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Academic Views

At Impasse: The Graduate Labour Union and the University of Calgary Set to Enter Mediation

The Graduate Labour Union (GLU), which is the bargaining agent for Graduate Assistants at the University of Calgary has reached an impasse in negotiations with the Board of Governors of the University of Calgary. In solidarity, and in recognition of the huge role that graduate students play at the University, the Faculty Association invited the GLU to provide the following update on the negotiations for our members.

The Graduate Labour Union (GLU) is the labour representative for Graduate Student workers at the University of Calgary. Over the past 11 months, we have spent over 100 hours of bargaining across 15 sessions seeking a fair deal for our memberships. However, the GLU finds itself at a critical juncture in the collective bargaining process with the University of Calgary. After nearly a year of good faith bargaining, negotiations have proven unproductive, and we have reached an impasse.

In November, we decided to come back to the bargaining table at the University’s urging, despite the fact we had determined that we were at impasse. Unfortunately, that last virtual day of bargaining proved to be pointless. The tense and patronizing environment of that last session only served to confirm the need to proceed to mediation. Thus, the Union team determined we will pursue an essential service agreement (ESA) exemption as well as filing for formal mediation.

There are still many points of contention in bargaining. The University of Calgary has maintained all their concessionary demands and failed to address our outstanding proposals. GLU continues to reject the following concessionary demands made by the University:

  • Slashing hourly wages for graders (from $43.60 to $18.53) and reduction of their rights to resolution processes.
  • Taking away Union safeguards that make our members more vulnerable.
  • Removing Union’s access to information regarding our members.

In turn, The GLU asks for and maintains its position on:

  • Raises that reflect steep cost of living increases in Calgary and a lack of wage increases for over 6 years.
  • Constraints on the number of hours members can be required to work in a single week so that they can focus on their academic program.
  • Flexibility for our members to reschedule work for religious observance, a right held by other employees on campus.

What is at Stake:

Graduate students at the University of Calgary are facing a confluence of historic socioeconomic and institutional issues which hinder our ability to function as graduate students. While monetary concerns are prominent for our members, other concessionary demands from the University of Calgary are also harmful to our membership. Many of our members are graduate students who are from historically marginalized groups and/or are international students. As students, we often find ourselves struggling with tremendous precarity. Maintaining union protections for our membership is paramount.

Institutionally, we struggle with minimum funding packages well below the poverty line. A new marker grader position proposed by the employer sets the alarming precedent of valuing grading at only $18.53 per hour. We seek equity and dignity for our membership and wholeheartedly reject a proposal that would create a situation where one student worker is receiving a full GAT (Graduate Assistant Teaching) wage, a little over $43, while another equally able student worker is receiving $18.53 in many cases for the same work.

Building Solidarity at the University of Calgary:

As we seek a fair deal that addresses the many problems graduate students face, we also push the University of Calgary to act upon greater issues impacting the entire university community. This includes addressing massive provincial funding cuts that have forced a response to form greater solidarity across campus. For the GLU, entering mediation poses the possibility of potential job action if an agreement is not reached, and it is not taken lightly. This represents a crucial shift in our organizing, as we aim to show the Employer that our membership demands and deserves a fair deal. The GLU is prepared to fight for the best agreement possible. We are emboldened – not intimidated – by the prospect of mediation and possible job action to follow.

As graduate students, we ask you to stand in solidarity with us as we fight for a fair deal that reflects the needs of our community. As faculty, there are specific things you can do to can support your graduate students and colleagues in the Graduate Labour Union.

  • Have conversations with your graduate students, and your colleagues. Provide safe spaces for discussion and be vocal in your allyship.
  • Take a sign. The GLU is happy to provide a sign (just contact us at [email protected]) and put it on your office door. Visibility shows the University that there is solidarity amongst the campus community and helps spread the message of what graduate students are fighting for.
  • Come to GLU events. While some of our events and workshops are for graduate students exclusively, we will be hosting rallies and other events where your presence will be crucial and help demonstrate to the University of Calgary how important these issues are.

We appreciate your continued support and understanding in this process. As we walk this new path (we are the first Graduate Union going into mediation in the history of Alberta), we will keep TUCFA and you, the faculty of the University of Calgary, appraised of all developments. We endeavour to work together to support our shared interests.

As always, in Solidarity,

Negotiating TeamAllan Lyons
Kaylee MacLean
Hunter Yaworski (GLU Chair)
John Eustace (Lead Negotiator)

Graduate Labour UnionJoshuah Locket-Harris (Vice-Chair External)
Karina Hincapié Martinez (Vice-Chair International)
Alex Poppendorf (Vice-Chair Internal)

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