Seniority and job security

Bargaining secure employment opportunities and career ladders for contingent faculty

Contingent faculty routinely report that addressing the instability and insecurity of teaching term to term is a top priority for them and their unions. AFT has outlined several standards and practices that institutions should follow to establish a more secure employment environment. This should begin with a credible hiring process, include evaluations with criteria appropriate to the profession, and result in seniority and job protections against random appointments and non-appointments. In addition, we have called for adequate notification time of appointments and assignments so that contingent faculty can appropriately prepare for a course.

Below are examples of unions who have been working toward this standard, along with links to their web sites and collective bargaining agreements (where available).

AFT Seattle Community Colleges, Local 1789

At the Seattle Community Colleges, part-time faculty members who teach an average of 50 percent for nine of twelve quarters (a period consistent with their tenure policy) are placed on a "priority hire list." This gives the faculty member a guarantee of his/her "customary workload" (but no less than 50 percent if that workload varied) as long as the courses on their qualifying list (courses they taught during that nine-twelve quarters) are offered and not needed for a full time faculty member to meet her/his workload. If there are more faculty on the priority hire list in a given department than courses available, seniority in the division is the determining factor for course assignments.

In addition, a faculty member on the priority hire list must be notified 30 days before the end of the quarter if the dean believes his/her workload may not be available because of fewer classes. If the faculty member doesn't get this notification, her/his pay for the assumed workload is guaranteed - the administrator generally tries to find an alternative assignment. If a faculty member gets the letter notifying him/her that classes may not be available but the courses end up being offered, s/he must be assigned to them.

Read the full AFT Seattle CC contract here.

Lecturers' Employee Organization (LEO)

Article XI on Appointments and Article XII on Layoffs are the cornerstone of the LEO contract and articulate a strong connection between professional responsibilities and rights.

Under the LEO contract, every lecturer spends four years in a probationary title (as an Lecturer I or Lecturer III). There is an interim review which is intended to happen no later than the end of the fifth semester of teaching, looking at annual reports, syllabi, and student evaluations. No later than the eighth term of teaching, there is to be a major review, which if successful triggers a 7 percent raise, a 3 year appointment, some protections from layoff, and access to a more complete set of benefits (long-term disability and long-term sick pay most importantly). The terms of the evaluations used in these reviews are also included in the contract.

After this point, lecturers have "presumption of renewal," which is defined as the expectation of recurring work provided that there is instructional need and budgetary support within the academic unit and that the Employee's performance meets the standards established by the academic unit, consistent with Article XIX, Performance Evaluation."

LEO also negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding that lecturers can meet the four consecutive year probationary requirement by teaching any eight of the preceding ten semesters (fall and winter terms) which protects members having the probationary clock start over ad infinitum.

See the full LEO contract here.

Los Angeles College Faculty Guild

As LA College Faculty Guild Adjunct Survival Guide states, the seniority rules in their contract are "complicated, but offer significant protection for part-time teachers." Here are the basics as set forth in the guide:

  • Instructors with seniority rights are entitled to teach the same-day, same-time class each semester if practicable.
  • If the same schedule is not available, a comparable assignment shall be offered.
  • Classroom instructors (both full-time instructors teaching overload and part-time instructors) must complete three semesters of adjunct assignments and accept a fourth assignment within a period of eight consecutive semesters to be placed on a seniority list in a discipline.
  • Part-time teachers may earn seniority in more than one discipline and on more than one campus.
  • Part-time teachers who are not offered a class due to a reduction in the offerings, you will remain on the seniority list for six semesters.

See the full LA Faculty Guild contract here.

Professional Staff Congress / CUNY

The Professional Staff Congress represents more than 20,000 faculty and staff in the City University of New York (CUNY) system. In recent contracts, several new provisions were made to enhance contingent faculty job security, and older conditions were maintained and improved.

PSC's 2002-2007 contract with CUNY created 100 new full-time Lecturer positions, to be filled by senior contingent employees. Upon a sixth full-time appointment, Lecturers are also eligible for a certificate of continuous employment (CCE), which entitles them to a more complete review process and access to all regular faculty benefits and retirement programs.

The contract also includes beneficial career-building provisions for contingent faculty, including the creation of the Adjunct Professional Development Fund, which provides adjunct instructors financial support for continuing education and training. All untenured faculty also receive an additional 12 hours of reassigned time to pursue research, bringing the total of reassigned research hours to 24 during their first five appointments. In addition, those adjuncts serving at least four years as Instructors or pre-CCE Lecturers prior to appointment as an Assistant Professor will receive two years of credit toward tenure.

The 2007-2010 contract built on the gains of the previous contract and added another 100 lines of conversion for Lecturers, as well as a cap on the number of new contingent hires. The Professional Development Fund was also renewed.

The PSC is once again at the bargaining table, more information can be found about their campaign on their website.

The full contract is available here.

UFCT 1460 / The Pratt Faculty Union

The Pratt Faculty Union has one of the oldest higher education contracts in the country and early on they were able to establish a strong job security and career ladder system known as a Certificate of Continuous Employment.

Article 23 of the contract sets out the terms of a CCE.

XXIII.2 Part-time adjunct faculty members hired after September 1972.

(a) Prior to the completion of ten (10) semesters of service (as an adjunct), faculty members in this category shall make a decision as to whether or not they wish a full-time position.

(1) If they do not wish a full-time position after the tenth semester, they will not be reappointed to the adjunct faculty but may be appointed to the visiting faculty.

(2) Subject to the provisions of Article XVI, if they wish a full-time position they may be granted a Certificate of Continuous Employment. In the event that a full-time position within the field of competence of such a faculty member holding a CCE becomes available and the CCE applies for the position, the CCE will be among the finalists for the position.

(b) Each semester adjunct faculty covered by this section will be evaluated as to whether or not they meet the departmental standards of professional competence as teachers. If two (2) successive academic year evaluations are negative, they will not be reappointed. Evaluation reports shall be in writing with copies given to the individual faculty member who shall have the opportunity to append or affix his or her comments.

XXIII.3 Promotional opportunities shall be available for part-time faculty members in Adjunct ranks: i.e., Adjunct Instructor, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Adjunct Associate Professor, Adjunct Professor.

Read the full Pratt Faculty Union contract here.

University Council - AFT

UC-AFT (University Council-American Federation of Teachers) represents all faculty in the entire University of California system who are not on the tenure track, both full- and part-time (they also represent the UC librarians). They have fought to include several new provisions in the September 2007 Lecturers' contract to improve the security and stability of non-tenure-track positions in the UC system.

First, the contract outlines a process of seniority for contingent faculty members. Seniority is measured in terms of number of months in service at an appointment of .5 FTE or more, and after six years of continuous service, contingent faculty members are automatically awarded three-year continuous appointment contracts, which give them more protection against layoffs and preference in hiring for available classes or positions.

Even for pre-six year employees, the seniority process has considerable benefits. All lecturers are protected against losing part or all of their appointments to lower paid lecturers purely for money-saving reasons. Furthermore, the University is prohibited from cutting back pre-six year lecturers' positions to avoid extending a continuous appointment.

The contract also stipulates that the University must give sufficient notice of any anticipated layoffs, including reductions in hours, to all contingent employees. Employees with continuous appointments are guaranteed a full year's notice of any intention to terminate their contract. Pre-six year appointees receive notice corresponding to their seniority. The contract ensures that layoff periods of less than one term still count toward University service and seniority, and any employee who does not receive proper notice of layoff or hour reduction is entitled to pay through the end of their contract.

Full UC-AFT contracts are available here.

Does your contract have good language in this area? Send us a message to let us know.