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HAMILTON, Ont. Teaching assistants (TAs) at McMaster University, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), are set to begin a strike later this month over excessive workloads and rising tuition, if an agreement cannot be reached.

Our members are fighting for better working conditions that will lead to better quality education at McMaster, said Philippa Carter, president of CUPE 3906. With the double cohort and the high growth agenda pursued by the administration, class sizes continue to increase without a parallel increase in hours for TAs to adequately serve students.

Protection from rising tuition fees, job security, benefits and working conditions are the key issues in contract discussions. TAs want language in their contract to protect them from future increases in tuition fees a critical issue faced by TAs and students across Ontario. Leading universities in Ontario, including York, Carleton and Windsor, have provided their TAs with protection against tuition fee increases in their current contracts. With Ontarios two-year tuition freeze set to end in September 2006, McMaster TAs are the first of many CUPE locals who will make this a key bargaining issue.

While McMaster wants to be seen as an innovative leader in the university sector, it has failed to demonstrate any leadership qualities during negotiations, said Mike Skinner, chief negotiator for CUPE 3906. Management doesnt seem to be listening and is showing no flexibility on any of our issues. Our current proposal on tuition relief is modest compared to other universities, but they refused to discuss it. Thats not negotiating, thats stonewalling.

CUPE 3906 represents over 1850 TAs, who teach, grade and help students at McMaster. Their contract expired on December 31, 2004. TAs will be in a legal strike position at 12:01 am on February 28th with mediation talks scheduled for February 23rd.

Our members are students themselves and value the importance of high quality education, said Carter. We would rather be focussing on the final months of school than walking the picket line, but this fight is also for future TAs and students. We will do our best to hammer out an agreement, but we are prepared to go on strike to fight for quality education and fairness at McMaster.


For further information, please contact:
Philippa Carter, President CUPE Local 3906 - 416-420-0161 - 905-525-9140 ext 23391
Mike Skinner, Chief negotiator CUPE Local 3906 - 905-975-2253 - 905-525-9140 ext 24852
James Chai, CUPE Communications - 416-292-3999