April 30, 2017

Four year collective agreement for postdocs at Queen’s ratified

Postdocs granted three of original demands in new contract 

Postdocs sign the new four year agreement.

Ten months of negotiating and one strike vote later, Queen’s postdoctoral scholars, also known as postdocs, ratified their new collective agreement with the University on April 3.

Postdocs, who reside under the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Local 901 union, are salaried employees who conduct the majority of research done at any given university.

The new contract addresses terms such as childcare benefits, increased wages and access to the Queen’s Family Health Team.

In an interview with The Journal, Vice-President of Postdoctoral Scholars, Silja Freitag, explained the process behind choosing what the postdocs wanted to advocate for and what they won in their new collective agreement.

“You have to talk to your membership and find out what the demands are and we did that by surveys and interviews,” Freitag said.

According to Freitag, the postdocs decided to focus their demands on childcare benefits, increased wages, access to healthcare and professional development.

Then they brought these demands to Queen’s and began the bargaining process, all of which were satisfied but for professional development. The postdocs hope they`ll be able to negotiate in future agreements for this.

Freitag explained that during the consultation process, they received an anonymous letter from a postdoc who revealed that they had to “decide to pay for their rent or eat” as a result of their position.

The postdoc also disclosed that they were unable to take the bus to work as it was too expensive, and began looking into potentially visiting a food bank. However, the postdoc ran into obstacles in their search.

“The AMS food bank, although open to undergraduate and graduate students, isn`t actually open to postdocs,” Freitag said.

Freitag added that in addition to winning most of their demands in the new collective agreement, they also won the right for postdocs to access the AMS food bank.

This was a result of the PSAC 901 union making a donation to the AMS food bank of over $1700.

PSAC local 901 President, Craig Berggold, told The Journal that postdocs now have access to Queen’s Family Health Team as part of their new collective agreement, which allows them immediate access to a family doctor.

“More than half of postdocs are international students who are only here on one and two year contracts. The waiting list for doctors in Kingston is a long time,” Berggold said.

Berggold also explained that this is the first union contract in Canada to include childcare benefits for postdoctoral researchers.

“What postdocs will now achieve is childcare benefits similar to the benefits that faculty at Queen’s University have which is $2,000 per child, per year,” Berggold said.

Postdocs will also have their minimum salary raised from $32,174 per year to $34,900 by June 30, 2019.

“Queen’s University should be pleased to be setting the standard and we challenge all the other universities with postdocs to do the right thing now,” Berggold said.

“This new contract is one of the best contracts in Canada.”

Corrections

While post docs voted to strike, it did not take place before the bargaining process was finished. 

The Journal regrets the error.

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