Nova Scotia

Teaching assistant strike looming at Dalhousie University

Teaching assistants at the Halifax school could go on strike over wages unless a new deal can be negotiated by Wednesday.

Wages haven't changed since 2019, says union

Dalhousie University students could soon be without the help of teaching assistants unless a contract agreement can be reached before Wednesday. (Paul Palmeter)

Kaiti Ellsworth and Gavin Veinotte are Dalhousie University students who are very nervous about what could happen at their school this week.

On Wednesday, teaching assistants at the Halifax school could go on strike unless a new deal can be negotiated.

"I'm nervous as far as staying up to date in my classes because I heavily depend on TAs to answer questions and they do all our tutorials, which is where we get actual examples of questions," said Ellsworth, a second-year engineering student from Lantz, N.S. "So without those, I'm certainly going to struggle in my classes."

The teaching assistants and other part-time academics at Dalhousie have not received a raise since 2019.  Given the skyrocketing rise in inflation and the cost of living, they say a raise is long overdue.

"The situation was already bad three years ago," said Gabor Lukacs, communications officer with CUPE Local 3912 which represents teaching assistants. "Other universities have been receiving further raises and we have been without a collective agreement for two years now."

Kaiti Ellsworth, left, and Gavin Veinotte are second-year engineering students at Dalhousie University in Halifax. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Students are midway through their first semester and say they don't want to see their university programs get bogged down because their professors aren't getting the help they need.

"I'm definitely concerned because it's important to remember TAs do all of our marking of tests and assignments," said Gavin Veinotte, a second-year engineering student from Ottawa. "So we wouldn't be getting any grades back if this strike were to happen."

Dalhousie teachers' assistants are paid $24 per hour. By comparison, the union says a teachers' assistant at the University of Western Ontario is paid double that amount.

"Dalhousie remains optimistic that negotiations will result in a successful tentative agreement and prevent a strike," said Kristen Lipscombe, Dalhousie's senior manager of media relations and issues management, in an email statement.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across Nova Scotia for 30 years.

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