Graduate Assistant Bargaining Begins on a Sour Note
The GSA Negotiating Team met with the University of Calgary Team to begin bargaining for a new Collective Agreement on 23-24 January. This first meeting, which began with an exchange of non-monetary proposals, was the culmination of several months of hard work by the Union Team and the GSA Graduate Labour Union / Labour Relations Committee (LRC).
The Union began preparing for bargaining in Spring/Summer of 2022 when it solicited input from the members through a web survey. The Negotiating Team and the LRC truly appreciate the significant level of participation and engagement from the membership during the consultation process, particularly given how busy we know all of you are.
The Union Team—consisting of graduate students Michael Connolly, Allan Lyons, and Kaylee MacLean (supported by AVP Labour Keira Gunn, PSAC Representative Rachel Stark, PSAC Researcher Silja Freitag, and PSAC Negotiator John Eustace)—held several caucus meetings to review member input, to audit the existing collective agreement by comparing it with other agreements in the Graduate Student Employee sector, and to develop a package of bargaining demands.
The Union’s full non-monetary package is attached to this update for your review, and we encourage all members to read it. It is a substantial document reflecting the input received from the membership and an agreement audit that revealed significant gaps in comparison with what is in other Graduate Student Employee agreements.
Some package highlights include:
- A significant revision of Article 5, Appointments, to ensure a more transparent process and equitable working conditions among members
- Proposals for new provisions to bring the collective agreement in line with what is standard in comparable collective agreements in the academic sector and to put the Union in a better position to support its members, including:
- A new article on Safe Disclosure, offering members protection from retaliation for whistleblowing
- Improved provisions for members who might need to file Harassment and Discrimination complaints or grievances
- A new article affording our members the right to University holidays
- New leave provisions for attending academic conferences and union training
- Clearer and more robust grievance procedures
- A new article requiring Union/Employer collaboration on Workplace Accommodation
- A new Academic Freedom article that provides members with protection to exercise their rights as academics without jeopardising their employment relationship
- Several proposals addressing member concerns about inconsistent application of the collective agreement across campus
- Incorporating letters of offer and AoAD forms into the collective agreement so that they cannot be varied without negotiation
- A proposal requiring basic training for faculty who administer the agreement
- A proposal to ensure that the Union is involved in all University-wide and departmental orientations where GA duties will be discussed
- A proposal prescribing timelines for meetings to discuss duties and responsibilities
- A strong equity theme throughout
- New leave provisions for Traditional Indigenous Practices and for victims of Domestic Violence
- A proposal to create a committee to streamline the assessment and reporting on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
- A management rights proposal to ensure that the Employer accepts its positive obligation to ensure fair, reasonable, and equitable treatment of members
While the tone of this initial session started respectfully, the Union team was ultimately disappointed with the University’s response to the Union proposals. The University’s position seems to be that it knows more about what Graduate Student Employees on campus want and care about than the team of Graduate Student Employees representing the membership at the table. They also seem to feel that the standard rights and provisions offered to Graduate Student Employees across the country aren’t wanted by or necessary for Grad Employees at the U of C. Your bargaining team disagrees.
Not surprisingly based on the University’s stance, after two days of bargaining the teams were not able to sign off on anything more substantial than a revised Contact Information page of the collective agreement. Despite the lack of progress, your bargaining team is not discouraged. In fact, the university’s condescension has hardened the team’s resolve to secure our members a fair and reasonable collective agreement that is in line with what others across the country have.
These are early days of bargaining. We can hope that the University will come to the table with an improved attitude at the next session, which has been scheduled for February 27-28. But at the same time, based on our first bargaining session, the team and the union is preparing for a tough round. Stay tuned for further communications on how you can show support for your bargaining team, and how you can show the university that you want a fair collective agreement. Your team will provide another update after our February meeting.
You are our strength at the table!
Your GSA Bargaining Team
John Eustace, PSAC Negotiator