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HAMILTON, ON – Management at McMaster University has requested a ‘no-board’ report from an Ontario Ministry of Labour conciliation officer, starting a countdown to a lockout or strike by teaching and research assistants (TAs and RAs), represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

Management is setting the stage for a crisis at McMaster, pulling the plug on negotiations and starting the countdown to a lockout or strike that will affect thousands of students, staff and faculty,” said Sarah Declerck, president of CUPE Local 3906. “The McMaster administration is refusing to discuss critical issues like rising tuition costs and excessive workloads, issues that not only affect our members, but also the students that we teach and help every day.” The university will be able to legally lock out the TAs and RAs 17 days from the date the ‘no board’ report is issued, and the workers will also be in a legal strike position at that time.

Protection from rising tuition costs, growing class sizes, overwork, and job security are the key issues in contract talks. “Recent increases in tuition fees at McMaster translate into an effective pay cut of between $177 and $500 each year, for TAs and RAs,” said Declerck.

Management’s aggressive recruitment strategy has led to ballooning class sizes, but they haven’t increased teaching hours or hired more teaching assistants to adequately serve students,” said Max Haiven, CUPE 3906 spokesperson. “In some first-year classes, TAs are responsible for 500 students, while management will only pay for ten hours a week per TA – our members often end up working for free beyond scheduled hours, to make sure students get the help they deserve.”

CUPE 3906 represents over 2,200 undergraduate and graduate TAs, who teach, grade and help students at McMaster. Their last contract expired on August 31, 2006. The union will meet management negotiators in mediation talks over the next two weeks, to try and achieve a negotiated settlement.

Most of our members are students as well, so we know the benefits of smaller class sizes and the need for accessible education,” said Haiven. “TAs work hard to improve the quality of education at McMaster and we urge management to listen to our concerns in upcoming mediation sessions. A lockout or strike will hurt students, our members and the entire university community at McMaster.”

For further information, please contact:

Sarah Declerck
President CUPE 3906

Max Haiven
CUPE 3906 Spokesperson

Patricia Webber-Callaghan
CUPE National Representative

James Chai
CUPE Communications