The Royal Diary: Stories from a Loyal Staff

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 This is the Diary of a Loyal Staff Member.  Chronicled on this page will be trials and triumphs as a USW member at Queen’s. Every worker is represented. While all of these stories are real, some details have been changed to ensure anonymity. 


October 12, 2016

Dear Diary:
The United Steelworkers (USW) Local 2010-01, representing Academic Assistants, and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Local 901 Unit 2, representing Postdoctoral Scholars, held a Rally yesterday (Oct 11th), on Queen’s campus in support of decent work, equity and fair bargaining at the University.

I attended this Rally and was excited to see that colleagues were joining together with our Academic Assistants, as well as the Posaa-rally-3tDocs, to remind the Employer that these workers deserve fair and equitable bargaining at the table.  Both groups of workers are struggling for decent wages, working conditions, benefits etc.

Thank you to all that joined the USW Local 2010-01 Academic Assistants yesterday in support of decent work, equity and fair bargaining at Queen’s University.

In Solidarity,
A Loyal Employee


September 21, 2014

Dear Diary:
I learnt during the last round of negotiations that there are basic rules in bargaining: come to the table prepared to talk, know the strength of the membership and their priorities, and deal with language issues before money. Language improvements, involving topics like seniority, university committees, health and safety, etc., can be made in years where money is tight, and can go a long way to building a better contract and a better relationship.

However, language proposals should rarely impact monetary proposals. This is why language is normally dealt with first, and money, such as wages and benefits, are discussed at the end of bargaining. I was shocked to learn that during the last meeting with the Employer, the Bargaining Committee was informed that there would be no movement on language, unless the dismal offer the Employer had made on money was addressed by the Union.

I know that this kind of aggressive, strong arm bargaining isn’t unusual, but it is more often seen in the industrial sector, not public sector or higher education settings! It makes me frustrated and upset to feel like we aren’t being valued fairly for the work we do.

In Solidarity,
A Loyal Employee


September 7, 2016

Dear Diary:
Today has been a frustrating day for me. I learned that the Academic Assistants, who are in the midst of bargaining a new contact, are facing the same kinds of dismissive behaviour that 2010 faced last summer. More than that, after making the bargaining team wait all day for their response – literally eight hours – the last proposal made by the Union was ignored by the Employer! John, our staff rep, said he had never seen that before in his 15 years negotiating contracts.

I feel like the Employer is taking advantage of the small size of the AAs and treating them unfairly by refusing to engage in any real talks over wage adjustments – and that’s after AAs had a wage freeze for 18 years, a $4/hour adjustment in 2012, followed by another 4 year wage freeze! All the AAs are asking for is a fair wage that is comparable to the rate received by TAs who do the same amount and type of work – currently there is $10/hour difference!

To add injury to insult, given the profitability of the University, the size and composition of the bargaining unit is such that the Employer has the means to award a decent wage rate, but instead continues to ignore the value of the work AAs do.

In Solidarity,
A Loyal Employee


June 16, 2016

Well Diary, a lot has happened in the past week. The USW 2010-01 Bargaining Committee for Academic Assistants met for two and a half days in June with the Employer and since they were not close on several key issues, a Ministry of Labour (MOL) Conciliation Officer has been called in.  I had a look at the Bargaining Reference Sheet to see what this means.  The process will keep moving forward.  I will watch for updates.

As a Member of Local 2010, I wonder how the Members of Local 2010-01 are different from us. Academic Assistants (AA’s) include “Markers” and “Tutors” who are part-time, non-student employees who generally assist a member of the academic staff in support of academic activities related to a degree credit course or program.  I am surprised to see all the duties they may be responsible for.  These include preparation for tutorials and/or lab demonstrations, preparation of written and audio visual materials, instruction, leading discussions, supervising laboratories, grading exams and assignments, consulting with students, setting up experiments, conducting field trips, travel time (exclusive of normal travel to and from the primary work site), assisting with curriculum and course material development, conferring with the non-bargaining unit supervisor/designate, as required by the work term/contract.

As the AA’s move toward their new Collective Agreement, I see that the new Collective Agreement bargained by USW 2010 and the Employer was signed on April 13, 2016.  The bargaining for this collective agreement took place over the summer and ratification took place September 2, 2015.

Electronic copies are available on the USW 2010 website for Members and printed copies can be requested from your Client Services Advisor in HR.

Yours in solidarity,
A Loyal Employee


June 6, 2016

Dear Diary:
The Academic Assistants (USW Local 2010-01) entered into bargaining to negotiate the renewal of their Collective Agreement (CA). The Proposal Document, that outlines the Union’s revisions to the CA, was presented to the Employer on June 2nd for consideration. The Proposal Document is available on the USW 2010 website.

This is the first time bargaining details of this nature (i.e. actual draft proposals submitted to the Employer), have been made available to the Members involved during the bargaining process. Traditionally, the details of the proposals have been kept confidential. This puts Members at a disadvantage given that they do not know the results of the bargaining survey and how the Bargaining Committee have presented final proposals to the Employer on their behalf.

One thing I did note is that no monetary details are provided in the Proposal Document. It appears that the Union reserves the right to submit monetary proposals of any and all types during the latter part of negotiations. This is certainly an interesting process and I will be following closely to see how things proceed for the Academic Assistants. Watch for updates!

Yours in solidarity,
A Loyal Staff Member


May 16, 2016

Dear Diary:

I am a Member of USW Local 2010 at Queen’s University.  Now that the spring weather is upon us, I have been out and about and have been able to talk more with my USW 2010 colleagues.  A lot is happening with the Local these days and I have decided to become more involved in the workings of my Union.  One of the ways to become involved and be informed is to attend the monthly Membership meetings.  The dates and locations are posted on the web site and take place over lunchtime, on alternating Wednesdays and Thursdays.  One meeting per year is held at West Campus later in the day.  Information about what is happening is presented at these meetings.  From time-to-time, opportunities to attend conferences and conventions as delegates are made available to Members.  These are great ways to become involved.  Volunteering at your Local, even in a small way, can be rewarding and make a difference.

Yours in solidarity,
A Loyal Staff Member