Academic workers at University of Saskatchewan join PSAC

More than 1,100 academic workers at the University of Saskatchewan have joined the Public Service Alliance of Canada and will now benefit from improved working conditions and free collective bargaining.

The bargaining unit was certified by the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board on April 23, 2015 and comprises all registered graduate students employed by the U of S, including teaching assistants, teaching fellows, student assistants and research assistants. The academic workers voted 96 per cent in favour of joining PSAC.

Michelle Desveaux, a teaching assistant and first-time union organizer, immediately recognized the need for a union on campus. Having previously worked as a teaching assistant in a unionized environment, she noticed academic workers at U of S didn’t know where to go with their problems, were paid lower wages and weren’t given the proper training.

“I spoke with some friends who work at Carleton University and their jaws dropped when I mentioned the fact that we weren’t unionized and what our salary was.”

Desveaux said students were overwhelmingly supportive of the union and voiced many of the same concerns, including unpaid overtime, low or stagnant wages, discrimination on campus, fear of repercussions, and lack of training

Once the new local is established, she hopes to be involved on the local executive, or the bargaining team to negotiate a first contract. She knows from experience how important a union is to workers.

“In my last job, the union was very active in making people aware of their rights as an employee and demonstrating to the employer that some of their expectations were unreasonable.”

The newly organized bargaining unit will join 22,000 PSAC members in 51 other bargaining units at 24 different Canadian universities. For Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President of the PSAC Prairie Region, the success of this new unit is proof that, despite ongoing attacks from the federal government, unions are stronger than ever.

“It’s inspiring to see that, even as this federal government works to take away the rights of workers and unions in this country, workers are mobilizing, organizing, and demanding respect.”

This new bargaining unit joins a handful of others already at work on the U of S campus, including the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Professional Association of Internes and Residents of Saskatchewan, and the Administrative and Supervisory Personnel Association.