Student employee union contract up for renewal

Union president said he wants changes to contract for student employees (Hillary McCormack/AQ)
Union president said he wants changes to contract for student employees (Hillary McCormack/AQ)

St. Thomas student employee union contract is up for renewal.

The contract, created three years ago, covers student union employees. President of the student employees union Ben Lord said the union has sent the notice to bargain to the employer.

The employees of the student union work with the Public Service Alliance of Canada who provides them with a negotiator and resources.

He said he is unsure when the employer, the STUSU, will respond or when the bargaining will begin.

“We are ready to go right now,” said Lord. “At this point we’ve done all that we can to make this go quickly and smoothly. The ball is in their court right now.”

STUSU president Elizabeth Murphy said they are not ready to negotiate yet.

“Due to it being so late in the term when we were called to the table, this executive has no intention of sitting down and doing the bargaining because it’s not something we want to start right before the exams.”

Murphy said after exams will not be a good time either because there will be a transfer of the new executive.

She said she would rather let the next executive be able to focus on this issue directly.

“I don’t want to start to get into something and then tag out half way through and put other people in the discussion. I want to give them a real shot in this discussion and finding the best agreement.”

Murphy does say she wants some changes to this agreement though.

“The agreement needs to reflect that we are a non-profit and that we are a students’ union with part-time workers.”

She said it does not reflect that now.

Right now, if a STU student graduates they can still apply for jobs in the STUSU if they are a part of the union. Murphy said priority should be given to current students.

“If our employees want to be unionized, that is their decision. But the tough part for us comes as STUSU, we are meant to be accountable first and foremost to the students, which is really hard to do when you outsource that authority.”

Murphy also said she wants to take away vacation pay. In the contract, employees are entitled to two weeks of holiday pay, which adds up to $270.

“Does someone who works part time really need vacation pay at Christmas?” she asked. “I think this needs to better reflect that these are students. It’s strange to look at someone having a 10 an hour week job and getting paid for every single holiday. They don’t have to work on that holiday. You set your own hours for all of our jobs.”

Murphy said the vacation pay as well as how much employees are paid need to be especially looked at because of the projected budget problems for STUSU next year.

“This takes up a large majority of our budget – paying our employees. Yes, we should pay students well but let’s have an agreement that reflects who we are.”

Other changes Murphy wanted was not automatically giving the student the right to take their job back the next year, but keeping the position open for others to apply.

“It just doesn’t make sense that we don’t have the ability to pick the people we think are the most qualified. We are kind of tied down.”

Lord said the student employee union is looking into some “problem areas” and working on bettering the contract.

“We want to make it as concrete and useable for employees as much as we can.”

He said he could not disclose these changes.

“The changes that we want to see are changes that the entire collective would like to see and, unfortunately, until our group of employees and workers has voted on the changes and the final agreement, I’m not really able to disclose specific issues.”

He said although he couldn’t say what the changes were, they did have some concerns.

“Some of our concerns would pertain to the terms and conditions of employment for the employees as well as treatment of our employees.”

Lord would not say whether or not he would allow union members to keep jobs if they weren’t students anymore.

Murphy questioned whether or not there should be an agreement from a union affiliated with a third party, PSAC, at all.

“Should I be accountable to this agreement more than the students that I was elected by?”

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