we continue to receive compensation from the University for our work.
In the event of a strike, if you are a chair of a department or director of a program, you may not take any action that could be seen to force or coerce (either directly or indirectly) a CUPE 3912 member into any work that threatens their job action. You must not ask them to attend meetings, work with students, or perform any physical or digital duties that require them to cross their picket line. Asking CUPE 3912 members to do any such work contradicts the principle of solidarity upon which our collective rights are founded.
MSVUFA members who absorb any of the labour of CUPE 3912 members (e.g. teaching a part-time instructor’s class or marking a part-time instructor’s students’ work) would be engaging in scab labour, which will actively undermine what the strike is intended to achieve: a decent and fair settlement.
As MSVUFA members, what can we do if CUPE 3912 strikes?
We can show our support. For example, we may choose to stand with them on their picket line even though we are not on strike, we can bring them refreshments, we can explain to others, including students, why the CUPE 3912 took a strike vote, or share information from the CUPE 3912 website: (https://cupe3912.ca/bargaining/msvu/lets-compare-salaries/).
MSVUFA has committed to making a donation to CUPE 3912 on behalf of all of our members.