A brief history of contingent teaching labour at MacEwan

At the end of May, Athabasca University professor of labour relations, Bob Barnetson, wrote this brief but pointed and accurate summary of the recent history of contingent faculty at MacEwan on his “Labour & Employment in Alberta” blog: “Dual labour markets, exploitation, and mobilization at MacEwan.”

Sessionals currently make up about 60% of the total MacEwan faculty today, down from about 76% nearly twenty years ago, according to a 2001 study Bob published in The Canadian Journal of Higher Education. At that time, only Lethbridge and MacEwan had such a high proportion of sessional faculty. While that figure has come down a bit since then, the problems of the dual labour market it generates remain. As Bob notes,

First, the large number of sessionals has a paradoxical effect on the permanent staff. On the one hand, less costly sessionals subsidize the better working conditions of permanent staff. On the other hand, sessionals create a ready pool of cheap replacement workers, which undermines the long-term job security and power of the permanent staff.