Online teaching as Sessional Faculty in the context of COVID-19

Brad WalchukUncategorized

As you have likely heard by now, the spring semester will be online, and, barring some miraculous change in the next week or so, so too will the summer semester. The start dates for each will remain the same. We’ve had many productive discussions with the employer and believe that those who have already been hired will be given every opportunity to succeed and teach. What does this mean for sessionals?

The employer is aware that “The Employer will not, without training, require an employee to use technological skills other than those agreed to at the time of hiring” (Article 19.04 in your Collective Agreement). This bodes especially well folks who have already been appointed to a course that was not advertised as being online. The employer is also aware that “When an employee is required to attend or otherwise completes mandatory employment related training that has not been identified in the Letter of Appointment, compensation for such training shall be paid at the “Post Contract Work” rate, in accordance with Article 15.05(a)” (19.03b). The current rate of this training is $66.70 per hour.
All subsequent postings for the spring/summer will reference the course being online and that need to complete training. If such training is required and advertised, it is not compensated at the additional rate.
It’s unclear how much time will be allocated, but training is being done through MacPherson, and their training is both helpful and thorough in our experience. There is also some flexibility in terms of how technology can be incorporated (i.e. WebEx, Zoom, Echo360, A2L etc). The employer recognizes that these classes being housed online is both temporary and represents a quick turnaround in terms of preparation and execution. The expectation is that you’re simply to take your material and put in online – a sort of virtual classroom, if you will. This is different from, and much less labour intensive than, creating and developing a fully online class. Further, you will not need to create additional digital learning to supplement the existing material you have.
People who have been offered work to teach in the spring/summer and were unaware that the work would be online and elected to decline it due to the class now being online will be offered a $1000 cancellation fee. There is language in our Collective Agreement (Article 12.13) that speaks to your seniority and entitlement to First Consideration appointments in the event that you choose to decline an appointment.  Please contact us if you have any questions about your seniority and entitlement to future courses if you choose to decline an appointment.
Everyone teaching in the summer/spring online should also be provided a T2200. (Article 16.07). This also applies to ALL U2 members this term and will give a tax break for office usage, but should also apply to internet, etc. These are not due until Feb 28, 2021 (as they’re for the 2020 tax year). This is backburner stuff, but important that we’ve clarified.
The employer is also aware of Article 13.01, which states that “Best efforts will be made to provide reasonable access to the use of other facilities, services and equipment related to members’ teaching duties and responsibilities (e.g. McMaster University email, photocopying, audio/visual equipment, telephone, private/secure meeting locations) […] instructional materials related to the employee’s instructional responsibilities will be available on the same basis as faculty members in the academic unit.” These will need to be discussed with department chairs first to get an agreement on what is reasonable, and we can intervene if things aren’t to the members satisfaction. There seems to be a recognition that items such as a webcam, a microphone, secure high speed internet, etc. are necessities that you will need to be provided with at no cost. If you require such equipment/tools, please identify your needs to your supervisor (Department or Area Chair) as soon as possible.  Speaking to your supervisor is the correct and appropriate process for making such requests.  Should your department not make these available for you in a timely matter, please let us know.
On a related note, if you incurred any additional expenses related to your Winter 2020 course going online, please let us know as soon as possible as we believe that you are entitled to reimbursement. Examples would include webcams, microphones, computers, secure high speed internet, and other related expenses.
Finally, the wonderful staff at the Campus Bookstore have let us know they are here to help course instructors in this time of transition. In that regard, they have compiled a list of digital resources and other supports that you may want to access through their store while moving your course(s) online. You can find the list attached to this email.
If you have any additional questions about the spring/summer semester, please let us know by emailing
In solidarity,
The CUPE 3906 Executive Committee