By Prapti Bamaniya and Thea Gribilas
Live-in student staff at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) have voted 87 per cent in favour of unionization, according to an email obtained by The Eyeopener.
Live-in student staff includes residence advisors, academic links, academic link leads, community leaders and graduate advisors at the school.
These staff members are employed by TMU’s residence life & education department and live and work at Pitman Hall, the International Living and Learning Centre (ILC) and the Daphne Cockwell Complex (DCC).
“I’m so excited to let you know that the results are in and 87 percent of the ballots cast over the past 24 hours were in favour of unionization!” said union representative Kiera Chion, in an email sent to The Eye.
Chion added that once the official certificate from the Ontario Labour Relations Board has been obtained and that a “Notice to Bargain” will be sent to the university.
A Notice to Bargain is a “written notification given by either the employer or the union requiring the other party to commence collective bargaining for the purpose of renewing or revising a collective agreement or entering into a new collective agreement” according to the Government of Canada.
TMU has not yet responded for comment.
Sophia de Guzman, a fourth-year journalism student and academic link, said in an interview with The Eye that she took the lead to unionize live-in staff, along with Dezerine Fernando, a fourth-year social work student and academic link lead.
“We all worked really, really hard to get this,” said de Guzman. “I think a lot of people on staff will speak to a common experience of not feeling prioritized over the last couple of years.”
Fernando said the job can be difficult to handle especially since staff are working where they are living.
“It takes over who you are as a person in university fairly easily and for myself, I felt very vulnerable and exposed in this job.” she said.
“So I think this decision really just means that whoever comes into the job from now on will be protected and prioritized as human beings,” said Fernando. “People’s feelings and experiences, that are important and valid, will be looked into and not just as corporate workers.”
She said the process of unionization was a little nerve-wracking but is glad to see it pan out the way it did.
“At the end of the day, it’s still a scary process,” she said. “The fear that it didn’t really go through the way we wanted…was something that we were scared of.”
De Guzman said the results of the vote mean that live-in staff can be protected, which she said is especially important as most staff are composed of “vulnerable young people.”
“It took a really big leap of faith for everybody to believe in us and put their names down on paper to support this initiative to get unionized. That was really awesome.”
This story will be updated with comment from TMU.
Disclaimer: Sophia de Guzman has contributed to The Eyeopener in the past.