Mobilizing to Win at Queen’s University

Teaching Assistants (TAs), Research Assistants (RAs) and Teaching Fellows (TFs) at Queen’s University (PSAC DCL 901) in Kingston, ON, ratified their new collective agreement on March 7, 2022.

This was a difficult round of bargaining, especially under the limitations imposed by Bill 124, which caps economic increases to 1% per year. Despite the restriction, the bargaining team managed to make important gains at the table, with a focus on equity and mental health support, including:

  • New mandatory paid training on sexual violence prevention and anti-racism
  • New Mental Health and Hardship Fund
  • New Professional Development Fund to support training and professional development activities for members 
  • Recognition of the principles of Employment Equity in appointments, as well as a commitment from the employer to eliminate practices or policies that unfavourably impact hiring, retention or assignments of members of equity-seeking groups. 
  • Gender Affirmation Leave, with or without pay, for gender affirmation processes and procedures, and commitment from the Employer to develop further supports through consultation with the Union.
  • Expansion of the definition of family under bereavement leave to include “Elder of the Employee”. 
  • Extended timeline under the grievance procedure for up to one year after an incident to file grievances related to harassment, violence and discrimination. 
  • New language that strengthens the process for accessing workplace accommodations. 
  • Timelines on the employer to develop Individualized Emergency Response Plans for members with disabilities and/or differential access needs.

“Throughout mobilization we saw the prioritisation of equity issues which meant that the bargaining team was able to push these important demands at the table,” states Astrid Hobill, DCL 901 President. “As precarious workers we are all too aware of difficult working conditions and our membership fought to ensure that our workplace will become a more fair and equitable space, especially for those who have systematically encountered more barriers.”

The Local also reached out to other unions on campus and across the academic sector, increasing their collective power. They also coordinated a strong social media campaign to place additional pressure on the employer to reach a fair agreement. 

“Mass mobilization was crucial because we were negotiating with a very conservative Employer, in this climate of provincial austerity and the pandemic,” says Rohit Revi, DCL 901 VP Research Assistants. “At every stage, our mobilizers and stewards worked very hard at department levels to build capacity and develop a unified voice leading up to a powerful strike mandate vote. At the table, our brilliant PSAC Negotiator Laneydi and the team translated that momentum into these historic gains for the Local.”  

Armed with a strong strike mandate, and the membership behind them, the bargaining team was able to achieve an agreement that supports our members and will make Queen’s a more equitable workplace going forward.