As you know PSAC local 901 is striving to increase public awareness about the precarious conditions of academic workers, while at the same time supporting other important causes. Here is an update on some of our activities.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: stopping the deportation of activist Gina Bahiwal
On January 8, 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a town-hall style interactive meeting at Kingston City Hall. President Craig Berggold and Vice-President (Postdocs) Silja Freitag attended. On September 30, 2016, PSAC local 901 hosted the Freedom Harvest Caravan, which stopped in Kingston to raise awareness of injustices faced by temporary foreign workers with no path to citizenship. We were recently made aware of the imminent deportation of temporary foreign worker and grass roots activist Gina Bahiwal. At the town-hall meeting we met with Prime Minister Trudeau and he recommended that to help Gina, we should send a letter of support directly to the Prime Minister’s Office, via Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerrettsen. We are very pleased that Gina’s deportation order was over-turned coincidently the day after talking to the Prime Minister and two days before her deportation date. For more information about activist Gina Bahiwal, see www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/01/13/champion-of-migrant-workers-gets-last-minute-reprieve-from-deportation.html and www.harvestingfreedom.org
The Honourable Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris MPP (Hamilton) and the Honourable Sophie Kiwala MPP (Kingston and the Islands): Affordable Childcare
Easily accessible, affordable childcare empowers women and families to make childcare decisions that work for them. Unfortunately, Canada has some of the highest childcare costs in the world (see http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/oecd-child-care-costs-1.3815954 for more information). Equity Officer Tamara Jamaspishvili and Vice-President (Postdocs) Silja Freitag attended the Government of Ontario’s Consultation on Early Years and Child Care Strategy town-hall meeting January 17 at St. Lawrence College. We directly voiced our concerns about the rising costs and low accessibility of childcare in Ontario. We stressed the importance of increasing affordable, quality childcare spaces in Kingston to Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris and Sophie Kiwala. The event was also an excellent opportunity to interact with members of the Kingston Community who were not previously aware of the struggles PSAC local 901 members with access to affordable quality childcare.
The Honourable Mark Gerretsen: Postdoc issues, salaries and more
At a meeting with MP Mark Gerretsen P.C., M.P. in the fall of 2016, he advised President Craig Berggold and VP (Postdocs) Silja Freitag to write letters to the Minister of Science, to discuss some of the important issues facing Postdoctoral Scholars at Queen’s University and elsewhere. He assured us that he would write cover letters for us and personally ensure that our letters reached the appropriate Ministers. In the letters we included our concern about near poverty line postdoc salaries for the 25% of Queen’s Postdocs on or close to the minimum salary of $31,175, so low that they do not allow for a life in dignity, some going to the Foodbank while struggling with massive student debts and intolerable childcare costs. Our letter spelled out the poor training and career choices for Postdocs and asked the Canadian Government to increase research funding and provide jobs for trained researchers in Canada. We sent three letters to the Honourable Kirsty Duncan (Minister of Science), P.C., M.P., the Honourable Navdeep Bains P.C., M.P. (Minister of Science and Innovation) and the Honourable Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P. (Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour) and are hopeful to hear from the ministries soon.
Fight for Phoenix
Vice-President of Community Relations Lesley Jamieson has been supporting regional PSAC members who are demanding a resolution to the Phoenix pay system problems that still affect thousands of workers. Lesley regularly joins regional PSAC members who have been demonstrating in front of the Honourable Mark Gerretsen’s office. A persistent group of workers supporters, including regional PSAC members, gather at the office after every pay-day, sending a strong message: fix the Phoenix pay system now.
Fight for 15 and Fairness
In the Spring of 2016, Vice-President of Community Relations Lesley Jamieson organized the first Fight for 15 canvassing session in Kingston, calling for both a $15 minimum wage for workers in Ontario, but also a number of desperately needed reforms to the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act which would provide universal benefits such as paid sick days to all Ontario workers and ensure that present undue barriers to the unionization of precarious workers are removed so that workers can fight more effectively for improved working conditions. Since then, Lesley has worked to build a committed group of activists to continue this work, forming the Kingston chapter of Fight for 15 and Fairness. Thus far, the chapter has held numerous canvassing sessions on campus and throughout the wider Kingston community, hosting workshops, a film screening, supporting the Harvesting Freedom caravan of migrant workers, attending the Rally for Decent Work in Toronto, and lobbying the local MPP, the Honourable Sophie Kiwela.