About Us

Our Union is made up of over seven hundred contract faculty and student academic workers. Our contribution to the University has become increasingly important as our membership has grown, hence our slogan:

“Trent works because we do!”

Our goal is to increase support for our work within the University and to improve working conditions for contract faculty and student academic workers at the provincial and national levels.

We oversee member interests through interaction and negotiation with university management. At the provincial and national levels the Executive is involved with CUPE Ontario and National, as well as the Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee (OUWCC).

Contract workers at Trent are a diverse group, representing all academic disciplines. Our membership changes from year to year due to the nature of academic contract work at Trent, the uncertainties of which present significant challenges for both individual members and the local. These circumstances make it even more important for members to familiarise themselves with our collective agreement and stay in touch with the local. We’re here to provide support.

Information and Documentation

CUPE3908 Local Bylaws

Read the Local 3908 Bylaws here.

CUPE 3908 Unit 1 Certification

Read the original CUPE Local 3908 Certification here.

Contract Faculty at Trent University

Get ready to be confused. There are a variety of names applied to the Course Instructors who are hired on a per-course basis at Trent-CUPE faculty, Contract faculty, Part-time faculty, Sessionals…And to make things more complicated, there are also full-time faculty within TUFA who are sometimes referred to as Contract faculty (these are more commonly called LTAs, or Limited Term Appointments). The distinction between CUPE and TUFA contracts is that TUFA LTAs are hired into full-time teaching positions, usually for 9 months, while CUPE contracts are for individual courses, and CUPE members may not teach more than 1.5 credit courses.

Why Contract Faculty?

Being able to hire faculty on a ‘single-serving’ basis has served a number of purposes. It has allowed the University the flexibility to cope with fluctuating enrolment. It makes it possible to replace full-timers when they are on sabbaticals or leaves. It allows departments to fill gaps in their programs by recruiting specialists. Professionals with careers outside the academy, and perhaps with non-traditional academic qualifications, can be brought in on a part-time basis.

Contract faculty also serve a purely pragmatic function: they keep labour costs down. Maintaining a large pool of low-paid, contingent labour has been widely adopted by Universities in recent decades as a strategy for dealing with Provincial funding shortfalls. The difference in compensation costs between even a TUFA LTA and CUPE Course Instructors is considerable. Besides the salary difference, there are savings on benefits as Contract Faculty are excluded from the University’s Pension and Health Benefit plans. The icing on the cake is their minimal use of the University’s space-they typically work from home or share office space, and even pay for their own parking.

Who are they? Where are they?

Students are not generally aware of the employment status of their Professors. In fact, Contract faculty have been described as the ‘invisible’ academic underclass. Contract faculty often hold the same academic qualifications as their full-time colleagues (although not all do, and Professional accreditation carries more weight in some programs). Contract faculty are recognized for their scholarship, and many have years of teaching experience. While some view their work as a stepping stone to a tenure-track position, others hope it will continue in the long term. Hiring for tenure-track positions has been declining for some years, and even those who hope to find full-time, permanent employment often are not able to do so.

Finding statistics on these ‘invisible’ academics can be difficult. Statistics Canada stopped collecting data on them in the early 90s. Universities tend not to publish this information, preferring to boast about the number of full-timers or the percentage of their faculty with tenure. Trent, for example, claims this figure at 78%. (Given that last year it employed 314 TUFA faculty, not all of whom have tenure, and 221 CUPE Course Instructors-ineligible for tenure-we might wonder how these figures are derived*.)

According to data collected by CUPE3908**, Contract Faculty taught a total of 371 (full- and half-credit) courses last year (Sept. 2009-Aug. 2010). In addition, there were 45 Clinical Instructors employed in the School of Nursing. A conservative estimate would be that this represents 20% of the teaching at Trent.

CUPE3908 Contract Faculty also make considerable contributions in other areas-we included 5 Course Assistants, 1 Academic Skills Centre Instructor, 2 Clinical Course Instructors, 10 ESL Instructors, 1 Language Assistant, 5 Lab Demonstrators, 46 Marker/Graders, 7 Reading Course Instructors, 13 Tutorial Leaders, and 6 Workshop Leaders.

CUPE3908’s labour is a bargain-they do more than 20% of the teaching as well as all of the essential work above for only 8% of the instructional budget (teaching salaries). Trent, like other Universities, has been able to take advantage of relatively weak Unions to resist demands for improved wages and benefits for Contract Faculty. In spite of considerable gains in 2007, the gap between CUPE and TUFA has widened over the past decade. In the year 2000, Course Instructors earned 17.5% of an Assistant Professor’s starting salary. By 2009, this had fallen to 14.4%.


*Presumably, there is some conversion of part-time to full-time equivalents, but nowhere is this made clear.

**The Local representing Contract Faculty (and also Student Academic Workers, in a separate Unit).

Liability Insurance

For CUPE Part-Time Contract Employees

Liability Insurance is something that most people don’t think about in carrying out their duties under a CUPE contract with Trent University.  However, there are a couple of considerations of which CUPE members should be aware.

Liability Insurance covers the person in the event they make a mistake in providing information in teaching, or similar such circumstances.  It is doubtful that a person would be covered for criminal negligence.  This would occur when the person knowingly says or does something detrimental to the student.  It could simply be career guidance, but if you know it to be false and still do it, it could very well back fire on you.  Be very careful if you believe you might be in a conflict-of-interest with a particular topic.  This could happen if you are pursuing a particular career choice and you steer the student in a different direction to lessen competition against you.

Any one who is a member of a Teir 1, Self Regulating, Provincial Act, Professional Business Association is required to carry Liability Insurance for any work that they do within the field of their expertise, whether it is paid work or voluntary.  Typical of these associations are, Professional Engineers of Ontario, Chartered Accountants, Human Resources Professionals, Lawyers, and Healthcare Professionals.  There are plenty of others.  Each of these Self Regulating Associations have a set of By-Laws and a Code of Professional Conduct which a member is required to adhere to in the practice of their discipline.  Stepping outside of these pieces of legislation can find you in serious trouble.

Members of a Self Regulating Professional Association are covered by their employer’s Liability Insurance Policy.  When asked to prove your Liability Insurance Coverage, you simply ask the appropriate person within the company for a copy of the Declaration of Liability Insurance, a single page document specifying that you are covered and to what limit you have coverage.  Two million dollars is not uncommon. 

It is more problematic when the association member is self-employed or doing voluntary work outside of employment.  In these cases, a member may need to purchase their own Liability Insurance Policy which they can then present to the Association when requested to do so.  Failure to have such a policy is a violation of the Association’s governing documents and that in itself can lead to disciplinary action.  Lack of Liability Insurance is not something to be dismissed from the mind or taken lightly.  The consequences of not having it can be career crippling.

So, where does this leave a Trent CUPE Part-time Contract Employee?  This person is neither a full-time employee of Trent covered automatically be the University’s policy.  Some CUPE Members are self-employed using several contracts to create a career path for future endeavours.  The good news is that Trent University does provide Liability Insurance Coverage for CUPE Members under contract, for the period of the contract.  In order to obtain a Declaration of Liability Insurance, contact the Director of Risk Management, Louise Fish, and she can provide you with the declaration for you to forward to whomever is requesting it.  Be aware though that it covers only what you do under the terms of the contract with Trent University.  If you sit on Boards, or volunteer for Community Agencies, Trent’s Policy does not cover you, unless it is a requirement specified in the contract.  It could quite well be that the particular Community Agency has Liability Insurance for its volunteers; many do.  Ask before you commit yourself to providing any kind of service to an agency.

Contact Us

Looking to get in touch with your CUPE Executive? For bios and contact information, please visit the contact us page.