University of Saskatchewan unions welcomed their school’s new president with a rally Monday.
Around 500 members from five unions gathered in the Bowl on campus to kick start Peter Stoicheff’s first day by waving union flags and asking for “positive change,” fair contract offers and a better working relationship than with the previous administration.
“We would like to see that our members are respected and everyone is valued on this campus,” Administrative and Supervisory Personnel Association (ASPA) president Dawn Giesbrecht said. “He has a good change to earn some of the trust back that has been lost by this campus community.”
Relationships between workers and the administration soured greatly when the university, under the presidency of the former president Ilene Busch-Vishniac, adopted the TransformUS program to fix a projected deficit of $44.5 million by 2016. The program ended after 198 job cuts in the first round of layoffs, the resignation of the university provost Brett Fairbairn and the firing of Busch-Vishniac.
Giesbrecht said she hopes a rally of hundreds of staff on Stoicheff’s first day doesn’t put him on the defensive or set the wrong tone.
“He has a good reputation on campus and is poised to make some positive changes,” she said.
Stoicheff was in Ottawa on Monday to attend a Universities Canada meeting on the on Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action. Stoicheff has repeatedly stated that one of his primary goals as president is to make the U of S the ” best place for aboriginal students.”
He said he hopes to make every campus worker feel valued.
“You can’t make the challenges go away but you can make how inclusively you deal with people and they deal with the challenges stay priority,” he said. “If I’m genuine, inclusive and consultative and really care about what people think and if people understand that I’m trying to do the best thing for the institution, not just for some particular group with some particular agenda… I think things will work out well.”
Stoicheff said he plans to meet with university staff and faculty in the new year, but Giesbrecht wants to meet as soon as possible.
ASPA members have been without a contract since May 2014 and the university has walked away from the bargaining table twice. ASPA has around 1,200 members comprised on professionals such as research officers, nurses, veterinarians and non-faculty instructors.