The Vice-President (Labour) is responsible for labour-related matters concerning graduate students and special projects.
1. Why are you running for the Vice President (Labour) position?
Brent Epperson: The collective agreement to student assistants is going to be re-negotiated in the fall, so it’s a very important year for graduate students. I wanted the opportunity to influence that, and bring some of the grassroots department organizing that I’d done (with the Faculty of Arts Solidarity group) into the collective agreement negotiations.
2. What is the main initiative you’ll be pushing forward next year, if elected?
Epperson: It’s not really a position where you can set a platform, and decide I’m going to A, B and C next year. The biggest thing I’m going to have to do is to lead the negotiations for the collective agreement ... I don’t have any control over the schedule of that, I just have come in and do my best to re-negotiate that, and try and get some more benefits for graduate student assistants. The other thing would be is just attending the meetings that are already scheduled that the VP (Labour) sits on.
The one thing I would like to do, and this ties in with what I’ve been talking about with the collective agreement, is to interact more with department-level graduate student associations, and develop a more holistic approach in dealing with university administration, and understanding what needs are in each department.
3. How do you intend to engage the graduate students you represent and ensure that their employment-related concerns are heard?
Epperson: For disputes, that’s easy, because they come to us when there’s a problem. But, through the Faculty of Arts Solidarity group and the Political Science Graduate Students’ Association, I’ve made a lot of good connections within the
Faculty of Arts.
Also, I’ve made a couple of connections in other faculties like education. But I want to go and meet more people across campus, more graduate departmental association leaders, and after the election, that’s something I’ll make a priority.
4. What is the main challenge you think you’ll be facing with the VP (Labour) portfolio?
Epperson: The biggest challenge would be getting a better collective agreement. It’s already a good one, but the objective every time has to be to get a better one. For that, I’m going to need input from departmental associations.
There’s (also) a labour liaison in two departments right now: political science — my department — and neuroscience. The labour liaison is a person in the department that students can go to directly for non-partisan advice on labour issues. That’s something I think was missing, and I’m really looking forward to expanding that program.
5. If you could invent any job at the U of A for grad students, what would it be?
Epperson: If I could invent any job, it would be a research assistantship that corresponds to graduate students own work. That’s something that would be interesting for them, and save a lot of time for them as well.
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