A labour dispute between Queen’s University and PSAC 901, the union representing grad student workers, has come to an end.
The two sides reached a new tentative agreement on February 19, with the union securing several of the demands that were presented ahead of their February 14th strike mandate vote.
This week, PSAC 901 President Astrid Hobill says Queen’s University’s bargaining team sent written confirmation that they agree to the terms of the ratification package, and the three year collective agreement will run until April 30, 2024.
Highlighting the changes coming are a new preamble that will include a land acknowledgement, mandatory paid training on sexual violence and anti-racism, a mental health and hardship fund, a professional development fund, and new language to help ensure grad student workers are compensated more fairly for the time they put in.
Hobill highlighted the mental health and hardship fund as a very important get for PSAC 901.
The fund makes an additional $120,000 available to members to help support mental health and psychological well being.
Hobill says while she and fellow members are happy to see it included, mental health services both at Queen’s and at all workplaces throughout the province still are in dire need of improvement.
“Getting this fund does not mean that that is sufficient and that is enough, it will definitely help alleviate the most acute issues but it is far from doing everything,” Hobill said.
“All employers should be including mental health as a strong priority and there should be more done to make sure there are councillors and things available for all workers across the province, and the province itself should be investing far more into mental health and making sure its available for Ontarians.”
Hobill said that by and large, members are happy to have a more fair agreement in place and are looking forward to working under the new collective agreement.
However she added that an area the agreement wasn’t able to tackle that continues to be a growing problem is affordable housing.
“I think the one area where everyone wishes we could have done more was in order to try and figure out affordable housing for graduate students because it is becoming a bigger issue especially within Kingston with the huge rising costs,” Hobill said.
“That is one thing where we recognize that’s a fight that we still definitely have ahead of us as a union and just kind of as Kingstonian citizens.”
Union members will see 1% wage increases over each year of the collective agreement, in line with Bill 124.