Volume 93, Issue 55

Tuesday, December 7, 1999


McMaster TAs hit the picket lines

HIV virus linked to smallpox

Remembering the Montreal Massacre

Staff prepares for Y2K problems on campus

Nipissing helps keep faculty and staff standing tall

Streaker still strutting his stuff

McMaster TAs hit the picket lines

By Paul-Mark Rendon
Gazette Staff

A deadlock in negotiations with McMaster University's administration has prompted Teaching Assistants to hit the picket lines.

The Hamilton school's TAs took to the pavement last Friday, after 61 per cent of their membership voted in favour of a strike. Negotiations towards a new contract have been in the works since July, said John Bowman, spokesperson for the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3906, who represent the TAs. The strike comes on the heels of the old TA contract which expired Nov. 18.

Bowman said the union was demanding a tuition rebate be included in the contract, as well as an extension of TA benefits to cover students in the fifth-year of PhD studies – two things administration were not willing to put in the contract.

"Those are the two issues where basically, we can't move," said Heather Larmour, manager of employee relations at McMaster. She explained administration felt the main points of contention were academic in nature and should not be included in the TA contract.

Larmour said a final contract offer, which excluded the two issues in question, was rejected by the union, who were in a legal strike position as of Nov. 18. She added mediation attempts yielded no compromise.

"We said we're not going to accept that piece of shit you're offering," Bowman said, adding the association voted to strike on Dec. 2, but only after asking administration to go back to the table. "They just walked off on us."

The TAs have now passed the point of no return and are prepared to stay on strike for as long as necessary, Bowman said. "I'm hoping this is phase one. This [strike] is either going to be really long or really short."

With the strike, comes the prospect of delays in administration, especially in the time it takes to return graded exams, Larmour said.

However, Burke Christian, president of the McMaster Students' Union, said students are not too concerned. Christian said the Students' Union was in full support of the TAs and was concerned by administration's failure to press further on attempts to settle.

"They have not sat down since CUPE rejected their first offer," he said.

In the meantime, Christian added, students were focusing more on exams. "I think the disgruntlement will come in January when the marks will be delayed."

Larmour explained the school would allow more leeway for students arriving late to write exams and explained a lag in the time required to mark exams would only pose problems for larger courses. "Exams are up and running," she said. "Things are going fairly smoothly."

Kevin Shimmin, a masters student in labour studies and a TA currently on strike, said morale was high among picketers. "This strike is fully justified. Out of all the TAs across Ontario, the ones at Mac are treated the worst," he said.

Unless administration agrees to their demands, the union will be waving placards for a long time, Bowman added. "[There's] no way we'll give up. My members would kill me."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999