STAFF ASSOCIATION

 

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What our members have to say:

Ann Lablans, Research Associate, June 2014

Dear QUSA members and non-unionized staff,

I have attended a Focus Group and I have talked with several people who have also attended the groups. The proposed Queen’s HR Committee Model appears to provide us with little or no real representation. In fact, the model would have even less people representing RG&C staff than QUSA did. HR has no obligation or binding responsibility to listen to the committee even though the members will be handpicked by HR (to represent demographics), with the HR department head retaining veto power over those choices. It was Queen’s that abandoned the 42 year relationship with QUSA.

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I am a QUSA member and I was happy having QUSA represent the group I belonged to but the situation has changed which means we now do not have a voice. The members of the HR presentation team believe that they can provide a service to the non-unionized staff but I equate HR being our representative at the table to someone playing chess with themselves. HR are skilled negotiators; RG&C staff are not. We are watching the chess game from the outside. I believe we need a legitimate and consistent voice at the negotiating table and the best choice in the current situation is a union. Every other group on campus, including your PIs, are unionized. We are the only group on campus without binding representation. Remember that even if the HR Committee Model does form, HR is not required to listen to the Committee. I urge you to consider the option of unionization because we need skilled negotiators for the RG&C interests.

I have been reluctant to embrace unionization but the situation has changed and I don’t believe the HR option is our best choice.

Respectively

Ann Lablans Research Associate Centre for Neuroscience Studies, Queen's University

Janet Creasy, RG&C staff member, May 2014

I wanted to write to the Queen’s University Staff Association (QUSA) and say ‘Thanks’ for a job well done. This letter goes to the current executive and members back through four decades of history. You have done well, working hard on a job that oftentimes was largely thankless and behind the scenes. I know that years ago, when I volunteered on a committee between Research Grant &Contract (RG&C) workers and Human Resources, QUSA was largely unseen and unrecognized by many staff. What a shame; the horse has gotten away, the barn door is now closed and people may begin to realize what has been lost.

I was shocked and upset by the news in February that Queen’s Human Resources felt that our Association was outdated and no longer necessary. So in a unilateral (and unexpected) move, the Associate Vice-Principal of Human Resources announced that the relationship will be severed, and hence QUSA would cease to exist to all intents and purposes. I went to the meetings, asked questions, listened to many people, but at the end, I am still baffled.

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What baffles me is the idea that HR ‘knows’ what is best for RG&C workers without consulting those staff. It is my understanding that HR felt QUSA was antiquated and did not adequately represent the staff. So they announced QUSA would no longer be recognised, and then conducted poorly attended focus group meetings with invited individuals. They found that staff have many concerns, including (not surprisingly) their announcement to cease communications with QUSA. Undeterred by the limited (hence highly unrepresentative) response from the focus groups, we are still meant to have faith that Human Resources will ‘look after’ us. Apparently, this will involve moves toward a committee model of approximately eight HR-appointed representatives from RG&C workers. How will these eight people have time to canvas enough of their fellow staff members to provide adequate representation? How can an HR-appointed committee be seen as democratic? In short, how can these changes be better than QUSA’s elected executives and volunteers on the many committees they currently serve on?

In a recent meeting, Mr. Orth of HR admitted that perhaps they did not fully understand what QUSA did. I continue to hear the words “don’t worry, HR will look after you”. I am sceptical because how can one group sit on both sides of the negotiations table? I know I am not the only person to feel concern. We have become the last group of staff at Queen’s University without a voice. We have become an island.

Faculty, general staff, trades-people working in Physical Plant services, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students; all have legally recognized units and must be dealt with fairly. It is sad that those of us happy to work in Research, willing to work contract positions on soft-money, currently face the future without representation. We did not complain, perhaps we were even complacent about QUSA and what it meant for us. That did not mean we were unhappy with our staff association. Yes, we took it for granted and some (perhaps too many) RG&C workers took the easy route of falling under the umbrella of QUSA’s protection without paying dues to the staff association that was benefiting them. Now we all pay the price – no legally recognized voice to speak up on our behalf. There is no one who will negotiate with administration for fair salaries and equitable benefits for the RG&C. For these reasons, I agree with the decision to unionize our island of workers. We need to have a voice that administration must listen to and negotiate with.

Thank you QUSA. You will be missed.

Sincerely JL Creasy