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VANCOUVER There will be no teaching and no marking by Teaching Assistants (TAs) come Monday, Feb. 24, 2003. The announcement was made by the UBC Teaching Assistants’ Union following UBC president Martha Piper’s presentation on the campus labour dispute yesterday.

The TAs do 40 percent of the teaching at UBC, and are heavily involved in the marking of the recent mid-term exams. Laboratories and seminars will be especially heavily hit. The suspension of services also opens the way for extensive picketing on the UBC campus. This could cause a virtual shutdown of campus.

Ms. Piper’s speech and subsequent question and answer session in front of the campus community yesterday appears to have spurred the discontented campus workers to new heights of determination. She directly refused to grant requests for equal time on stage and an independent moderator, in spite of a petition signed by several hundred UBC community members including professors and a former Governor of the university.

Teaching assistants were incensed to hear her say that they were not entitled to benefits such as parental leave and medical coverage because they were part-time workers and that their teaching at the university was “not a career path”. “If she doesn’t think TAing is part of my career path, she is seriously wrong!” said graduate student Dana Leighton, after the meeting. Teaching assistantships are commonly seen as important training for future university faculty.

There was laughter from the audience as the president asserted first that it was inequitable to give tuition assistance to TAs because they only represent a part of the graduate population, and followed this immediately by the statement that only PhD program graduates will receive tuition waivers next year.

And members of all three campus unions were angered by her five-minute defence of her own recent 63 percent salary increase, which compares with a mandate for pay freezes in bargaining with other campus employees.

“Clearly, the salary recently announced by the chair of our board of governors and associated with the renewal of my contract does not fall within the zero-zero-zero mandate,” Piper admitted, before going on to justify the raise on the basis of comparisons with the University of Toronto and other ’peer universities’.

Teaching assistant Kirk Tousaw asked Piper if she would guarantee U. of Toronto rates of pay for UBC teaching assistants (U. of Toronto TAs make 34 percent more as an hourly rate). Piper declined to do so.


Alex Grant 604 916 2117, or see cupe2278.ca