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Queen’s grad students vote in favour of strike mandate

Grad student workers at Queen’s University have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike mandate as negotiations with Queen’s administration have hit a stand still.

Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) 901, the union which represents Graduate Teaching Assistants, Teaching Fellows, Research Assistants and Postdoctoral Scholars at Queen’s University, released a statement Tuesday saying they’ve received “certain and overwhelming support” in their continued fight for improved working conditions.

In a statement, Union President Astrid Hobill said the support from members for this strike mandate isn’t a surprise.

“Our mobilization team, our bargaining team, and our executive team have all been deeply engaged in listening to 901 membership since before we began the process of bargaining for a new collective agreement,” Hobill said.

“It’s no surprise that the membership returned an impressive strike mandate. The frustration with Queen’s lack of regard for graduate workers is palpable.”

The statement from PSAC 901 said the union would be back at the bargaining table this week, and has received an outpouring of support from groups like Queen’s AMS (undergraduate student government) and the school’s faculty association, QUFA.

With Bill 124 suppressing the ability to fight for a pay raise, PSAC 901 has turned its attention to improving life for grad student workers through elements like enhanced mental health supports, increased access to hardship funds and professional developments funds, and taking action on a number of equity related gaps that they say Queen’s has not made meaningful efforts to address.

Last week, Queen’s Director of Faculty Relations Michael Villeneuve said that “the university values the contribution of all members of the bargaining unit and remains committed to the collective bargaining process”, providing no comment on specific demands by the union but saying they are focused on reaching a fair agreement.

Hobill says members don’t feel that Queen’s has meaningfully engaged with the union’s demands.

“There’s kind of a lot of resentment about how Queen’s has not been really responsive to our demands,” Hobill said.

“I think at this moment they’re hoping that this will show Queen’s that we are all really serious about these demands and that will bring about a deal.”

Hobill says while hoping it’s not necessary, members are prepared for further action including work to rule or a work stoppage.

A return to the bargaining table was planned for Thursday and Friday.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporterhttp://ygknews.ca
Born and raised in Whitby, Ontario, Owen has been living in Kingston for about three years after starting the band Willy Nilly. Prior to that he worked at CKLB radio in Yellowknife and completed studies in Niagara College's Broadcasting program.

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