Bargaining between PSAC & Queen’s sees QUFA involved

PSAC 901 talks strikes in the case of deadlock 

PSAC 901 president wants solidarity on campus between undergraduate and graduate students. 

Graduate student workers at Queen’s, led by PSAC 901, have continued their bargaining efforts for increased mental health support, paid sexual violence training, and gender affirmation leave.

PSAC 901 is now working with the support of QUFA (Queen’s University Faculty Association), the union representing faculty at Queen’s. A QUFA open letter is circulating, with over 50 faculty signing on from various departments.

READ MORE: Queen’s rallies for graduate students

“QUFA encourages all its members (faculty, librarians and archivists) to consider signing this open letter [...] QUFA believes in the collective bargaining process and is optimistic that the parties will reach a negotiated agreement at the bargaining table,” QUFA President Jordan Morelli wrote in an email to The Journal.

Morelli added there’s a need in the bargaining process for parties to “discuss proposals in good faith.”

Astrid Hobill, President of PSAC 901, is “really happy to have faculty support.”

“I think especially for things like going on strike, graduate students are the most afraid of that. They think if we go on strike, we hurt not only the undergrads, but also the faculty,” Hobill said in an interview with The Journal.

Hobill said potential strikes could look very different depending on how the bargaining process continues, but the decision to strike would be a democratic one made by PSAC 901 membership. 

“We love to teach; that's why we're here. We don't want to have to stop that. But it kind of comes to a point when it's untenable, when our conditions are just too bad.”

Hobill explained that support from the AMS and QUFA means graduate student workers have felt a sense of solidarity. 

“The support that we had from the AMS in a letter before Christmas, as well as the QUFA letter, shows that we're all in this together,” she said.

READ MORE: PSAC 901 continues to advocate for improved mental health supports

Hobill added that other unions supporting graduate students across Ontario have actively supported PSAC 901. She believes a “win” at one university is a win for all graduate students.  

“Unfortunately, all across the province, graduate students know too well the precarity of being a graduate student worker and how difficult it is.”

Hobill said Queen’s is falling behind in providing undergraduate and graduate students a safe environment when it comes to mental health supports and sexual violence prevention training. 

“There's currently only one graduate counsellor for the entire graduate student body, so it means that a lot of the graduate students end up going to see the counsellors that are really meant to be for the undergrads— we're taking up time that they could be spending with undergrads,” she said. 

“If we have sexual violence prevention training, and things like anti-racism training, we are better able to negotiate those spaces, like tutorials, classrooms, and we can make everything a safer space for undergraduate students.”

PSAC 901 is not bargaining for a big salary increase in this round of negotiations. According to Hobill, Bill 124 dictates public sector workers have their salary increases capped at one per cent for three years.

“People like Michael Villeneuve, even though he's working at the university, just like us, he's considered an executive, so his pay increase last year was 8.5 per cent [...] He gets all the benefits and has big pay increases and we’re mostly living under the poverty line.”

 “Graduate workers provide so much benefit for the university,” Hobill added.

“We help the faculty; we help out the undergrads; it would be really great if [Queen’s] was able to recognize our contribution in some small ways with mental health support and equity.”

Julie Brown, Queen’s media relations officer, told The Journal “[Queen’s] stands by our Jan. 20 statement and have nothing further to add at this time.”

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