News & Updates

Research and Teaching Assistant Collective Bargaining

The Athabasca University Graduate Students’ Association (AUGSA) will soon begin negotiations with AU regarding contracts for graduate research assistants (GRAs) and graduate teaching assistants (GTAs).

In just a few weeks, the Athabasca University Graduate Students’ Association (AUGSA) will begin negotiations with AU regarding contracts for graduate research assistants (GRAs) and graduate teaching assistants (GTAs).

The AUGSA is mandated by the Alberta Post-Secondary Learning Act (PSLA) to represent the labour interests of graduate students working as GRAs and GTAs. Because these positions are important for graduate students hoping to gain academic experience, which is often necessary for those hoping to pursue doctoral or post-doctoral programs, the AUGSA has been pushing hard to get the university to offer more of GRA and GTA roles. In order for this to happen, a collective agreement must be put in place.

In order to ensure that the collective agreement we negotiate is in the best interest of graduate students and meets the needs of GRAs and GTAs, the AUGSA polled our membership about what they would like to see in a collective agreement. We also polled those students currently working as GRAs and GTAs to see what they do and do not like about their current work situations. The resulting data was used to determine AUGSA’s negotiation priorities; the public data can be viewed here (note that all long-form answers has been removed from the publicly available data in order to ensure the anonymity of those who responded to the survey).

Among the issues that the AUGSA negotiating team will be aiming for are: a three-year agreement, the inclusion of alternate forms of compensation such as tuition waivers and training opportunities, and the stipulation that AU graduate students be giving preference when university faculty members are hiring GRAs and GTAs.

In addition to collecting feedback from our members, the AUGSA Executive Committee received collective bargaining training as part of their annual transition and training sessions. An experienced negotiator from the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) was brought in to provide his experience and expertise to the Executive Committee so that they will know what to expect during a negotiation session, as well as how to deal with potentially difficult situations that may arise during negotiations.

If all goes according to plan, GRA and GTA collective agreements will be in place in time for the Fall 2012 academic term. If you have any questions about GRA/GTA collective bargaining, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us by email at: