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OTTAWA Mediation talks between Carleton University Teaching Assistants (TAs) and their employer broke down yesterday, setting the stage for a strike that could cripple the University in the new year if a settlement cannot be reached.

The talks broke down over the employers refusal to table an offer that would meet the minimum needs of our membership, says Aalya Ahmad, president of Local 4600 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing 1,200 TAs at Carleton.

Quibbling over 1% here or there does not address the structural problems our members face. Our take-home pay after tuition is only a little over $250 per month, says CUPE negotiator Jerzy Jarmasz. Over the last decade, tuition went from being 39.3% of the TA graduate salary in 1991-1992 to 72%, and it will likely continue to rise.

The two parties began negotiations June 30, two months before the expiration of the collective agreement on August 31, 2000. We have been meeting steadily over the last 5 months, and had hoped that they would take our basic concerns seriously, says Finn Makela, CUPE 4600 V-P External.

Carleton had tabled a proposal of 3% and 3% over two years, but stated that it would not be prepared to consider an offer on the unions key demand, protection against further tuition increases. Graduate TAs currently earn $7,138 for a 265-hour appointment over 8 months. Undergraduate TAs currently earn $14.95 an hour.

Michael Britton, a Ph.D. candidate and a TA in Electronics, says that money is not the only issue. The administration wont commit to even discussing the impact of class size on the working conditions of our members and the quality of education we deliver. Conditions have gotten so bad in Engineering that graduate students are taking research positions in private industry rather than dealing with the headaches of being a TA.

CUPE 4600 has requested the two parties discuss the impact of the arrival of the double cohort of high school students in 2003. The administration would not even discuss the issue.


For more information, please contact:
John Gillies, CUPE Natl Rep.
(613) 237-0115 - (613) 761-2569
Aalya Ahmad, President, L. 4600
(613) 520-7482
Jerzy Jarmasz, L. 4600 Negotiator
(613) 520-7482
Robert Lamoureux, CUPE Communications
(416) 292-3999

OPEIU 491/gpb