How much work are you doing for free? Five minutes here and there, hours of PBLA prep time? The employees at our settlement company decided by a vote of 70% that we were going to unionize. I joined the collective bargaining team and found the experience quite an eye opener.
As we first put our complaints in writing, the amount of “extra” work we were all doing without pay surprised me. Of course, at the top of the list is prep for PBLA. How is the meager 25 minutes of prep time – that management often commandeers for meetings regarding administrative changes, or policy issues – ever going to cover the time needed to prepare 32 assessments, plan modules, and write summaries for end of term, etc.…?
- There is also preparation time for the day to day planning that never gets mentioned in the same sentence as paid work, but it is also time consuming.
- When management can’t find a supply to cover a class the students are not excused, another teacher is expected to incorporate the class into their own without a moment of preparation and receives no additional compensation for this difficult task. Our management puts this money into “slippage” an accounting term that means money that can be put toward other things at their discretion.
- Our PBLA teacher trainers were also working gratis, although IRCC’s PBLA “Guidelines” say otherwise. The term “Guidelines” is very slippery as it gives management the right to implement or not implement IRCCs suggestions. How is it legal for IRCC to demand a job, but only suggest a wage?
- Management also requires us to produce monthly reports, completed on our time, that describe our classroom activities.
During the course of collective bargaining we managed to rectify a lot of these issues (but not PBLA, of course). With the grievance process now in place because of the union, we hope to resolve more issues in the future as we continue to fight for fairness in the workplace.
Not all settlement organizations are the same, and many prorams may have already resolved some of these issues through unionizing or with management. However, for those of you who find yourself in a similar position, I can honestly say that through unionizing, we are much better off today than we were at this time last year. More money, less unpaid work, and some additional benefits. The tendency of IRCC and Management to load ESL/LINC teachers up with unpaid work must stop. If we don’t say anything about it, the pattern will continue. Sometimes we have to fight for respect – what are you doing about it?