Warning message

Please note that this page is from our archives. There may be more up-to-date content about this topic on our website. Use our search engine to find out.
VANCOUVER - Picket lines went up at 6:30am PST today at the University of British Columbia as 1600 teaching assistants, markers and instructors, members of CUPE local 2278 stopped work.

A legal hiccup had delayed the strike deadline by a day.

Mediation broke down Friday, Feb. 7, when the university administration refused to discuss tuition - the number one issue for workers. The UBC Board of Governors recently approved a 20 per cent tuition fee increase for most graduate students. And they’re promising more in coming years.

The university raised tuition fees by $500 last year. For TAs, it’s the equivalent of a 16 per cent pay cut.

“They’re basically giving you money with one hand, then taking away a third of it with the other. It’s a pretty bizarre system,” said one graduate.

CUPE 2278 is bargaining for tuition waivers but the university has refused to discuss the question.

The local issued its 72 hour strike notice on February 7th. But the union gave UBC until yesterday (Feb. 12), to come back to the bargaining table with meaningful proposals on tuition.

The university had moved from a wage freeze, to offering the union 3 per cent, 2 per cent and 2 per cent increases over a three-year contract. But local president Alex Grant called the offer “clearly insufficient”. “Inflation in Vancouver exceeds three percent at the moment, and they aren’t offering us anything that can’t be clawed back in tuition hikes”.

The Student Union (Alma Mater Society) has agreed to close its facilities and continue to pay staff in support of the TAs’ actions.

Two other major campus unions are also on the verge of a strike. On Feb. 7th, CUPE 116, which represents outside, food service and bookstore workers, voted 86 per cent in favour of striking. Both CUPE 116 and CUPE 2950, which represents clerical and library workers, have pledged their support to the TA union.

“Nobody wants to strike,” said Grant, “but the administration has backed us up against a wall. We hope that the immense support that we are getting will cause the administration to see sense and change its position on tuition to avert a strike.”