BUDGET HISTORY: Sessionals exploited by low wages

By Rebecca Jaremko

University of Calgary sessional instructors feel exploited.

“We make $15,000–maximum–over eight months; that’s less than any secretary makes,” said a sessional instructor, who asked not to be identified. “Sessionals at Mount Royal College and The Alberta College of Art are paid much more. Why is that?”

As of July 1, 1994, sessional instructors at the University of Calgary earned $3,000 per half-course.

By contrast, according to the Human Resources office, an entry-level clerical worker will make $22,380 per year. The qualification for the clerical post doesn’t include a degree–to be hired, sessional instructors must have a Bachelor’s degree, some even have PhDs.

Wages of sessional instructors at other Canadian universities are higher. For example, at Simon Fraser University, sessionals make up to $8,011 per course.

Sessionals may be responsible for teaching tutorials, labs and full courses. As they are hired on contract for short-term appointments, they receive few benefits.

“Sessional instructors are tremendously exploited,” said Helen Holmes, president of the University of Calgary Faculty Association. “They are grossly underpaid.”

According to her, prior to this spring sessional instructors were making varying amounts, in some cases as little as $1,200 per half course. The sessionals were also not part of any larger bargaining unit.

“We negotiated on behalf of the sessionals to include them in the bargaining unit,” said Holmes of the minimum wage for sessionals per half-course that was established this past spring.

“In 1985, I was making $3,000 per half course,” said the sessional leader who wished to remain anonymous. “How many professors have not received any wage increase in nine years?”