Union representation for U of S grad students
Though met with some opposition the move for unionization looks promising
Graduate students at the University of Saskatchewan may find themselves represented by a union sooner than later. Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) president Izabela Vlahu says that graduate students at the U of S could find themselves with many of the benefits expected by student workers at the University of Regina, who labour under CUPE. Campaigners with the unionization drive were unable to speak to the matter at the moment.
Though Vlahu is not actively involved in the campaign, the GSA executive recently voted to support this drive.
“It’s an active association and we are dealing with a lot of things right now. We have shown support to the drive to unionize teaching and research assistants. That is one of the most recent decisions made on [Jan. 12].”
While the drive has the public support of the GSA, this campaign is a membership led initiative.
“It did not come from the GSA executive or GSA council, it came from members of our association. At our general meeting in January, they brought forward a motion that endorsed the movement. It has very strong support and I think the folks that are behind this just want to make sure they have as many signatures as they possibly can,” said Vlahu.
U of S graduate students are currently working without a union, and this is not the first time a group has attempted to unionize the GSA.
“It’s not a new initiative. My information is that there were attempts to unionize previously. For whatever reason, they failed. This is my fifth year at the university, but this is my first witnessing of an actual union drive. I do believe the GSA’s and my support in my role as president has contributed, and it has encouraged the members who initiated this to go for it right now,” said Vlahu.
Students have been politicized at the U of S in the past year, a result of a number of events taking place.
“With TransformUS, which happened last year and was dismissed in September, there was an awakening on campus. Graduate and undergraduate students became more involved in politics. We had a record number of people voting in our elections, with over 30 per cent turnout last year. I think those factors have contributed to students pushing through this initiative. That is my perception and understanding.”
According to Vlahu, there has been very little resistance to the current campaign.
“There has been great support. We have had members from the sessional lecturers union speak with graduate students to explain what the meaning of the union is – what the difference between our association and a union would be. That has been very positive. It’s taken several months to educate the members on the meaning of having a union – the process, the implications. Clarifying the details is very important.”