Memorial University’s Graduate Assistants ratify their first collective agreement

Graduate, Teaching and Research Assistants at Memorial University of Newfoundland have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a first Collective Agreement with the University. “This is an historic moment,” said Juan Acevedo, President of the Teaching Assistants’ Union of Memorial University of Newfoundland.

“I would like to congratulate every member of the TAUMUN, and to express our appreciation to PSAC and everyone within the union who has supported us throughout our journey to success,” added Acevedo, who is a Master’s candidate in the Department of Engineering. “We are very pleased with these results and on behalf of TAUMUN, I would like to say thank you to all.”

The first agreement provides for wage increases of 8 per cent retroactive to September 1, 2009, 4 per cent on September 1, 2010, and an additional 4 per cent in each of the subsequent two years, which will bring the hourly rate to $21.15 per hour by the fall of 2012.

The new agreement guarantees Academic Freedom and Intellectual Property rights to the graduate student workers, and contains a commitment by the University that job opportunities offered to graduate students as part of the recruitment process will normally be renewed for the duration of the student’s Master’s or PhD program.

The Union also achieved a commitment that non-union undergraduate teaching and research assistants will not be used to undermine the integrity of the bargaining unit.
The contract t includes wide-ranging prohibitions against discrimination that far exceed the provisions of most human rights legislation, including protection from discrimination based on gender identity, political opinion and activity, language, and place of residence, said Gail Lem, the PSAC Negotiator assigned to assist the TAUMUN team in the collective bargaining process.

The Local also achieved excellent Health and Safety language, including a commitment to provide a modified work program with no loss of pay or benefits to pregnant and nursing mothers who work in environments that could pose health risks to their fetus or nursing child.

TAs and RAs at MUN, who are collectively known as Graduate Assistants, have been seeking union representation and a collective agreement since 2005. After two failed organizing attempts, TAUMUN was certified as bargaining agent by the Newfoundland and Labrador Labour Relations Board in August, 2009.

TAUMUN, like its sister Union, the Lecturers’ Union of Memorial University of Newfoundland, or LUMUN, was assisted in its certification efforts by PSAC Atlantic Region Organizer Dave Shaw, and has signed a service agreement with PSAC.

“We are very proud of our members at MUN and pleased to see the Graduate Assistants achieve such a strong first contract,” said Jeannie Baldwin, Regional Executive Vice-President of PSAC for Atlantic Canada.