They changed the rules and didn't tell you - again!
Did You Know: Policy 30 - the policy that outlines the terms of employment for TAs - was updated as of December 13, 2022. We want to explain some of the issues we see with Policy 30 - both the process and the content - and how it would be different if we were already unionized.
UWaterloo says they consulted with “multiple student groups” in revising Policy 30. We’re glad they saw value in doing so! But because we’re not unionized, they don’t have to take any student-worker input into account, respond to any input given, or provide justification on any changes they make. Basically, they can do whatever they want, including ignore TA voices or even exclude TA voices altogether. If TAs were already unionized and had a collective agreement, changes could only be made by a majority vote of the student-workers.
UWaterloo did not communicate the existence of the new Policy 30 to TAs until a month after the Policy was approved, well into the new semester and well after new TA contracts had started. Further, it doesn’t appear that there is any type of Q&A or open forum planned to answer questions about the Policy or to truly educate the workers (that’s you!) on the changes and their impacts. If we were unionized, that education piece would be required for any new or changed policy.
- the removal of the line that TA pay is subject to the Pay Equity Act,
- the removal of the section about the fair and equitable distribution of TAships, and
- the removal of UWaterloo acting “in good faith and in the best interests of all students.”
Without adequate communication and education on the many policy changes, we are left wondering, guessing, and assuming why UWaterloo wanted or felt they needed to remove these important points. You deserve to know! If we were unionized, a proper consultation and bargaining process would be required, allowing us a chance to demand justification for any substantial removals.
Sadly, there is little recourse for the things we don’t like about Policy 30. But perhaps even worse, there is no real recourse if you have difficulties in your TAship. While Policy 30 outlines an idealistic dispute resolution process, the problem is that UWaterloo still has the unilateral final say in any dispute. If we were unionized, we would have an equal seat at the table to sort out disputes with our employer and we would have a say in selecting the final decision-maker, who would be a neutral third party (arbitrator).
AND THIS ISN'T THE FIRST TIME
When UWaterloo recently updated the on campus masking requirements - a direct workplace health and safety question - TAs were only notified one business day before the semester started. When UWaterloo increased TA pay rates in Fall of 2021, many programs reduced the non-taxable stipend portion of graduate funding packages which left some TAs worse off than before the pay increase - and of course, this was not communicated. This pattern of cursory, non-binding consultation and communication blunders by UWaterloo, our employer, would not be tolerated (or legal!) if we were unionized