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Bargaining Updates

Dec 15, 2023: University claims up to 65% of graduate workers provide an essential service!

Prior to the last session of bargaining, the Union was informed that the University opposes the GLU’s request for an Essential Services Agreement (ESA) exemption. Essential services are work duties that “if interrupted, would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the public” or “are necessary to the maintenance and administration of the rule of law or public security”1. An essential service agreement, (ESA) or ESA exemption must be in place prior to filing for formal mediation, which is the last required step before initiating a strike or lockout vote. As negotiations between GLU and the University of Calgary have reached an impasse, having an ESA in place is a crucial step to move forward.

The GLU had requested an exemption to require an ESA, as we assert that no graduate workers are essential. This is consistent with the Collective Agreement at the University of Lethbridge, which specifically indicates that graduate assistants (whose positions and descriptions are nearly identical to those at the University of Calgary) do not perform essential services.

From the recent ESA case management meeting, the University of Calgary contends that TAs in units that make up over 65% of graduate teaching assistantships have been identified as potentially “essential” by the university of Calgary. In most instances, the TAs have been deemed essential because they perform a safety role in labs. It would seem as though in the event of a graduate worker strike; course instructors could be compelled to expose students to hazardous materials or equipment and that as a result, only graduate workers can ensure student safety. The GLU’s stance is if its teaching assistants are on strike, then these labs requiring TA supervision should not be held as they are not essential. The University also asserts that TAs are expected to provide essential mental health services to undergraduate students. The GLU firmly maintains this work is entirely outside the scope of a graduate worker under our Collective Agreement.

Some research assistantship (RA) positions have also been classified as essential by the employer. These assertations indicate that RAs contribute to programs that broadly benefit society; however, they fail to meet the threshold of essential work. The other assertions are that specific RAs are performing work that again GLU believes falls firmly outside the scope of the position (and no such work has been found on any of the duties forms of these RAs).

GLU believes that the University of Calgary is taking an overly generous approach to assigning “essential duties” of its workers, to avoid what should be a simple exemption process. For comparison, ESAs have been negotiated with several faculty associations in Alberta (ULeth, UofA, Mount Royal, Red Deer College) where the list of essential workers has been restricted to emergency response, counsellors of at-risk clients, oversight of nuclear or biohazardous materials, and administrative staff with responsibilities related to these critical functions. Graduate Assistants do not perform work of this critical nature found on these lists.The GLU is extremely disappointed (but not surprised) by the University of Calgary’s response.

The GLU will continue to contest the University’s stance and maintain course to get an ESA exemption. This will allow the GLU to proceed to mediation with the employer, and hopefully get the best possible deal for you, our members, that reflects your needs.

In Solidarity,

Your AVP Labour, Hunter Yaworski

1. Alberta Labour Relations Code, Section 95.1

Nov 24, 2023: Virtual Bargaining Requested by U of C Proves Pointless

In the last bargaining update, the Graduate Labour Union (GLU) team informed you that we had reached a critical juncture in our negotiations with the University of Calgary. Due to the lack of progress at the bargaining table, the team decided to pursue an essential service agreement (ESA) exemption in anticipation of filing for mediation.  However, at the urging of the employer team, we agreed to engage in one more day of bargaining while pursuing our ESA exemption.

Given that the Employer had made the last offer in bargaining, the union agreed to table a comprehensive counter to the employer’s last package as a good faith gesture.  Our goal in this bargaining session was to provide the employer with an opportunity to improve their offer and withdraw their concessionary demands. We decided to come back to the table at their urging after we had determined that we were at impasse, and that we would need the pressure that comes with formal mediation to move towards a fair deal for our members.

Unfortunately, our good faith gesture, like the day of virtual bargaining itself, proved pointless. The employer countered our package with one that failed to address most of our outstanding demands while maintaining their demands for concessions. With our members in mind, the Union team easily determined that we would stay the course, continuing to pursue our ESA exemption as a prelude to filing for formal mediation. The tense and patronizing exchange that followed our announcement to the employer only served to confirm the need to proceed to formal mediation upon receiving our ESA exemption. 

There are still many points of contention in bargaining, such as:

  • Union demands for flexibility to reschedule work for religious observance like other employees on campus.
  • Union demands for constraints on the number of hours members can be required to work in a week. 
  • Union demands for economic improvements that reflect steep cost of living increases in Calgary and a lack of wage increases for over 6 years, along with protections to prevent departments from clawing those gains back from other funding sources. 
  • A concessionary demand by the employer that allows departments to extend a contract into the next term. 
  • An employer proposal to create a new position that, as proposed, could replace many GAT appointments with casual positions at the RA wage rate.
  • A series of concessionary demands that would make it harder for the Union to know about and protect its members.

Mediation is a crucial step in the negotiation process, providing a platform for impartial intervention and assistance in reaching an agreement. Under Alberta law, if formal mediation proves unsuccessful, we will have the option to take a strike vote following a mandatory cooling-off period. This underscores the significance of this upcoming mediation phase. This is the next step towards potential job action if an agreement is not reached, and it is not taken lightly. This represents a crucial shift in our organizing, as we aim to show the University its membership wants and deserves a fair deal. The GLU is prepared to fight for the best agreement possible, and is emboldened, not intimidated, by the prospect of mediation and possible job action to follow.

Your continued dedication and support is our strength at the bargaining table. Together, we will continue our fight for a fair and equitable agreement that reflects the needs of graduate workers. 

The ESA exemption process will begin with a case management conference on December 7th.  We will provide an update  soon after. 

Your GLU Bargaining Team: 

Allan Lyons 

Kaylee MacLean 

Hunter Yaworski, AVP Labour 

John Eustace, PSAC Negotiator

Oct 12, 2023: Union Agrees to One More Day of Virtual Bargaining before Filing for Mediation

The Graduate Labour Union Negotiating Team of the GSA met with the University of Calgary Team for its seventh bargaining session on 2-4 October.  During the last face-to-face meeting on October 4th the union team indicated that we would be filing for mediation given the lack of progress at the table, at the urging of the employer team, the union has agreed to a day of virtual bargaining to give the employer an opportunity to improve their latest offer.

It was the employer’s turn to provide the union with a package at the beginning of the bargaining session, and they did so.  At the end of our session in September, the union had expressed frustration with the employer’s comprehensive offer, which maintained on many of their concessionary demands while also failing to address many union demands.  What followed was a frank discussion during which the union tried to explain its positions on many outstanding issues, ending with a commitment from the employer to provide a counter based on that enhanced understanding.  The employer followed through and provided a counter with some important moves.

The union team acknowledged the Employer’s move and responded in kind, making a counter proposal of our own in which we conditionally withdrew some significant union demands and moderated our monetary ask in an effort to reach an agreement.  At that point, the union team remained hopeful that an agreement could be reached during the bargaining session.

The counter the union received from the university on the last day, however, while containing some improvements, was nowhere close where the union felt it needed to be if we were to reach an agreement.  The union did a thorough review of the Employer’s package with an eye to how they were addressing union demands as well as withdrawing their concessions.  In the end, after enumerating the number of demands that weren’t met and the number of concessions that remained, the team determined that we remained too far apart and that we were going to need the assistance of a neutral third party if we were going to reach an agreement. We then met with the employer team and told them of our intention to file for mediation.

Mediation is a service offered through the Alberta Ministry of Jobs, Economy, and Trade. When one party in a labour dispute files for mediation, the Director of Mediation Services appoints a provincial mediator who brings the parties together to assist them in reaching an agreement (provided certain conditions have been met). Mediation is also an important step towards a potential job action. Under Alberta law, if mediation fails, the union will be in a position to take a strike vote following a cooling off period.

After hearing of our intention to file for mediation, the University team took some time to caucus before proposing that we meet for one more day in a virtual bargaining session in the very near future to try to resolve our issues.  The union team considered their request, and ultimately agreed to do so.  In essence, the team sees this as a final opportunity for the university to withdraw their concessionary demands and reach an agreement that both parties can live with.  Failing that, we will proceed to filing for mediation and prepare to mobilize our members for a strike vote and job action, if necessary.

One important step in these preparations is already under way. After the last bargaining session, the union applied for an Essential Services Agreement Exemption. An Essential Services Agreement or Exemption is a legal precondition of the appointment of a mediator in Alberta.  In applying for an exemption, the union is asserting that should graduate student employees at the university withhold their labour through a strike there would be no significant threat to the public health and safety. It seems obvious that that would be the case for graduate student employees. The university was given until October 4th to respond to the union’s application but requested an extension, which the Labour Board granted.  At this point, we can only anticipate that they will contest the union’s application for an exemption, though on what grounds, we do not know.

In the coming days, expect more outreach from union representatives. We’ll be looking for you to show your support and to show the university that you want a fair collective agreement,  with no concessions that addresses your needs.  There will also be opportunities to volunteer and contribute to our efforts.

Stay tuned for future communications.  You are our strength at the table!

In solidarity,

Your GSA Bargaining Team
Allan Lyons
Kaylee MacLean
Hunter Yaworski, AVP Labour
John Eustace, PSAC Negotiator

Sept 19, 2023: Union Puts it all on the Table

The Graduate Labour Union (GLU) Negotiating Team of the GSA met with the University of Calgary Team for its sixth bargaining session on the 13th and 14th of September.  While the Union team followed through on its decision to put everything on the table in the hopes of accelerating the pace of bargaining, we are disappointed to report that we made no progress during the two-day session.

As discussed in our last bargaining update, the Union team was determined to accelerate the pace of bargaining by tabling its monetary demands during this session.  We did so on the morning of the first day.  The team had four goals in putting everything on the table now: we wanted to get money on the table so that we could begin to address the financial needs of our members; we wanted to move the Employer team to address some of the demands they had deferred to discuss until they saw our monetary demands; we wanted to pressure them to back off on their concessionary demands by showing them that a deal was possible if they did; and finally, in the same vein, we wanted to give them a reason to work with us to find ways forward on articles where we seemed to be at impasse. 

The Union’s monetary package was informed by the fact that Graduate Assistants at the U of Calgary have not seen an increase to their wages since 2017.  As you all know, while Graduate Assistant wages have been frozen, the cost of living has not. In fact, our members have been dealing with inflationary pressures that Canadians have not seen in a generation.  Couple that with the housing crisis in Calgary, and you get a picture of real financial hardship.

To address this situation, the Union team tabled an ambitious monetary package as part of a comprehensive offer on all outstanding issues.  The Union’s initial monetary demands are summarized below:

  • Three-year agreement with the following general economic increases
  • GATs/GANTs
    • 8.4% increase for an inflation adjustment in Year 1
    • 3% general increase in each year of the agreement
    • Markers/Graders and Student Writing Tutors to retain the hourly equivalent of GATs and GANTs
  • GARs
    • $3.97/hour increase to the minimum as a market adjustment to catch with the provincial average in Year 1
    • The creation of a new GA Fund of $200,000/year to address GA financial needs
    • The creation of a GA Travel Fund of $100,000/year to support conference travel
    • A $100/month housing allowance of all GAs
    • Fund for Servicing the Collective Agreement equivalent to 10 Full GA-ships

While the team is aware that these demands provide increases significantly higher than the pattern of increases negotiated in the province, we also know that the pattern will not address our members’ pressing needs.

The University responded with a comprehensive package of their own that included their monetary offer. A summary of the University’s response follows:

  • Two-year Deal
    • 2.5% increase to GATs, GANTs, and the minimum GAR, effective 30 days from ratification
    • Grader/Markers and Student Writing Tutors to receive the minimum GAR rates
    • No retroactivity

As part of their comprehensive offer, the Employer maintained all of their concessionary demands and failed to address in a significant way the outstanding proposals that had been deferred to monetary.

Some of these concessionary demands include:

  • Reduction in grader/marker and student writing tutor pay and reduction to their rights under the agreement – including access to arbitral jurisprudence
  • Taking away Union safeguards that make our members more vulnerable
  • Removing templates for letters of appointment and AOAD’s
  • Union rights to know when our members have been disciplined

Needless to say, the Union team was very disappointed in the University’s offer, which failed to address the needs of our members.  The team caucused after receiving the proposal to determine how best to move forward.  We decided to return to the table with a counter proposal that mirrored the University’s: it contained some movement, but very little.  We also expressed our frustration with their package and indicated we would be exploring our options for establishing an Essential Services Agreement or Exemption.  This is required if we are to invoke provincial mediation, an important step towards potential job action.  In essence, we were communicating the fact that we were no longer hopeful of reaching a negotiated agreement without the help of provincial mediation.

What followed was one of the longest face-to-face meetings and the frankest discussions the team has had with the Employer team during the round. By the end of the discussion, the University team committed to tabling a counter at the beginning of the next session.  It seems likely that we will either reach a deal or impasse during the next session.  We remain hopeful for the former, but we will continue to prepare for the latter.

Stay tuned for an update after the next bargaining session at the beginning of October.

In solidarity,

Your GSA Bargaining Team
Hunter Yaworski, AVP Labour/GLU Chair
Allan Lyons
Kaylee MacLean
John Eustace, PSAC Negotiator

Sept 8, 2023: GLU and University Consider Ways to Accelerate Pace of Bargaining

After a two-month summer break, the GLU negotiating team met with the University of Calgary team for its fifth bargaining session in August.  The union team was joined for the first time by the GSA AVP Labour/GLU Chair, Hunter Yaworski.  Big thanks to former team member Michael Connolly, who has moved on to pursue a PhD at another university after completing his Masters at the U of C.

While the teams made a little progress on the outstanding issues during the two-day session, both teams expressed a desire to accelerate the pace of bargaining.

In our last bargaining update, the union team identified a number of articles on which we were at impasse.  We also highlighted a number of articles where we seemed to be approaching impasse.  And finally, we reported that we had agreed to reserve discussion on several articles because the Employer felt they had financial implications and should be reserved for monetary negotiations. 

Both sides acknowledge that there are a significant number of issues to resolve, particularly given the fact that we have been in bargaining since January.  And both sides expressed a desire to accelerate the pace of bargaining.  The question is how do to so, given the number of articles at which we seem to be at impasse, and given the number of articles that seem to have monetary implications.   

After some deliberation, the Union team has decided the best way to accelerate the pace of bargaining at this juncture is to put everything on the table.  We indicated to the Employer that we would be tabling our monetary proposals during the next bargaining session in September. 

While we hope to see more progress once everything is on the table, the union is preparing for the possibility that we might have to put more pressure on the Employer to get you a fair deal.  Our ability to exert that pressure, should we need to do so, will depend on you, the members.   With the new term fast approaching, the Union will be reaching out to members – both new and existing – asking you to get involved and to show their support for the bargaining team.  The best way to get a fair deal that addresses member needs is to show that support.  So please stay tuned for more union communications, and get involved!

As always, we will provide an update our next session which will be next week.

You are our strength at the table!

In solidarity,

Your GSA Bargaining Team
Hunter Yaworski, AVP Labour/GLU Chair
Allan Lyons
Kaylee MacLean
John Eustace, PSAC Negotiator

May 29, 2023: Progress Stalled on a Number of Articles

The GSA Negotiating Team met with the University of Calgary Team for its fourth bargaining session on May 15-16.  While the team managed to sign off on two more articles during this session, Employment Records and Discrimination and Harassment, we continue to make very little progress on most other issues.

The union began this bargaining session by seeking clarity from the employer regarding their stance on number of union proposals that had been under discussion.  Our hope was to determine whether they were willing to move in our direction or whether we were at impasse on them.  Impasse ultimately means that both sides have moved as far as they are willing to move on a specific proposal or set of proposals. At this stage in bargaining, the teams identify issues on which they have reached impasse so that they can move onto other articles, rather than bargaining in circles. Teams typically revisit such articles at a later date to determine whether there is a way forward.

The proposals on which we are currently at impasse follow:

  • A housekeeping proposal to clarify the distinction between the unionized component of the GSA and the umbrella organization (see last bargaining update)
  • Joint Committee – the Employer refuses to have Joint Committee meetings minuted so that there is an agreed upon record of issues discussed
  • No Strikes/No Lockouts – the Employer rejects the need for such an article or for the protection it provides members who might be forced to cross a picket line
  • Academic Freedom – the Employer rejects outright the protections that academic freedom provides to all academic employees, including Graduate Assistants

When we provided a counter on Discipline on the first day of the session, the Employer signalled that we are at or close to impasse on that article as well.  While they have not clearly indicated that we are at impasse on our Workplace Accommodation and Safe Disclosure articles, they have shown no meaningful signs of engaging with our proposals on these articles.  Finally, they have indicated that many of our other proposals have monetary implications (including a proposal regarding standard statutory holidays!), and they wish to reserve further discussion of those articles for when we negotiate monetary issues.

Obviously, with the way things have been proceeding to date, at a certain point, bargaining itself may reach impasse.  And the union is preparing for that eventuality.  But our hope in the coming bargaining session is to focus on making as much progress as we can on the remaining non-monetary proposals on behalf of the membership. We also want to remind you that many of the discussed articles are well within sector rights and norms found across the sector and this province.

We have one more meeting scheduled in June before a summer break in July.  As always, we will provide an update after that session.

You are our strength at the table!

In solidarity,

Your GSA Bargaining Team
Michael Connolly
Allan Lyons
Kaylee MacLean
John Eustace, PSAC Negotiator

May 3, 2023: GLU Collective Bargaining Continues at a Slow Pace

The GSA Negotiating Team met with the University of Calgary Team for its third bargaining session on 24-25 April.  While the team managed to sign off on some minor articles during this session, we are making very little progress on many other issues. 

On the first day of bargaining, in the interest of moving things forward, the Union agreed to defer the demand to use of the term “Union” in place of “GSA” for the time being. As a result, we were able to sign off on four minor articles: Training, Information, Negotiating Procedures, and Duration. 

We seek to use the language “Union” throughout the agreement to ensure that graduate workers know they should go to the Graduate Labour Union for labour related issues, and that only the appropriately elected or appointed officials can represent graduate workers in resolving these issues.  Though the Union team has tried to explain to the university team on more than one occasion the distinction between the GSA as the umbrella organization and its Unionized component, the Employer continues to resist the use of the term “Union” in the collective agreement to describe that Unionized component.  They seem to understand we are a Union.  And they seem to understand that while all graduate students are members of the GSA, only academically employed graduate students are part of its Unionized component.  So, it is difficult to discern exactly where the Employer’s recalcitrance comes from.  Whatever the case, the Union team will continue to assert that we use the term “Union” in place of GSA where appropriate throughout the collective agreement. 

On Grievance Procedures, the main issue of contention seems to be the time limits.  The Union wants to extend the time limits members have to file grievances from 7 to 20 business days.  Twenty business days is more consistent with sector norms and gives our members and the Union time to try to conduct investigations and to try to resolve things informally before proceeding to a formal filing.  The Employer has offered to extend the time limit for filing a grievance to 10 business days, which is well below the sector norm.  At the same time, the Employer wants to extend the timelines they have to organize meetings and render decisions at each stage of the grievance, resulting in an increase in the time they have to process grievances from 21 to 30 business days.  The Union team believes Employer representatives should be able to render their decisions under the existing timelines, and it has assured the Employer that we will continue to grant reasonable requests for extensions of these timelines.  

There are several issues of contention in the Discipline article.  The Union is insisting that Graduate Assistants be given a minimum notice of two business days when required to attend any investigative or disciplinary meeting.  We are also insisting that the notice contain allegations giving rise to the meeting so that members can adequately prepare for it.  Finally, we want language to ensure that requests for extensions of this timeline are not unreasonably denied. The Employer team is insisting on a 48-hour notice period, which could be very problematic if members were given notice late in the week or on a Friday afternoon.  They are refusing to include the allegations giving rise to the meeting in the notice. They are demanding 20 days to render a disciplinary decision after the investigation (we have indicated our willingness not to unreasonably deny their requests for extensions).  And finally, they are demanding that disciplinary letters do not have to be copied to the Union, which is a standard practice. 

On the Discrimination and Harassment article, the Union wants to make it clear that members have the right to file a grievance and/or file a complaint under the university’s policy and procedures.  Our goal is to provide members with full access to arbitral jurisprudence where issues of discrimination and harassment are concerned, whether they choose to go through the University’s policy procedures first or not.  The Employer would delay recourse to arbitration until after completion of the university policy procedures.  The Union has also asserted that in cases of discrimination or harassment, the timelines for filing a formal grievance should be 12 months after the event, rather than the normal timelines for a grievance.  This would give vulnerable members who have experienced discrimination or harassment the time needed to process the events as well as time to remove themselves from vulnerable positions when supervisors upon whom they depend for GA funding are the perpetrators of the discrimination and/or harassment. While this demand aligns with the 12-month period provided by the policy, the Employer has so far refused to grant a comparable timeline for grievance purposes.  

We are providing more detail in this bargaining update than we have in previous ones because we want Union members to understand why the pace of bargaining is so slow and why we expect it to continue that way.  When an Employer won’t even accept the usage of the term “Union” in a collective agreement for a legal trade Union, you can expect to have to fight hard for every progressive change.  It is unfortunate.  But that is the way this round of bargaining is going. 

Nevertheless, the Union team continues to advance your interests at the table.  While we’re disappointed that we haven’t made more progress to date, we are not discouraged.  And we will not back down. 

We have established future bargaining dates in May and June.  Expect another update from us after each session. 

You are our strength at the table! 

In solidarity, 

Your GSA Bargaining Team
Michael Connolly
Allan Lyons
Kaylee MacLean
John Eustace, PSAC Negotiator

March 3, 2023: Second GSA Bargaining Session Productive, if Abbreviated

The GSA Negotiating Team met with the University of Calgary Team for its second bargaining session on 28 February.  While bargaining had been scheduled to take place on 27-28 February, the meeting on the 27th was cancelled due to illness.  Despite the abbreviated nature of this session, however, the Union team felt that the discussions were more productive than they had been during the first session in January.

Over the day, the teams exchanged proposals on Grievance Procedures, Discipline, Negotiating Procedures, Duration, Training, and Union Representation and Activities.  While we were not able to agree and sign off on any of these articles by day’s end, discussions were productive.  Both teams have committed to providing responses when we reconvene for bargaining on March 16th and 17th.

The Union Team was pleased with the positive tenor of exchanges during this session and hopes to continue in the same vein in future sessions.  At the same time, we are aware that there is much work to do in this round of bargaining if we are to achieve our goal of replicating some of the basic working conditions and protections offered at other universities. And there are many contentious articles yet to be negotiated.  

As always, we will provide another update after our next bargaining session in March. 

You are our strength at the table!

In solidarity,

Your GSA Bargaining Team
Michael Connolly
Allan Lyons
Kaylee MacLean
John Eustace, PSAC Negotiator

January 26, 2023: 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 inSpring/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! 

In solidarity, 

Your GSA Bargaining Team
Michael Connolly
Allan Lyons
Kaylee MacLean
John Eustace, PSAC Negotiator