November 22, 2017
For Immediate Release:
Condom Campaign Launched to Protect Teaching Assistants at Queen’s University
Kingston, ON – Queen’s University’s 2,000 Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Fellows (TFs) are bargaining for a new collective agreement. A Ministry of Labour conciliator has been appointed, as face-to-face negotiations have stalled.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Local 901 has launched a Union Protection Campaign to defend members as they appeal to the employer for childcare benefits and an improved health and dental plan.
“Affordable childcare is difficult for most working families, and even more difficult for graduate student employees in debt,” says Jamie Mckenzie-Naish, a teaching assistant with two young children. Kingston childcare expenses are $1100/month per child (Living Wage Canada 2016).
Most employee groups at Queen’s University have childcare benefits and significant employer contributions to a health and dental plan. TAs and TFs have no employer supported childcare benefits. Additionally, they are the only employee group at Queen’s University that subsidizes their own health and dental benefit plan, with a $568 yearly fee. TAs and TFs are demanding fairness and equity.
“Raising a young family while pursuing a graduate degree and also working as a Teaching Assistant brings with it extreme financial precarity,” states Mckenzie-Naish.
Teaching Assistants and Fellows need union protection, and PSAC Local 901 will be handing out free condoms available from their Local union office, located in Robert Sutherland Hall Room 547. The condoms have been printed with the slogan “Teaching Assistants need Union Protection,” to highlight the bargaining issues around benefits.
The Collective Agreement expired on April 30, 2017, between Queen’s University and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Local 901. Negotiations have reached an impasse and the Ontario Labour Relations Board has appointed a conciliator and the parties will meet on December 19 and 20, 2017.
In the Spring of 2017, PSAC Local 901 Teaching Assistants and Fellows voted on bargaining demands. TA/TF demands reflect the precarious nature of our short-term contracts. Recognizing that childcare and health & dental benefits are fundamentally equity issues, members unanimously approved a proposal for a new childcare bursary or benefits paid by Queen’s University and to increase employer contributions to the health and dental benefits plan.
Childcare benefits are available to other employees through Queen’s University. Full-time faculty also have an excellent health and dental benefits plan, while Queen’s currently contributes less than 1% of total costs for TAs and TFs (approx. $60 per member). Teaching Assistants and Teaching Fellows are vital for undergraduate education at the university. However, by not extending appropriate benefits to TAs and TFs, Queen’s is sending the message that we are second-class employees.
Childcare Benefits are very important to PSAC Local 901 members and they currently contribute $20,000 of union membership dues for a union-supported Childcare Bursary distributed to TAs and TFs most in need of financial assistance.
For more info: see Bargaining Team Communique #4
Download media release Condom Campaign Media Release-Nov_22_2017