Issues on the Table: Ameliorating Excessive Term Appointments

Almost 20 months have passed since the Collective Agreement (CA) covering the working conditions for U of L academic staff expired at the end of June 2020. But in the words of an ULFA  member who recently signed their tenth U of L term contract, “people in my position have gone with far less for much longer.” The Issues on the Table series has previously touched on ULFA’s proposed improvements to address inequities in the terms and conditions for Sessional Lecturer appointments (a strengthened right of first refusal and new benefits). This blog takes a look at a concerning inequity that can arise in how Term appointments are used.

Term Appointment Inequities

Article 18 (Appointments) states that a Term appointment is for a contractually-limited period and carries no implication that the member will be considered for a probationary or tenured appointment unless their appointment letter includes provisions for conversion to a probationary appointment. A member may hold sequential Term appointments consisting of the same assigned duties, but the total cumulative appointment period cannot exceed six years if the appointments are consecutive. 

The intended purpose of limiting the length of the cumulative appointment period is to ensure that ongoing academic staffing needs are filled by continuing positions that include job security, better working conditions, and benefits. A problematic consequence of capping the total cumulative Term appointment period, however, is that a member may reach the cap of six cumulative years and thereby become ineligible for a Term renewal, but the Board may be unwilling to hire a continuing position despite an ongoing need for coverage of the duties that have been performed by the member during the cumulative six year period. It has also happened that the Board hires someone for six consecutive years, does not hire them for a year, and then hires them again with the counter reset. This inequity is a problem, particularly because some people end up with many years, and even entire careers, of Term appointments. 

Another inequity is the stipulation that consecutive Term appointments must be made at the same rank. This provides no room for progression to a higher rank that may be justifiable if a member has engaged in activities that enhance their ability to perform their Term appointment duties.

Ameliorating the Inequities

To address the job security issue that can arise for long-serving Term appointees who reach the cumulative six-year cap, ULFA proposes to introduce two new clauses in Article 18, and to remove the requirement that the six years be consecutive. One of the new clauses provides that after a Term appointee has reached the cumulative six-year cap, in their seventh year they shall be considered for a continuing or tenure-track appointment by the appropriate STP Committee. Another clause provides that in such a situation, the appropriate Search Committee shall be granted approval to fill a probationary appointment covering the duties performed by the Term appointee who has reached the cumulative six-year cap.

ULFA also proposes to allow Term reappointments covering essentially the same duties to be made at a higher rank. This permits a small amount of career progression for long-serving Term appointees.

At the bargaining table on April 8, 2021, February 4, 2022, and February 9, 2022, the ULFA team presented Article 18 proposals containing the above-described proposed improvements for long-serving Term appointees, which would make it harder for the Board to string them along on one contract after another with no job security. 

The Board’s Article 18 proposals presented in this round of negotiations (March 22, 2021 and February 8, 2022) do not address the equity issues associated with Term appointments that exceed six cumulative years. Progress in these equity matters would also go some distance toward according to long-serving Term appointees the #respect and stability they deserve as valued, yet precarious, members of the University’s academic staff who often fill key gaps in teaching, such as teaching high-enrolment and resource-intensive courses.