TAs bargain for a new deal to avoid strike
By Kevin Gale
Western teaching assistants met last night in Middlesex College to dispel rumours of a possible strike.
A group of TAs and the administration have been meeting since the fall to establish a contract between TAs, who last summer joined the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the university.
Colin MacPherson, a member of the TAs' bargaining team, said he called last night's closed membership meeting after receiving several phone calls and emails asking if TAs were going on strike. "We want a decent deal without a strike," he said.
"The discussions have been going well and most of the non-economic conciliations have been decided on," said Bill Trimble, Western's senior director for the department of human resources. "In light of the fact we are scheduling more meetings next week, we are not planning for a strike at this time."
The next negotiation meeting is scheduled for March 18 and another is set for March 25.
Conciliations on both non-economic and economic issues will be addressed on April 1 and 2, when the two sides are expected to meet with a mediator to finalize a contract to be voted on by the membership.
MacPherson said about 200 of Western's 1,000 TAs showed up at the meeting the first general meeting the TAs have had this year. Smaller meetings have been held within departments throughout the year.
Also, it was decided action would be taken to show support for the bargaining team. "We have a lot of support from the TAs and we're going to start showing it," MacPherson said.
To show their support, TAs at the meeting were given large purple pins to wear, MacPherson said, adding a postcard campaign will begin next week. A letter addressed to Western president Paul Davenport has already been circulated.
The letter calls for support from the administration to ensure TAs can meet rising costs of living, considering rising tuition fees and recent changes to the Employment Insurance Act, which prohibits TAs from collecting employment insurance benefits over the summer.
MacPherson said a strike could not occur until there was a contract to vote on and the TA union would have to vote in favour of such action.
In the event of a strike, the university has no formal policy to deal with the action, but is prepared to mobilize any necessary resources to deliver services affected by the strike, Trimble said.
Both sides have agreed to a media ban against the discussion of bargaining issues.