Graduate & professional students ratify collective agreement

University District

AAC Academic Grievance Centre

PSAC 901 Union president says membership ‘overwhelmingly’ voted in favour of new deal

PSAC President Craig Berggold outside a negotiation meeting last week.

Ever since a previous collective agreement between Queen’s and Public Service Alliance Canada Local 901 (PSAC) expired in April, the two parties have spent the past few months negotiating a new deal. On Dec. 20, PSAC 901 reached a tentative agreement with the University. 

PSAC 901 President Craig Berggold told The Journal graduate and professional students voted on Jan. 25 and 26 “overwhelmingly” in support of the agreement. After five ratification meetings, Berggold said he’s “very pleased with the membership’s turnout.”

According to a union press release, “the union represents approximately 1500 TAs and TFs who work in the classrooms, conferences, tutorials and laboratories” and “negotiations and conciliation over eight months led to progressive gains.” 

The new four-year agreement contains multiple contract changes for teaching assistants (TAs) and teaching fellows (TFs). Berggold said the new agreement “puts a lot more money into TA and TF pockets.” 

“Over the course of the new contract, the TA hour will increase from $39.31 to $42.72. The TF contracts will increase from $7,803 per course, to $8,480 per course over the four years,” he said. 

Berggold explained a central goal of negotiations was trying to achieve parity with other part-time workers on campus.

“We have come much closer to that. We will now receive the same health and dental benefit contribution as other part-time workers,” Berggold said.

PSAC’s press release noted this agreement almost triples benefits contributions for its members, leading to a significant increase in their pay cheques. Indeed, the new deal provides an increase in the University’s health and dental contributions for TAs and TFs, rising from $120,000, to $350,000. 

The deal also provides paid training outside of TA and TF contracts. 

“In the past, those training hours were often paid inside of a contract,” Berggold explained. “For example, if you had a 100-hour contract, you would have to do the five or six hours of training, so you would have less time to do your marking or your tutorial.”

Another area where the union made gains was in the amount of paid sick time provided to TAs and TFs. 

“If you are a TA or a TF and you get sick, you [now] don’t have to make up those hours, you can claim up to nine hours of sick time that is paid,” Berggold remarked.

Though PSAC progressed during this round of collective bargaining, Berggold explained childcare benefits — though considered a high priority by members — weren’t met in this agreement. 

“We were not able to win that in this contract. The employer said the reason why is no other part-time workers on campus receive childcare benefits,” Berrgold said.

Berggold explained that of PSAC’s 1,500 members, five per cent have children. He said PSAC needs to “build a coalition of part-time workers on campus to fight for this,” as he believe it’s “not something we think we can win on our own.” 

“Local 901 needs to work with other part-time workers on campus to demand that in the future, and as soon as possible, so that all workers with children receive benefits and that part-time workers’ children are just as important as full-time workers’ children,” Berggold said.

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Corrections

The headline has been updated to reflect the story. 

The Journal regrets the error.

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