Why do graduate student workers need a union?

First and foremost, we are able to negotiate a Collective Agreement that reflects the nature of our work, stipulating terms and conditions that must be respected by our employer, the University of New Brunswick. Arbitrary decisions and actions by an employer will not be permitted with respect to the contents of the contract. We will have a collective voice and be able to make democratic decisions about our workplace.

Unionized graduate students at other universities throughout North America have made great strides through negotiations, including benefits such as child care and eye care, assistance funds for international students and for professional development, intellectual property, and academic freedom rights, to name only a few.

All graduate student TAs and RAs at UNB receive the rights and benefits that will be established in our Collective Agreement. All UGSW members have the right to assistance from the Union when required. Membership in the Union gives the right to fully participate in local elections and general meetings. The Union negotiates and acts on behalf of all members. The more graduate student TAs and RAs who participate, the more accurately our decisions will reflect our collective concerns.

Representation: Graduate student TAs and RAs are spread out all over the two UNB campuses (Fredericton and Saint John) where they are treated very differently from faculty to faculty. This body of UNB workers now has a collective voice to express concerns about discrimination, workplace health and safety issues, wage and pay issues, and harassment. If problems arise, individuals do not have to take it upon themselves to correct the situation. The Union will be receptive to the complaints of graduate student workers, and will protect the right of the individual to not suffer personal ramifications while trying to correct their situation.

As a member of a union, you have the opportunity to bring your concerns to the bargaining table. By including anti-discrimination, anti-harassment clauses and formal grievance procedures in our Collective Agreement, a union can ensure that all students working as TAs and TAs do not suffer from discrimination based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or citizenship, all workers are provided with a safe and appropriate working environment, and that all workers are paid a fair and timely wage.

Job Security: Collective bargaining of a contract can ensure that changes to administrative procedure and pressure to reduce budgets will not affect the numbers of RAs and TAs hired within departments. We can bargain with the university to commit to maintaining RA and TA requirement calculators so that, even if we obtain a substantial pay raise, no one loses their position as a result.

Working Hours: Working under a Collective Agreement can protect us from having to work more hours than we get paid for and enable us to get paid for all of the work we do. One of the most common complaints of both RAs and TAs at UNB is that our pay is based on far fewer hours than are necessary to do our jobs adequately.

Wages: Graduate student workers at UNB are amongst the lowest paid RAs and TAs in the country, with an average wage of $18-23.00/hr. At other unionized universities, where job descriptions are similar for RAs and TAs, much higher compensation is provided. Carleton University graduate TAs earn $30.46/hr, York University provides $38.86/hr, and the University of Regina pays $36.92/hr.

Professionalism: As Research Assistants and Teaching Assistants, we work as professional educators. Many professions, including professors and support staff at UNB, bargain collectively. Union certification increases the credibility of, and respect for, RAs and TAs. It can also serve to protect us from losses that may indirectly result from being the most vulnerable group; if the administration decides to cut costs, it is easiest to make cuts in a non-unionized sector.