Postdocs plan strike vote

Administration says the University is focused on reaching a negotiated agreement

Post-doctoral scholars protested their salaries through messages written on Mr. Noodles packages on August 31.
Journal file photo

As of Oct. 5, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) — the union representing Queen’s post-doctoral scholars — say that Queen’s ceased contract negotiation with them. In turn, PSAC will be conducting strikes votes on Oct. 13, 14 and 17.

In an email statement, Craig Berggold, Local 901 president, wrote that Queen’s current offer is insufficient for postdocs living in states of poverty.

“They are also unwilling to extend to us childcare benefits that are comparable to other salaried employees on campus. We are struggling to pay our rent and many of us are even relying on foodbanks to make ends meet,” Berggold wrote.

There are currently 175 post-doctoral scholars working at the University, with the current minimum salary being $32,174. These individuals work full time in research and scholarship, and are often pursuing a full-time academic or research career.

Sharon DeSousa, PSAC Ontario regional executive vice-president, wrote in the statement that this issue is about treating workers fairly, with respect and dignity.

“How can Queen’s University justify receiving valuable research from its postdocs and yet condemn them to struggle on a daily basis to pay their bills?”

When contacted by The Journal, interim Associate Vice-Principal (Faculty Relations) Dan McKeown wrote that the University values the contributions of its employees and remains committed to fair and respectful collective bargaining processes.

“We believe that our most recent proposal has addressed all of the concerns raised by the union during our negotiations,” he wrote.

“Our proposal on minimum salary would ensure that post-doctoral fellows at Queen’s continue to be among the best compensated post-doctoral fellows under Canadian collective agreements.”

In his opinion, the offered childcare benefit proposal is comparable to those given to other employee groups at Queen’s. Professional development funds were also offered.

“The University has also proposed an arrangement that would provide post-doctoral fellows and their family members with direct access to a family physician in Kingston,” he wrote.

“During the most recent meeting with the union, it requested a 25 per cent increase in the minimum salary in the first year alone — far exceeding the proposal that the University had tabled.”

McKeown said that the University is focused on reaching a negotiated agreement.

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