Council throws its support behind TA negotiations
By Donna MacMullin
As students enter the final stretch of the academic year the old slogan "no more teachers" might become a reality sooner than they think.
At last night's University Student's Council meeting a motion was passed by council to support teaching assistants in their negotiations with Western's administration to establish a collective agreement in the form of a letter to university president Paul Davenport.
The TAs became unionized when they joined the Public Service Alliance of Canada last summer and since September they have been in meetings with administration to reach a feasible contract deal. Final conciliations on both non-economic and economic issues will be addressed in meetings to be held April 1 and 2. If an agreement is not met by April 3 the TAs will call a strike vote.
"We don't want to have to withdraw our services, it's not a pleasant situation for anybody," Laura Penny, speaker to the motion at council, said.
Penny said TAs' wages are no longer a reasonable amount and said she is concerned over graduate school accessibility for TAs as a result. "Now tuition accounts for 60 per cent of our wages," she said. "If anyone here is considering going to grad school you might want to reconsider because this is happening all over the province.
"The administration has been poor-mouthing the way they always do."
As the TAs may decide to strike before the academic year is complete, various questions have been raised over the impacts a strike would have on students. Penny said because TAs proctor exams, some faculty members might not give exams because they support the union. "TAs would also be withholding [students'] marks," she added.
In addition, Penny expects other trade unions in the city to support the TAs if they strike and also withdraw their services. "The transit union could also support us and choose not to run any buses to campus," she said.
Dave Tompkins, USC president, said he was pleased council chose to support the TAs and their initiatives for better treatment. "We would encourage the university to settle without a strike."
If the result is a strike however, Tompkins said he is concerned about the impacts on students. "It first of all reflects very poorly on the conciliation process," he said. "And the repercussions to students would be unfathomable there could be quite a number of adverse affects."
Tompkins said if the TAs strike he anticipates many groups would support their fight, but council would have to decide whether to further support them.