The University has cancelled its last scheduled conciliation meeting with The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) — a move that is gearing post-doctoral fellows for a strike.
The meeting, which was set to be held between PSAC 901 — Unit 2 and the University on Thursday afternoon, was set to end 18 months of negotiations over securing benefits for post-doctoral fellows at the University.
Currently, post-docs at the University aren’t guaranteed wage security, nor are they given access to benefits provided to other full-time employees, like dental coverage, regular wage increases and child-care benefits.
Last week, over 200 post-doctoral fellows voted on a strike mandate, 92 per cent of which voted in favour.
According to Abdi Ghaffari, a post-doc at the University’s Cancer Research Institute and a sitting member of the negotiating team, the provincially-appointed conciliation officer was informed by representatives from the University Wednesday night that they wouldn’t be attending the scheduled appointment.
The cancellation was allegedly announced to gain more time to consider PSAC’s contract proposal, Ghaffari said. University representatives neglected to schedule a follow-up meeting, he also said, adding that the decision to strike or lock-out will be made on Tuesday following consultation with fellow members.
The cancellation follows a contract proposal put forward by the University which would have provided dental coverage to post-docs in 2015 — a measure Ghaffari referred to as “unacceptable.”
The proposal, which Ghaffari declined to specify, also denied wage increases until 2017.
Ghaffari said the proposal was rejected on the grounds that the proposed benefits wouldn’t be immediately accessible.
“I don’t think there’s any precedence for a contract for this … you’ll delay a benefit that everybody else enjoys full-time on campus and you take that to your members and have to say you’ll have wait two years for this,” he said.
Prior to its dismissal, PSAC representatives put forward a proposal for a grievance procedure policy, which would provide job security for post-docs following any claims of harassment
“We were expecting to see [another] proposal from them on our last day, but unfortunately they cancelled it,” Ghaffari said.
Post-docs at Queen’s, which unionized with PSAC in 2011, are one of three universities in Canada to be represented by unions, the others being Western University, McMaster University and the University of Toronto.
“There is a national crisis when it comes to work conditions for post-docs,” Ghaffari added.
“There’s no standard system for what post-doc contract should look like, and that’s part of the reason why we’ve seen this unionization drive in Canada.”
Dan Bradshaw, associate vice-principal of faculty relations, said the conciliation meeting will be continued at a later date.
“The parties did not meet today, however, talks with the assistance of a provincially-appointed conciliator, are still ongoing,” he said in an email statement to the Journal, on Thursday.
“The university continues to work towards arriving at an agreement.”
According to Sharon DeSousa, regional executive vice-president for PSAC Ontario, the University’s reluctance to accommodate PSAC’s requests hasn’t changed since negotiations began in April 2012.
“Their stance throughout has been very much in regards to ‘no’,” she said, adding that post-
docs are vital for the University’s academic community.
“They undertake advanced research like cancer research … we’re talking about saving lives and [they’re] talking about spending 18 months in negotiations.”
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