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UBC teaching assistants voted last night to reject campus administration’s 3, 4, 3 offer and to escalate strike action. The decision was made at the largest membership meeting in the union’s recent history.

Members expressed their anger at UBC’s disrespect for the TAs, when they found out that UBC had announced their offer in the media before even bringing it to the bargaining table last Thursday further announcing that TA’s had walked away from talks that had never taken place. Alex Grant stated that meanwhile the bargaining team was left waiting 5:00 pm at the Labour Board last Thursday—no UBC representatives presented themselves to dialogue.

What has been left out of media reports is that UBC administration had an agreement with TAs, up until August 31 2002, the last day of the previous contract. The agreement provided for a cushion against tuition increases that would support not nullify wage increases. The university removed that assistance at the same moment that they began to implement a series of tuition hikes which already run at 48 percent over two years. UBC’s stated policy suggests that a further 20 percent increase may be in the pipeline next year, but this has not been officially announced.

Grant said that UBC had been made fully aware that the return of tuition assistance was a key issue for the TA bargaining team. But UBC still refuses to discuss reinstating any agreement at all on tuition, even after a month of strike action.

Absence of any clause on tuition was the principal reason why the UBC offer was rejected. Without tuition assistance, TAs will be on an income of $6000 next year—insufficient to pay tuition, eat and pay housing charges. And TA incomes will drop even further in spite of the current UBC offer, because UBC is deducting money from its graduate employees faster than the pay rise would make up for.

What is also remaining unreported in the media is that UBC has taken away previous health benefits negotiated by TAs, and that no offer to restore them has been made in the whole of the month of the strike either. Teaching assistants are now the only employee group on campus without health benefits. UBC president, Martha Piper has publicly stated that TA’s are “not entitled to benefits, because their work is not a career path at UBC

The TA Union has outlined a strike plan, worked out in cooperation with the other campus locals, CUPE 116 and CUPE 2950. The plan describes an “aggressive and rapid escalation” of strike action, including taking out buildings on a permanent basis rather than for one day as is happening now, and a ring of pickets which begins at a core and spreads to include more of the campus day by day.

This plan was endorsed overwhelmingly by last night’s TA meeting. The union members also mandated their executive to move to a full shutdown of the campus as a final goal of this escalation. The university’s final examinations in early April set a time limit for the TAs’ job action.

CUPE 2950 will soon be in a legal position to strike.


For more information, contact:
Alex Grant at 604-916-2117