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HAMILTON, Ont. – Teaching and research assistants (TAs and RAs) at McMaster University have voted more than 81 per cent in favour of strike action, if McMaster’s administration fails to move towards a fair contract settlement, as both parties head back to the bargaining table this week.

Talks between CUPE 3906, representing more than 2,000 TAs and RAs, and the administration, resume tomorrow as CUPE 3906 tries to avert a lockout or strike, which could come as soon as October 23. The university triggered the countdown when it requested a “no board” report from the conciliator on the very first day of conciliated bargaining.

Our members are angry and they’re looking for a signal that the employer takes our work issues seriously,” said union spokesperson Max Haiven. “We’re teaching huge classes, we’re putting in hours of unpaid overtime in order to give students the help they need and, to top it off, we’re looking at an effective pay cut of $177 to $500 every year because of tuition fee increases. Nobody can accept that.

Our members have given us a strong mandate to achieve a fair contract,” said Sarah Declerck, president of CUPE 3906. “As front-line workers, we have taken a stand for quality, accessible education.”

We’re looking for respect, not a confrontation,” said Declerck. “After all, as both students and workers, we know the risk the administration is creating for the entire McMaster community. We’re asking everyone to contact the administration and urge them not to lockout workers or force a strike that will hurt the entire community.”

The main issues in negotiations are protection from tuition fee increases, something already achieved by TAs and RAs at other leading Ontario universities, protection from overwork and job security.

The TAs and RAs will be holding a rally tomorrow at 11:15 am at the McMaster campus (between the student centre and Mills library) to raise awareness of the outstanding issues, and the impact of a lockout or a strike. Faculty members, other labour organizations and supporters will also participate in the rally.

Max Haiven, CUPE 3906 Spokesperson 905-923-1499

Sarah Declerck, CUPE 3906 President 416-830-9537

Patricia Webber-Callaghan, CUPE National Representative 905-575-5411

James Chai, CUPE Communications 416-292-3999