On Sept. 23, the Society for Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) hosted a town hall meeting to provide students with an open forum to ask questions about teaching assistant and teaching fellow unionization.
The speakers at the town hall included Sean Tucker, PhD ’09 and SGPS vice-president internal (graduate), Andrew Stevens, PhD ’10 and TAFA organizer, Selvakumar Kandasamy, representing UWO graduate teaching assistant’s union and Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) organizer Christopher Wilson.
SGPS President Jeff Welsh, PhD ’09, said Janice Deakin, dean of graduate studies and research, declined an invitation to attend the town hall on behalf of Queen’s administration and faculty.
Welsh said under the Ontario Labour Relations Act, employers cannot interfere when employees campaign to form a union.
“Rod Morrison, vice-principal (human resources) issued a statement of neutrality in July,” he said. “The decision whether or not to form a union is made by members of the bargaining unit. Given legal restrictions, [Janice Deakin] wouldn’t be able to say much.” Welsh said the town hall clarified questions students had regarding the possible negative outcomes of unionization.
“Someone [at the town hall] commented that science students tend to be less quick to sign union cards. I think this is due to a lack of information,” he said. “In many science departments, RAships are more common, so students ask questions about the value of a union to them.”
Welsh said he also extended an invitation for the town hall to an anti-TA and TF unionization Facebook group created by Queen’s graduate students.
“I posted a note asking them to bring their questions to the town hall,” he said.
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