Volume 96, Issue 76
Thursday, February 13, 2003

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SOGS gives props to faculty

By Emmett Macfarlane
Gazette Staff

Western's Society of Graduate Students recently sent a letter to university administration stating its support of the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association in regards to current contract negotiations.

SOGS president Mark Feltham said most graduate students are teaching assistants and are deeply involved in the current contract negotiations. "Most TAs are probably going to become professors themselves," he said.

"Those of us on the SOGS executive had talked about it," Feltham said. "We eventually decided we were going to present a motion to council."

Feltham said a motion to write the letter was approved with overwhelming support by the executive and not a single person spoke against it.

"We support [UWOFA's] positions, so far as they've been publicly stated," Feltham stated. Administration needs to show professors that they value their work, he said, or the consequences will hurt Western. "The professors in many, many cases are going to go elsewhere," he added.

The letter calls on administration to provide competitive wages for faculty and points out that teaching assistants make more than un-tiered part-time faculty members. Feltham said it is odd that TAs may make more than the instructors supervising them, adding he does not believe TAs are overpaid.

Negotiations between Western administration and UWOFA reached an impasse Jan. 31 and UWOFA called for a conciliator. Two weeks earlier, faculty members voted to give the union a strike mandate. If conciliation fails, the Ministry of Labour issues a "no board report," 17 days after which both parties are in a legal strike or lockout position.

"I really, profoundly hope that it doesn't come to a strike," Feltham said.

UWOFA President Paul Handford said the union is very grateful for the support from SOGS. "It's great to see they understand the situation the way we do."

"I thought they expressed themselves well," Handford said, adding he was glad they pointed out the comparatively poor rates of pay faculty at Western receive compared to other Canadian universities, and the need for a competitive hiring environment.

David Estok, director of Western's department of communications and public affairs, said he has yet to see the letter. "We would be interested in meeting with [SOGS] to talk about their concerns," he said, adding he could not comment further.

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