British Columbia

Post-secondary contract teachers are paid unfairly — and that's affecting students, too, federation says

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators says contract teachers are doing the same work as regular full-time instructors but are paid roughly half the money.

Contractors often get around half what full-time staff receive: Federation of Post-Secondary Educators

Post-secondary contract instructors are paid, on average, about half what regular full-time instructors are paid per course, according to the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators. (Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock)

College students are used to living on cheap noodles and trying to fit in part-time work around their classes, but it might come as a surprise that some of their instructors are living a similar lifestyle.

According to the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators, which represents 10,000 educators across B.C., more than 30 per cent of teaching in the province's colleges and teaching universities is done by contract staff, who are paid less than regular full-time instructors.

It's having a detrimental affect on both professors and students, the federation says.

"These contract faculty are doing the same work. We say they should get the same pay. It's not complicated," said Sean Parkinson, secretary treasurer of the federation, on CBC's The Early Edition Thursday.

Parkinson said a regular full-time instructor is paid a little over $11,000 per course and, on average, contract teachers receive about half that.

According to Parkinson, the University of the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island University and Emily Carr University pay their contractors $6,000. Smaller institutions like the College of New Caledonia in Prince George and the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook pay $3,000 per course.

Only Langara College and Vancouver Community College pay teachers the same money if they teach the same number of courses, said Parkinson. 

According to the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators, Langara College in Vancouver is one of only two post-secondary institutions that pays all faculty fairly. (

Contract instructors have limited access to benefits, very little employment stability and many work other jobs to make ends meet.

"These workers can't make long-term plans in their work or life because they never know if they have a job next semester or not," said Parkinson. 

The federation says students also suffer when their instructors do not have job stability or fair pay. Parkinson said it's challenging for contract instructors to engage in mentoring students long term because they often move between institutions to find work.

It can also prevent students from tracking down teachers when they need references for graduate school or for future employers.

Parkinson said faculty pay roll usually accounts for about one-third of an institution's budget and it would not necessarily mean increased tuition costs or service cuts to increase what contractors are paid. 

"This is not an insurmountable problem," said Parkinson.

Fair Employment Week, which runs Oct. 7-11, is an international campaign that's calling attention to the working conditions experienced by contract faculty.

This year, municipalities across B.C. are supporting fairness for contract faculty through motions, proclamations, and public letters of support. They include Surrey, Burnaby, New Westminster, Port Coquitlam, Duncan, Colwood, Gibsons, Langford and Whistler.

To hear the complete interview with Sean Parkinson on The Early Edition, click on the audio below:

With files from The Early Edition