CUPE National Campaign Against Precarity in Post-Secondary Education



The CUPE National Task Force is currently organizing a campaign against precarity in post-secondary education.  Members of CUPE 3911 are definitely part of the precarious work force.  For example, they have to compete for course teaching, can lose their students to full-time faculty, and may lose their jobs when class enrollment falls below a certain level.  


The Current Problem

  • Precarious work is rising in the post-secondary sector, both among academic staff and non-academic staff.

  • Federal and provincial government under funding of the post-secondary education and increasing corporatization of universities and colleges, including administrative attempts to run schools like a business, have led to increased use of short-term contracts and contracting out.

Campaign Objectives

  1. Highlight the problem of precarious work at universities and colleges across Canada.

  2. Share stories of resistance and action.

  3. Share bargaining strategies to protect workers.

  4. Serve as a first step in a larger campaign pointing to the impact of government underfunding on the post-secondary sector, in order to make PSE an issue for the next election.



The booklet will include information about the problem of precarity for both staff and students, as well as short illustrative stories from precarious workers in PSE, both academic and non-academic.  I think the booklet will be a good contribution to the campaign to improve conditions for precarious workers.  However, I do have some criticisms, of the proposed draft.  One is that the content is mainly a description of the problem rather than plans for how to solve the problem.  The other criticism is that the draft (to date) says nothing about the right to education which, to my mind, should be the fundamental basis for the campaign. 




As part of this campaign, CUPE is also organizing 7 townhalls across the country to highlight the problem of precarious work. As CUPE 3911 is the only CUPE local organizing academic workers in Alberta, our plan is to hold our town hall at a major Alberta university in collaboration with that university’s faculty association.  Those negotiations are proceeding well and it looks like we will go forward on this basis.  The draft plan is for each of the seven townhalls to feature, although individual town halls may vary slightly from that template: 

  • 1 local speaker from a local university/college to speak about their experience as a precarious academic worker.

  • 1 local speaker from a local university/college to speak about their experience as a precarious non-academic worker.

  • 1 expert speaker who will create the picture of the larger trend of precarity in the post-secondary sector.

  • 1 CUPE speaker who highlights the actions taken by CUPE locals and other unions to fight precarity.

  • A discussion period to hear stories, comments and questions from the audience.


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