The first collective agreement for CUPE 2278 teaching assistants at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) has now been ratified by both parties, said the union.

Getting to the table was a long process that began last year but once there, a deal was reached after just four days of bargaining. The new local will be component 3 of CUPE 2278.

“We were pleasantly surprised by the speed of the negotiations,” said Andrew Guest, the chair of the bargaining committee. “We met and it was very collegial and constructive. It was important for both sides to change the nature of the relationship between TAs and the university, and reach a new kind of relationship,” said Guest.

The move to organize was motivated by the experience of TAs at UBC, who were primarily considered more student than employee, said Guest. Unpaid working hours, academic retaliation and harassment in all its forms are some of the key issues that the new agreement addresses.

“This really was a major victory,” added CUPE 2278 President Laura Bulk. “We got very firm protection and clear language around things like academic retaliation. The agreement clearly says academic retaliation is a form of harassment,” she said.

“I also want to recognize the hard work and dedication of the bargaining committee members and our national servicing representative.”

Final ratification of the agreement is expected early next week, after the University Public Sector Employers’ Association signs off on the deal.

CUPE 2278 represents approximately 78 TAs, who are also students at UNBC.