With no settlement reached on March 27, teaching assistants will vote on the university's final offer in two weeks — and a TA strike is still on the table.
The TA union, Public Service Alliance of Canada Local 610, met with the university for 11 hours yesterday, yet the parties did not reach a settlement.
The union, representing 2,000 TAs, has been in negotiations with the university since fall. With bargaining at an impasse, union members voted yes to a strike mandate last week. A strike mandate — a majority vote in favour of a strike — authorizes the union to initiate a strike. However, it does not guarantee TAs will hit the picket line; rather, it indicates the members are prepared to do so.
At the March 27 meeting, the university presented its final offer. At this point, both parties have made concessions.
“Our discussions were productive and the new proposal on the table is significantly different than that shown at the strike vote meeting,” said the union in a public statement.
Despite this, the union is recommending its members reject their employer’s last offer. PSAC Local 610 said the new agreement does not satisfy their top three demands:
- To bring wages above the forecasted inflation
- To extend employment periods
- To include tuition rebates
In an email to students on March 28, Provost Janice Deakin said the university remains hopeful the TAs will accept their last offer. She said the bargaining teams have resolved many differences, and the university remains hopeful there will not be a labour disruption.
“We value the work of [TAs], and we have worked hard towards a reasonable and responsible collective agreement that reflects their employment role and the fiscal realities that exist in the post-secondary sector in the province,” Deakin said in the email.
Nadia Ivanova, a member of the union’s bargaining team, agrees gains have been made at the table. However, the union believes key issues still need addressing.
“The only thing is that all those gains will not change the financial hardship of our members right now,” Ivanova said. “It won’t change the situation of a majority of our members being below the poverty line.
Ivanova explained TAs have a net income below $11,000, which doesn’t match the cost of living in London.
With negotiations stalled, the university has filed a no board, a move that puts the parties in a legal strike or lockout position by mid-April. After a no board is issued, workers can strike, or their employer can lock them out 17 days later.
“We still want to talk about this with the university and have this conversation, but we also want them to hear us, and we want them to understand,” said Ivanova. “We are asking for basic fairness.”
Recently, members from the Society of Graduate Students, The University of Western Ontario Staff Association and the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association have sent letters of support for the TAs to president Amit Chakma and the chair of the Board of Governors, Paul Jenkins.
PSAC Local 610 will hold a vote on April 11 and 12 to decide if they will accept the university’s final offer.