The University of Victoria’s Graduate Research Assistants officially launched the public phase of their campaign to form a union today with a clear message: working conditions need to change at UVic.

“Graduate research assistants are an integral part of UVic,” says Nell Perry a graduate research assistant and a member organizer with the campaign. “We perform critical research that is a significant factor in UVic’s positive reputation, but many researchers have concerns with their working conditions and currently they have to deal with those issues by themselves.”

Currently each individual worker negotiates their own contract with their supervisor and, according to Perry, this system has caused widespread inequity amongst workers.

Other concerns raised by workers include low wages, unclear expectations for wage payment and funding, inconsistent hiring processes, and no standardized process to deal with workplace concerns.

CUPE 4163 President Greg Melnechuk says that with other GRAs organizing across the province, and country, now seemed like the ideal time to work with GRAs at UVic to form a union.

“Recently we’ve seen graduate research assistants at both Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia run successful organizing campaigns, and we want to build on that momentum here at UVic. Currently researchers have limited say in their working conditions and we want to change that by helping researchers successfully join CUPE 4163,” says Melnechuk.

The organizing committee provides more detail about the organizing drive on its website,

CUPE Local 4163 represents more than 1500 members who work at the University of Victoria including Teaching Assistants, Lab Instructors, Help Desk workers, Academic Assistants, Second Language Instructors in the English Language Centre and French Language Programme, Residence Life student workers, and Cultural Assistants as well as Sessional Lecturers, and Music Performance Instructors.