The New Brunswick division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE-NB) is looking for renewed interest in the unionization of student employees at Mount Allison. Dr. Geoff Martin, is leading the search for renewed student interest as the on-site CUPE contact, to revive the unionization campaign for student employees in the hopes of creating CUPE local 5310, the potential union branch for Mt. A. student employees.
Students 4 MAFA, posted about the unionization effort on their Instagram and Facebook pages on October 28: “Calling All RAs, TAs, and other Mt.A Student Employees. Are you a student employee of Mount Allison University? Do you want to improve the terms and conditions of work for you and others? If so, the New Brunswick division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees would like to talk to you.”
According to Shamus Tobin, a third-year physics student who is involved with Students 4 MAFA, the organization was approached to promote the campaign on their social media by CUPE. “The Students 4 MAFA page was created to recognize student interest during the [faculty] strike, but now we want to use it to spread the word that this [campaign] is now happening and to support a student union that could potentially be formed,” said Tobin. Although Students 4 MAFA is not formally associated with the unionization effort, Tobin expressed that this was something they wanted to “spread the word” about.
This is not the first campaign Mount Allison students have led for unionization. In 2017, the Association of Mount Allison Student Employees (AMASE) attempted to form a union for residence assistants (RAs), teaching assistants (TAs), as well as other Mt. A student employees. The purpose of AMASE’s unionization was for student employees to receive higher pay for all employees, RAs to have paid training, more mental health resources available to RAs, better mental health training for RAs and better training overall, better descriptions of jobs, and better security. The New Brunswick labor board has yet to give certification from the previous campaign in 2017, which would have made the Mt. A. student employee union official. They are scheduled to discuss the initial call for unionization from 2017 in December of 2020. The reemergence of the unionization campaign is to get current student employees to testify about why Mt. A. should have this union.
The principles behind the present campaign are similar to the first. Better pay and training for student employees and RAs, more mental health initiatives for RAs, more mental health training for RAs, and paid training for employees were all mentioned as things that could be changed if the organization was unionized. “RA pay has consistently remained low and well below minimum wage if you actually calculate the number of hours for training, being on duty, and the time you are considered to be on-call in case of an emergency. When all of that is accounted for, those hours end up coming out to be less than minimum wage,” said Tobin.
According to Tobin, the post has also received a lot of traction since being posted on the Students 4 MAFA social media. “I definitely think a student employee union is a good idea,” said Naoise Moeller, a second-year psychology student and RA, “[s]tudent employees would be able to share their concerns with the union, and negotiate with their employers about things like training and pay. This would help to ensure that student employees are trained properly for their job and that employers are not taking advantage of them.” A student union would allow student employees the legitimacy to negotiate for better working conditions and better pay.
The entire unionization process is student driven. If you are interested or have any questions, please direct them to the on-site CUPE contact Geoff Martin at [email protected]. The New Brunswick labour board is scheduled to meet and discuss the issue in December.