Western Denies Postdoctoral Fellows Have a Right to Unionize

London - On December 8th, Postdoctoral Fellows (PDFs) at Western University cast ballots in a vote to join the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Local 610, which has represented academic workers at Western since 1996.

Western refuses to recognize PDFs as employees and has started a costly legal battle to keep the ballot box sealed. PDF’s have exercised their legal right to join a union and want to begin negotiating a first contract with the University.

Despite recent legal precedents of the right to belong to a union established at universities such as the University of Toronto and Queen’s; Western maintains that PDFs are not university employees and therefore cannot form a union. Postdoctoral researchers, however, have for years been forming unions across Canada to improve their precarious working conditions.

“These workers hold PhDs and work usually for no benefits and no job security. The many hours needed for their work pushes their hourly rate of pay to just above minimum wage”, states Indranil Chakraborty, Local 610 President. “Postdocs are vulnerable to their faculty supervisors who are their bosses and at the same time are needed as their reference for future academic work.”

Over 50% of Canadian postdocs are landed immigrants or on work visas, and half received their PhDs outside of Canada. They often lack extended family in Canada or other networks of support. Given the increasing precariousness of work in academia, most postdocs will spend years working on these short-term contracts.

“These workers have voted to join our union and the university is wasting resources fighting against their democratic right”, says Sharon DeSousa, PSAC Ontario Regional Executive Vice-President. “Postdocs deserve workplace protections and to be treated fairly and with dignity”.

For more information please contact Lino Vieira (vieiral@psac.com) 416-577-0238.

(*Statistics from the CAPS-ASCP/Mitacs 2013 Canadian Postdoc Survey)