Denying contract faculty Health & Safety rights?


Volume 27, Issue 5
May 2017


The Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) mandates that employers such as Humber College ensure that workers are able to participate in developing and maintaining a safe and healthy work environment. In line with this Act, Humber has set up a Joint Health and Safety Committee (JOHSC), with equal representation from management and the members of the College’s two union locals: faculty and support staff.

The JOHSC deals with a wide range of health and safety issues that can affect employees. Challenges range from identifying tripping hazards in classrooms, recording and safely storing hazardous materials used in labs, as well as addressing physical safety on campus.

If you are a full-time faculty member, Humber has no problem encouraging and accepting your involvement in the committee. But if you are contract faculty, it’s another story. Humber doesn’t want contract employees on the committee. Over the last four months, four contract faculty have asked to be considered for membership in the committee. To date, management has not accepted any of them.

Reasons? Humber considers contract faculty as temporary workers and so outside of the employment requirements for the Act. When the Local pointed out that Humber contract faculty actually fulfilled the time requirements to be covered by OHSA, management changed their argument. They stated that contract faculty are not here for the full year—that many are gone from May to September. The Local countered that many contract faculty now teach in May and June, and besides that, most full-time faculty are away from the end of June to September. For many courses, when full-time faculty leave in June, contract faculty teach the remainder of the course throughout the summer.

Why the refusal? It could be money. The JOHSC is one committee at Humber where members’ time is paid for by the employer. But payment for member-time will hardly put a dent in the college’s $29.6 million operating surplus. Or could there be another reason for the college’s refusal? Does Humber believe that acknowledging contract faculty rights with respect to OHSA, will open a discussion of other rights that contract faculty are denied? So far, all the Local has got from management is silence.

What is to be done? The Local will continue to bring this issue to management for resolution. But ultimately, the decision is not up to Humber. OHSA is a provincial law. If we cannot come to agreement on this issue, we will have to seek the advice of the Ministry of Labour.