Letter of support to graduate student organizations

The Non-Academic Staff Association (NASA) offers its support and solidarity to the numerous graduate student organizations at the University of Alberta which have called attention to the failure of university leadership to ensure the timely delivery of employment contracts to all employees.

Expecting any employee—and especially students—to work in the absence of a formal contract detailing the terms and conditions of employment is completely unacceptable at any post-secondary institution. Vague assurances and promises are no substitute for ensuring what ought to be the bare minimum expectation of an employer. University management should prioritize immediately fixing the situation they’ve created and publicly apologizing to the impacted workers.

At the same time, we’re pleased to see that these graduate students associations have rightfully directed their criticism where it belongs—at university leadership—rather than at the staff at Shared Services. In the face of more than 1,200 layoffs and job reductions, forced centralization, and burdensome new processes, the support staff who remain on campus are doing all they can given the untenable and unsustainable situation created by university leadership.

Unfortunately, as NASA cautioned at the outset of the so-called U of A for Tomorrow (UAT) process, issues like this are the inevitable outcome of a rushed, poorly planned, and poorly implemented restructuring plan which from the start explicitly excluded the input and participation of campus unions. Unsurprisingly, a survey of support staff conducted earlier this year found that almost 70% of staff are dissatisfied with how restructuring at the university has been implemented.

While the priority for university management must be on ensuring contracts for all impacted employees, we hope this failure to deliver the base level of operations also provides the impetus for leadership to take an honest look at the negative impacts of the UAT to date and to involve the entire campus community in making the necessary improvements to ensure the smooth functioning of the University of Alberta today and tomorrow.

In solidarity,

Jillian Pratt
Non-Academic Staff Association (NASA)