London – Almost 2,000 Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) at Western University have voted overwhelmingly to take strike action if the university continues to dismiss their concerns.
Over half of Western GTAs are in financial stress, with one in three working a second job. Despite holding undergraduate and master degrees, many are struggling financially as their funding expires before their program is completed. From 2014 to 2017, tuition fees increased 6.5% yet GTAs compensation increased by only 3.5%. As a result, almost half of GTAs have a net annual income of less than $11,000.
“The majority of our members do not have tuition fees included in their funding and as tuition increases, along with the cost of living, they are struggling to make ends meet,” says Sharon DeSousa, PSAC Ontario Regional Executive Vice-President. “We have seen a sharp spike in the use of our union’s food bank program, with demands to access the program doubling in the last few years.”
PSAC and Western University have been meeting with the help of a conciliator over the last few months, with the last meeting taken place on March 27, 2018. Alarmingly, prior to this meeting, the University informed PSAC and the student body on March 23rd, that they intended to request a “No Board” report from the Ministry of Labour.
A No Board report is normally only requested if the parties have reached an impasse and negotiations have stalled. Given that a conciliation meeting was scheduled a few days later, it is questionable that the University is sincere in its claims that it does not want a labour disruption. Now that the No Board report has been issued, we would be in a legal strike or lockout position as of 12:01 a.m. on April 13, 2018.
The University has now issued its final offer, which our membership will be voting on over a two-day period, on April 11th and 12th.
GTAs are vital to the high quality education at Western and are responsible for running labs and tutorials, and providing personalized help and guidance to undergraduate and graduate students.
GTAs contributions have been recognized and supported by other groups on campus, including the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA), the University of Western Ontario Staff Association (UWOSA) and the Society of Graduate Students (SOGS). Our efforts to reach a fair collective agreement are also being supported by the London District Labour Council and the wider labour movement.
For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Michael Aubry, PSAC Communications Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org – 613-218-0952