Sector Profile: Post-Secondary Education

CUPE members provide services students depend on at colleges and universities nationwide. Our members work as educators, caretakers, researchers, landscapers and many other roles, in areas like libraries, food services, classrooms, IT, student-led organizations, and administrative offices.
By the numbers

Members
67,785

Locals
124

Collective agreements
197
Demographics

Temporary positions in colleges: 24%
Temporary positions in universities: 39%

How we bargain

University locals bargain locally in all provinces. There is a history of coordinated bargaining in B.C., Ontario, and to some extent in Quebec.

Ontario locals identify common bargaining priorities, including the expiry date for the collective agreements, and maintain communication during bargaining. B.C. locals coordinate on communication and expiry dates.

Colleges in B.C. have a voluntary provincial bargaining table for compensation, with all other issues bargained locally. The compensation framework is incorporated into the collective agreement.

The Quebec colleges sector bargains under the common front, a voluntary inter-union council.
Challenges

As federal and provincial governments impose budget cuts, the quality of programs and infrastructure are deteriorating. Meanwhile, tuition fees are going up.

Multiple reviews of post-secondary education structure, funding, and tuition fees are taking place. These reviews seek new ways to cut spending, while increasing corporatization, privatization and tuition fees.

Casualization and lack of job security is a pressing issue for our members in positions ranging from food services to contract teaching faculty. Some contract faculty have worked for over 20 years but still need to apply for their job every four months.

Most pension plans in the university sector are employer sponsored. Attacks on pension plans have formed a major part of bargaining and had huge impacts on the whole bargaining agenda.

The attacks on free collective bargaining and government interference have affected the scope of effective bargaining for both colleges and universities.
Strategies and successes

Quebec has done extensive work to win pay equity. This huge success will mean significant pay increases and new salary structures.

Locals in B.C. and Ontario have demonstrated the importance of community and campus mobilization to build successful coalitions. CUPE committees, locals, and the newly formed National Post-Secondary Task Force are working to raise awareness of the need to increase funding for post-secondary education and to lower tuition fees.

Locals in Nova Scotia are trying to set up a province-wide committee to improve coordination and communication in the sector.