Thursday, September 09, 2004


Having written in support of labour unions on Monday, I found myself walking into a labour organization campaign on my new university campus on Tuesday.

Queen's University remains one of the few universities in Onatrio that does not have unionized teaching assistants. However, this is not for a lock of trying on the part of Queen's graduate students. As I have only been a Queen's student for a week I don't yet have all of the details, but this is the situtation as I understand it:

Last year the graduate students of Queen's attempted to form a T.A union under the Canadian Union of Public Employees. A year long campaign of organization and signing up members became bitterly contested with the university administration. As the day of the vote was nearing, the administration promised the T.As a 30 percent increase in pay in an attempt to sway people from voting in favour of unionization.

Hoever, the ballots from the unionization vote where never counted because the university successfully challenged its validity. They claimed that not enough T.As had signed cards based on lists of T.A compiled by the university. The T.As claim that the university's list was incomplete; for example, that it excluded every gradauate student in the department of biochemistry. Such tactics on behalf of management are not uncommon in unionization drives.

Further, the 30 percent pay increase promised by the university was offered in bad faith, as it now appears they never inteded actually increase the amount of money available for graduate students. The money for the pay increase was simply re-allocated from other sources of graduate student funding, meaning that departments actaully have less money to offer students and that those who do not receive T.A positions have less funding available to them.

Nevertheless, the campaign to organize is continuing at Queen's this year. I have already signed my union card and it appears that the history department is a centre of the organization drive. I hope to be able to add a sixth item to my list of things that will hopefully change over the course of my M.A studies: Unionization of Queen's University T.As.

Posted by Matthew @ 10:14 p.m.