One of the most important terms of our collective agreements is the tracking of members’ seniority, which we refer to as precedence. As a rule, if two individuals with equal qualifications apply for the same job, the member with the most precedence at the hiring institution must be awarded the contract for the job.

Note: Precedence for Dalhousie TAs is tabulated informally by each department and is not recorded by the local.

The deadlines for changing errors in the precedence lists are quite restricted,  so please be sure to check your collective agreements for dates and deadlines.

Demystifying Precedence

At all three universities that are part of CUPE 3912, contract faculty can accrue precedence. It is not always clear to our members what precedence entails, and so we provide this information piece, to clarify the facts and the functioning of precedence. While the term precedence was chosen by the administration in order to avoid the use of the term “seniority”, it is seniority, and it is treated as such (and must be treated as such) throughout all job assignment practices at Dalhousie, SMU and MSVU.

Precedence is not automatically given to an instructor upon their first teaching assignment. Precedence, or seniority, is a status and a right one achieves, originally through successful probationary teaching assignments, and when one achieves precedence one then has the right to challenge unjust hirings in a department. One’s precedence, like seniority, is held throughout the university in which it is acquired, and is not limited to one department. However it does not apply in an inter-university fashion. At each university one has varying precedence standing.

The three universities have their own requirements for establishing precedence on the part of each member. At Dalhousie, for example, a member acquires precedence through teaching (at least) 9 credit hours over two academic years. At each of the three universities there is a graduated rate of pay that correlates to the amount of precedence points one accrues over the years of teaching assignments, until one reaches the cap for that scale.

In recent years at all of our institutions, there have been cases where precedence has been avoided, ignored, or contested unjustly. In each case we have challenged such actions, and we have been successful, because precedence is one of the considerations which must be taken into account when hirings take place among the part-time faculty at the universities.

Each member of CUPE 3912 should check their precedence points each year as a matter of course, to ensure that the departments in which they teach are applying these points after any course assignment. Every member should also pay close attention to any of the hirings of CUPE members that occur in their workplaces to confirm that those hirings pay close attention to and respect precedence, since it is one of the most significant rights we have in 3912.

Precedence remains in place for 3 years even after you have completed your last teaching assignment, but should you fail to return to the institution after those 3 years, your previously accrued precedence points cannot be retrieved and applied at a later date.