By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
"It was the most highly-attended teaching assistant meeting in the history of Western."
An overwhelming vote to strike on Friday by Western's teaching assistants was noted as successful by Todd Woytiuk, an area representative for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
"We were not surprised by the outcome," said Bill Trimble, senior director for human resources. "Although we found it disappointing that only 25 per cent of the teaching assistants decided to come out and vote."
Main issues behind the conflict involve a salary increase, vacation pay, health care and the development of an emergency fund for TAs in need of financial assistance. "Also of concern is being able to take grievances to a third party and out of the hands of administration," Woytiuk said.
"My understanding of matters is that all non-monetary issues have been resolved and that it is a matter of economics on our part that have kept bargaining on the table," Trimble said.
"We are after wage increases to protect purchasing power and this purchasing power will be used to buy education for TAs," Anh-tuan Truong, chief negotiator for the public service alliance, said.
Originally, the TAs asked for a one per cent increase for next year and two per cent in the following year but this was rejected by administration who have kept salaries the same since 1984, said Kim Olynyk, information chair for the Society of Graduate Students. "An increase in salary to the TAs will only benefit the university in the form of services rendered."
The strike mandate meeting on April 4 was organized in response to a fruitless meeting of conciliation held on April 1 and 2 with the aid of an officer from the Ontario Labour Relations Board, Olynyk said.
A second meeting of conciliation is planned for April 24 and 25 in which Trimble hopes a reconciliation can be brought about. "The number one objective of administration is to continue discussions and get the parties to agree," Trimble added.
"We will still try to find other means to come to an agreement and the negotiating team is going to try everything they can even though we voted to strike," Olynyk added.
A legal strike is unlikely until the end of the month after consent has been obtained from the conciliator, but there will be a show of support by SOGS who will go into the community to let people know what's going on, Olynyk said.