“At present my status does not agree in the least with what I do. I am NOT a student, I am expected to conduct independent research at the same level as most faculty, I teach courses to graduate students and write grant proposals for equipment and research. So, this puts my status much closer to staff or research associates then it does to students.”
-cited comment by McGill post-doc in McGill report
Postdocs have completed their doctorates, the highest degree that is recognized internationally. They are doing front-line research, just like faculty. They are writing grant proposals and teaching graduate and undergraduate students. They are no longer leaning from a pre-set curriculum, but are advancing human knowledge. Yet universities are advocating that post-docs are still in-training.
Administrators have been quick to jump on the idea that postdocs should be classified as trainees or students. In doing so they have implemented tuition fees. We understand that such fees are being charged at the University of Toronto. In addition, a change of status to that of a student would cause havoc for foreign postdocs who are here on work visas. And in Ontario at least, it would also cause them to have to pay for expensive, second-rate private healthcare through UHIP.
The idea that postdocs are trainees undermines their right to job protection and basic employment benefits including right to collectively represent themselves to their employer. The move by universities has been refuted as a throwback to times when workers had no protections.
One of the first unioinized group of postdocs at McMaster has just begun their negotiation process. On the table are issues ranging from: wages, workplace safety, leaves of absence, holidays and vacations, health and other benefits, professional development, hiring and job security, hours of work, supervisory obligations, layoffs, intellectual property rights and academic freedom. We will be following this process closely.