Graduate teaching assistants at Western say no to 'final' offer

Two thousand graduate teaching assistants at Western University have “overwhelmingly” rejected what the school called its final wage offer. But the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents the GTAs, says it has no immediate plans to launch strike action.

The TAs are in a legal strike position but their union says it wants to return to negotiations

Graduate teaching assistants at Western University want to resume negotiations with the school instead of launching a strike. (Twitter)

Two thousand graduate teaching assistants (GTA) at Western University have "overwhelmingly" rejected what the school called its final wage offer.

But the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents the GTAs, says it has no immediate plans to launch strike action.

The university's offer failed to address the key issue of "GTAs struggling to make real financial gains in the face of rising tuition and the cost of living," according to Sharon DeSousa, PSAC Ontario Regional Executive Vice-President.

Western offered the teaching assistants a three per cent increase over two years, which would have given them an hourly rate of $45.83 as of September 1, 2019, according to union documents. But union officials said the increase would only cover the cost of inflation.

"I don`t want to go on strike," said Carla Joubert, a PhD candidate and T.A. in history at Western. "But, we also deserve to have financial security and we need to have our labour valued and that`s basically, I think, all that we`re asking for."

We also deserve to have financial security and we need to have our labour valued,- Carla Joubert,  pHD candidate and T.A. in history

Joubert describes scrupulously tracking her finances on line each month to ensure she can afford rent and groceries. 

"To have the administration put an offer on the table that doesn`t even meet, what we understand is the inflation of the cost of food over time, that`s almost hurtful," she said.  

Legal strike position

The GTAs had previously voted to go on strike if they could not reach a deal and they are now in a legal strike position. But DeSousa said instead of a walkout, the union will work to secure bargaining dates with the university to address outstanding issues.

Western said earlier this week it had no plans to lock-out the teaching assistants but wants to ensure exams proceed as scheduled. Exams start Saturday and continue until April 30.

"I've already told my students that I care deeply about their education, I wish them all the best of luck with exams, I hope that I'm available in any way that I can and I've given them the tools that I think they need in the event a strike does happen," said Joubert. "I hope I'm there."

If a strike were to take place, London Transit says its buses would not enter the campus but would stop at various points near the university.