2017-2018 Executive Committee Nominations

Here are the nominations for the 2017-2018 Executive Committee Positions and Moderator. These positions will be elected on Thursday, March 30th at 6:00pm in Chernoff Room 117.

Name: Craig Berggold

Department: Cultural Studies Program

Position: President

I am enthusiastic about serving as PSAC local 901 President, and ask for your support in my re-election to continue representing for you,– the hard-working Graduate Student Teaching Assistants, Teaching Fellows and Postdoctoral Scholars making Queen’s University one of the best research and teaching institutes in Canada. During my 2016-17 term, working with the membership at Executive, Stewards’ Council, Committees, PSAC Regional Office and campus and community allies we have made significant accomplishments:

  • Ratification and renewal of the UNIT 2 Postdoctoral collective agreement, including $2000 childcare benefits/year/child comparable to other faculty; lifting the minimum salary to $34,900 (approx. 8%) by 2020 and guaranteed access to a family doctor.
  • The election of the UNIT 1 Bargaining Committee, hiring of a Bargaining Campaign Assistant and five mobilizers, the roll-out of a TA/TF Survey reaching over 30% of the membership.
  • Completion of a training policy grievance to back-pay 100s of TAs and TFs across campus for employer-mandated training hours.
  • A successful department grievance to ensure Chemistry TAs were back-paid with increases to funding packages as a result of the annual TA raise.
  • Advocating and working to ensure the successful resolution of individual members’ grievances.
  • Expanding the 2nd year of the PSAC local 901 $20000 Childcare Bursary for members most in need.
  • Hiring part-time a new Administrative Staff member to provide much needed support for membership services.
  • Completed the local’s second certified financial audit.
  • And there is much more to be done too!

Stepping forward, this term I will work hard on:

  • Mobilizing the membership to fight for a new, better Unit 1 collective agreement.
  • Negotiating the best Teaching Assistant and Teaching Fellow collective agreement in Canada for our Unit 1 members.
  • Building the Stewards Council so that every department is represented with an active, trained Steward.
  • Improving greater member participation in all of the local’s activities.
  • Raising the union’s profile with more member-to-member initiatives.
  • Organizing and providing more workshops to educate members about their working rights and the collective agreement.

I offer my extensive experience in both representing post-secondary educators’ rights and public speaking and years of fighting for social justice.

In 2014-15, I started my PhD in Cultural Studies to research precarious life, work and culture. I have been a Teaching Fellow for eight courses at Queen’s University and also a Teaching Assistant. I am currently a Teaching Fellow in the Film and Media Studies program.

Before Queen’s, I taught as a sessional instructor for ten years at Vancouver’s Emily Carr University of Art and Design, also serving as Vice-President, Faculty Association, and undergoing two-rounds of bargaining with the employer.

Building on my professional experience as a teacher, journalist, media artist, TF & TA, I would be honoured to continue contributing to the goals of PSAC local 901, advancing academic workers’ rights as human and trade union rights. I am committed to an inclusive vision working to end inequality in our institutions and society and look forward to contributing my energy, humour, knowledge and creativity to the executive team and members. Together, we can improve the learning and working conditions in our university community. TAs, TFs and Postdocs make a great contribution to this university – Our work makes Queen’s work!!

Name: Lesley Jamieson

Department: Philosophy

Position: Vice President Community Relations


Two of the goals I’ve had this past year in my capacity as VP Community Relations have been:

  • To build relationships in Kingston’s wider labour community which would benefit PSAC local 901, and
  • To help to use the platform and resources of our union to contribute to and support the wider labour movement.

1) I think that securing the help of other unions or organizations in our struggles  to improve our working lives at Queen’s, be it in the form of letters of solidarity, a presence at our rallies, or support on our picket lines, requires that we be recognized as a group who would do the same for others. This past year, I have worked hard to build relationships of this kind—I have held the PSAC local 901 flag with the commissionaires, treasury board workers, regional PSAC workers affected by the Phoenix Pay debacle, have taken on the role of secretary for the Kingston and District Labour Council and have gotten involved in the unglamorous work of bylaw revision for the PSAC Kingston Area Council. Going forward, I hope to continue to deepen and strengthen these relationships so that as our union starts bargaining in the next months, we will have the full and enthusiastic support of Kingston’s labour community.

2) The labour movement, however, cannot confine its efforts to the defensive position of supporting established unions in their bargaining efforts. If re-elected to the position of V.P. Community Relations, I would like to continue to support campaigns such as the Fight for 15 and Fairness and Make it Fair which are oriented towards fighting precarious work in Ontario. Union density is on the decline as a result of a number of loop-holds in Ontario’s labour law which have made it difficult or impossible for many workers to unionize. With a mandate from our membership, I would like to continue fighting against this trend and stand in solidarity those who are often overlooked by organized labour.

 Name: Abigail Agresta

Department: History (Postdoc)

Position: Vice President Postdoctoral Scholar

I have had the honor of serving as the Treasurer of PSAC Local 901 for the academic year 2016-2017.  Also during this year, I had the opportunity to participate (albeit briefly) in the negotiations for the new Unit 2 contract, as a member of the Bargaining Committee.  For the six years that I was a doctoral student at Yale University, I was an organizer fighting for recognition of the graduate student union there.  Now that I am experiencing a new kind of undervalued and precarious labor as a postdoc, I am excited to be an advocate for this group of workers.  My experience on the Bargaining Committee made clear both the progress we have already made, and how much remains to be done.  After winning such a great contract, I look forward to what we can accomplish next.  This is why I am running for Vice President Postdoctoral Scholars for PSAC 901.

 Name: Marshall Timmermans

Department: Chemistry

Position: Treasurer

Hi! My name is Marshall Timmermans and I’d like to gain your support for my election to the position of Treasurer for PSAC Local 901. I am a second-year PhD student in Chemistry and have been a TA for first and third year chemistry courses since I started at Queen’s. Over the past year or so, I have begun working with the Local as a member of the Collective Agreement Bargaining committee as I believe that collective action is the most important factor in preserving the rights and working conditions of teaching assistants and teaching fellows. I understand that direct involvement in the Union is the most effective way to preserve these rights.  I would like to take this passion for worker’s rights further by serving on the Executive committee of PSAC Local 901 as Treasurer.

I believe I would make an excellent candidate for Treasurer in no small part due to my varied academic and industrial career. During my undergraduate degree (in Biology & Biotechnology), I went through the Entrepreneurship Minor program through the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan, where I learned the basics of accounting and finance. During my Master’s degree (in Biology) at Concordia University I went through the Synbio Axlr8r program where I helped co-found a biotechnology start-up, Hyasynth Biologicals, which has received numerous rounds of Series A and B financing. I can tell you from first-hand experience that receiving an investment in a start-up requires having solid and thorough financial record-keeping and planning.

My experiences in science-related entrepreneurship have left me with a respect for the principles of financial accountability and planning, in addition to understanding the academic lifestyle shared by all our members. Members rightfully expect that their membership dues are being put to good use. My tenure as Treasurer would focus not only on excellent accounting practices, but on ensuring the transparency of the union’s finances for the benefit of the membership at large. To ensure these goals are met, I would like to:

  • Provide more frequent budget updates to membership at Meetings, providing quarterly budget updates in addition to the yearly update at the AGM.
  • Consult with other Executive members and members of union committees to assist in planning union activities and determining the budget for proposals.
  • Contribute towards establishing “Institutional Memory,” producing training materials so that future treasurers and financial officers can more easily understand our financial priorities and accounting practices.

Most importantly, I will work with union members and for union members in ensuring that PSAC Local 901 continues its excellent history of advocacy on behalf of its members.

In Solidarity,

Marshall Timmermans.

Name: Yagya Paudel

Department: Chemistry

Position: Co-Chief Steward (1)

I am a second year Ph. D. student in the department of Chemistry. I would like to express my keen interest for continuing my role as one of the co-chief stewards of PSAC 901. Before joining to Queen’s university, I worked as a general secretary for Canadian Union of Public employees (CUPE Local 3905) at Lakehead University where I had to deal with the rights of and related concerns of teaching assistants. At Queens’s, in the annual general meeting of 2016, I was elected as one of the co-chief stewards of PSAC Local 901. While working as a co- chief steward, I have been familiar with the different types of grievances and the stewards’ council. I came across a no. of grievances and helped to solve them with another chief steward and the president of our union. The running of the stewards’ council meeting made me close to different departmental issues through the departmental stewards. Moreover, I am aware of the rights, duties and responsibilities of the chief steward as well as the collective agreement between the employer and the employees. Further, I am also able to contribute and discuss in grievance policy, whenever required.

In future, I would like to make both the grievance process and the stewards’ council more effective by active participation and interaction with the members. I believe that there might be more issues of our members which they don’t want to bring up as the conflict between the member and the supervisor may harm to their entire career. I would like to bring and solve such issues in a friendly environment. As we are in the bargaining year, I would like to play active role in the mobilization of our departmental stewards for enabling the active participation of the members from their respective departments.

Working as a PSAC 901 co-chief steward for a year helped me to be self-organized and boosted my ability to take the initiative for the specified work. My experiences and deep interest enabled me to apply for this position. I would be very happy to continue my position as a co-chief steward of PSAC 901.

Name: Tamara Jamaspishvili

Department: Postdoctoral Scholar

Position: Equity Officer

As an Equity Officer of our local PSAC Local 901 throughout the past academic year, I was doing my best to respond to the concerns and advocate for equity-seeking groups. I have been attending regularly Stewards’ Council meetings and was chairing Social Justice Committee and Childcare Committee meetings. Starting from May 2016 I was a member of negotiation team for Unit 2 and was constantly attending every negotiation or conciliation meetings throughout the whole year. The negotiation process lasted almost 10 months and now we are in the final step to ratify our new significantly improved contracts for postdocs. Among many other issues, fighting for childcare benefits was one of the most equitable thing that needed to be resolved by employer. I am very much proud that due to our very hard and passionate work of our brilliant negotiation team, we (PSAC 901) now are the first local in Canada having the best contract for postdocs. In my every meeting with an employer, I as an equity officer was standing for and defending the rights of our members. I was specifically emphasizing the need of childcare benefits for our postdocs who are the most precarious work group at the university and are not able to pay out enormously high cost of childcare in Canada. Having my personal touching story and experience with that issue I was very passionate to ensure employer how important this benefit was for postdocs. I am very proud that we came to the agreement and now every postdoc at campus will benefit from this. As a part of the negotiation kit, we also were able to get an agreement on other equitable issues such as the minimum salary increase, access to healthcare clinic at Queen’s and more. Among non-monetary issues we also were able to strengthen the language on “no discrimination/no harassment” which now includes provisions for dealing with workplace violence. The article now lists “language” as an agreed upon prohibited ground of discrimination.

While bargaining with an employer, as a chair of Social Justice Committee and Childcare Committee we have successfully distributed the childcare bursaries for unit 1 and unit 2 members for winter, summer and fall Semester of 2016-2017 academic years. Along with using our well established formula and candidates ranking system (which takes into account gross income, number of dependents and amount spent on childcare) we always were reviewing the applications carefully to identify those in most need and allocate as much bursary amount as we could. More detailed information can be found in childcare reports for 2016-2017 year elsewhere.

During my serving on equity officer position and as a part of my portfolio I collaborated with Equity Office and Human Rights office of the University on some of equitable issues that employees and students are experiencing and we came up some potential ideas for future collaboration that I will undertake in case if I am elected. I also participated and helped to run equity-related campaigns and surveys  at our University (I COUNT,  Equial Pay Day). It would be my great pleasure to continue working on the position of equity officer and improve and strengthen equity-related atmosphere at our workplace at the University.


Your equity officer

Tamara Jamaspishvili

Name: Alexandru Sonoc

Department: Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Position: Occupational Health & Safety Officer


Greetings brothers and sisters,

It is my pleasure to run to serve again as your Health and Safety Executive. My chief responsibility as the Health and Safety Executive is to ensure that we have highly motivated safety representatives who possess all the tools and resources they need to advocate for our safety at Queen’s. When I first ran two years ago, I promised to “establish clear and transparent policies for selecting union safety representatives and to widely publicise vacancies”. Last year I promised to hire more unit 2 safety representatives. These efforts have been very successful: we have a full complement of five unit 1 safety representatives and a two unit 2 representatives (we are still looking for two more J).

Not only have I worked to find qualified safety representatives, but I have also been working to give them the tools and resources they need to better advocate on our behalf. On that point, together with the other unions, I have successfully lobbied management to provide certification training sessions. For the first time in our local’s history we now have three fully certified representatives. They have the skills and authority to make significant improvements to our safety. One has seized this opportunity and is leading the fight to improve pedestrian safety at the Faculty of Education.

Over the past year, representatives from the other unions on campus and I have worked hard to create new terms of reference for the joint health and safety committees on which our representatives serve. The terms of reference we propose would greatly expand the ability of the committees to function well, thereby improving the safety of everyone. I am one of the principal authors of the draft document so the views of PSAC901 are well represented. We are now entering negotiations with management to come up with terms of references to which both sides can agree. The work is at a critical juncture and I hope to have the privilege of continuing it.

As we enter bargaining, it will be my pleasure to provide my expertise regarding health and safety at Queen’s to the bargaining committee and bargaining team so that they may go into negotiations well-informed and be better able to fight for improved safety. I also look forward to helping, to the best of my ability, the rest of the executive with other union initiatives and to be, as I always am, a voice of sober second thought.


The following positions may be nominated on the floor during the election period of the 2016-2017 Annual General Meeting on Thursday, March 30th at 6:00pm in Chernoff Room 117.

Executive Committee Position(s):

  • Information Officer
  • Co-Chief Steward (2)

Non-Executive Committee Position(s):

  • Moderator