November 8, 2017 1:43 pm
Updated: November 8, 2017 3:10 pm

Teaching assistants at Queen’s University treated as ‘second-class’: union

It's not just college faculty locked in a contract dispute. The Union representing teaching assistants at Queen's University is heading into conciliation talks. The Public Service Alliance says its members are being treated as "second-class" employees. Morganne Campbell explains.

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The union representing teaching assistants and fellows at Queen’s University says it’s tired of their members being treated as second-class employees.

“It’s insignificant, it’s unfair, we want better equity treatment,” Craig Berggold, president of local 901 of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).

PSAC represents 2,000 employees at the university and has been negotiating a new contract since April. The union would like to see improvements to health care and child-care benefits.

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According to Berggold, staff juggle supporting families on a reduced income while they pursue their graduate work and the union wants the university to make fair contributions to those benefits to bring them in line with what other employee groups are getting.

“As soon as they make a contribution I think we’ll have a deal.But until that time we have to stand up for our members who are most in need,” said Berggold.

Both sides will be heading into conciliation in the upcoming weeks and the university says it’s working to negotiate a fair contract with the union.

“Once a conciliator has been appointed we can then organize meetings and conclude our collective bargaining which is what the university intends to see happen,” explained Dan McKeown of faculty relations at Queen’s.

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Some teaching assistants say they want the same benefits as other “gold plate” employees at the university who receive child-care costs covered. Union members currently receive $500 per semester to help shoulder daycare costs.

“We just make things work with what we have for this duration of time.” explained teaching assistant Agnieszka Chalas. She and her husband both work at the university and have a four-year-old son.

The union was successful in negotiating child-care benefits for post-doctoral students, working beyond a doctors degree in its most recent collective agreement last year. They’re hoping for the same result this time around.

No new talks have been scheduled.

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