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VANCOUVER - Teaching assistants at UBC, members of CUPE Local 2278, voted 87% in support of taking job action to achieve a fair agreement.

CUPE Local President Alex Grant says the strong strike mandate is a reflection of the membership’s anger over UBC’s bargaining offer. The strike vote was held from November 27 December 2. The ballots were counted yesterday.

UBC administration wants the 1,800 teaching assistants to accept a three-year wage freeze and no protection against tuition fee increases. It also wants to eliminate its health coverage payments for teaching assistants.

Members are feeling frustrated and betrayed by the employers’ actions, says Grant. UBC is one of the richest universities in the country, yet it has decided to play hard ball with the poorest group of workers on campus.

The university had a policy of rebating 50% of any tuition fee increases to teaching assistants. This fall, however, when tuition fees rose for the first time in a decade, the university refused to renew the policy. The tuition hike of about $500 a year represents a 16% pay cut over three years for teaching assistants.

UBC teaching assistants, who only make about $9,000 a year, are paid about $2.50 less an hour than SFU and at least $7 less an hour than their counterparts at the University of Toronto.

Earlier this year, UBC administration reached a new agreement with faculty that provided more than $10 million in wage and benefit improvements more than the entire payroll for teaching assistants.

Grant, who works and studies in zoology at UBC, says teaching assistants want equal treatment. If the administration can find the money for faculty, it had better find the money for teaching assistants, or it may have a strike on its campus.

CUPE plans to ask the labour relations board to appoint a mediator to help resolve the dispute.

Our goal is a fair settlement, Grant says. Hopefully, our strong strike mandate will serve as a wake up call to the employer to ’get serious.’

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For more information, call: Alex at: 604-916-2117