Strike Vote Result and Call for Strike Committee
Despite the University refusing space for GTA assembly, after 14 strike vote sessions (most standing room only) Graduate Teaching Assistants have delivered an overwhelmingly strong strike mandate.
This is a historic moment for our local.
Thank you to all of the GTAs who came out to vote - your support has been a tremendous reminder that the membership is behind us.
We wish to send special thanks to the Mobilization Committee and all of the organizers who have worked tirelessly to engage members. Without your unwavering dedication to improving our working conditions, we would not have the strength we have.
The Local is now calling for the formation of our local Strike Committee, which will shape the course of actions before and during labour action, including general strike. It is important that we strive to ensure every department is represented on the committee. Candidates should apply at email@example.com (copy to firstname.lastname@example.org). Please include your name, department, and a brief outline of why you would like to participate on the committee.
Our next scheduled Conciliation date with the Employer is Tuesday, March 27, 2018. Either party can request a “no board” report. On the 17th day after the “no board” report is issued by the Ontario Minister of Labour, we will be in a legal strike position. The University will be in a legal lockout position.
We do not take labour action lightly and we hope the University does not continue to attempt to incite labour action.
Strike Vote is scheduled - March 12
[updated on March 16]
SAC Local 610 members are being called to a strike vote. All current GTA employees are eligible to vote (you must have a GTAship this semester). No proxy voting is allowed. PSAC Regional office will conduct the vote.
Multiple strike vote sessions have been scheduled to accommodate the membership as much as possible. Each session will begin with a 15 minute presentation from the Bargaining Team about the current proposals from the Union and the employer. Members will have the opportunity to ask questions before casting their vote.
The sessions below have been confirmed so far and we are working to book more rooms on Monday March 19th, Tuesday 20th, and Thursday 22nd.
McKeller Theater (UCC 290) is the most spacious room, which has been booked on Wednesday. The University has not provided large capacity rooms on other days.
Monday, March 19th
- 4:00 PM at CHB 115
- 6:00 PM at SSC 4161
- 8:00 PM at SSC 4161
Tuesday, March 20th
- 8:00 AM at CHB 115
- 2:30 PM at UCC 65
- 4:30 PM at CHB 115
Wednesday, March 21st: all sessions on Wednesday are in McKeller Theater (UCC 290)
- 8:30 AM
- 10:30 AM
- 12:30 PM
- 2:30 PM
- 4:30 PM
Thursday, March 22nd
- 8:30 AM at CHB 115
- 12:00 PM at TC 100
- 2:30 PM at SEB
CHB - Chemistry Building; SSC - Social Science Center; UCC - University Community Center; TC - Talbot College, SEB - Spencer Engineering Building
Date, time, and location for additional strike voting sessions will be forwarded to the membership as soon as they are confirmed.
PSAC Local 610, Postdocs and GTAs Union at Western University
Update - Bargaining Meetings, March 2, 5, 6 and 7, 2018
This communique covers bargaining progress made from March 2nd to March 7th.
We are not able to progress further without direction from membership, and will be holding a strike mandate vote. Dates & times will be announced ASAP.
Please see the FAQ on Strike Mandate Vote, prepared based on what we heard from you at our Strike Information Sessions.
Although almost all outstanding non-monetary issues have been resolved, and we have agreed on meaningful improvements, much of what we are presenting with regards to monetary proposals has not been addressed in the Employer’s responses.
The Employer offered a comparison of TA wage rates from Ontario universities, stating that Western’s wage is competitive. However this information does not take into account wages gained from rebates / bursaries which may offset some portions of rates of pay (and some of the reported wages were not accurate). The Employer’s wage proposals over a three year period (starting September 2017) is below the Ontario Consumer Price Index forecast. Agreeing to their proposal would further aggravate poverty among our members. Our fall survey shows that 43% of GTAs have net income below $11,000. Accepting their proposal of a real wage decrease will make it more difficult to pay for groceries, housing and other basic needs.
Our proposal to extend GTAship employment guarantees (5 years for PhD, 2 years and one term for masters) were declined by the employer. The only move the University offered was to prioritize PhD students beyond their funding period within a given department over funded graduate students from other departments. This only concerns vacancies, and does not address the essence of our demand.
The Employer argued that extending employment entitlements would require the university to restructure the graduate funding. Our position is that reducing the precarity is a priority worthy of these revisions. When we asked what the University does to ensure completion time within the funding period, they answered that SGPS has reviewed the structure of the programs. We pointed out that this was not effective and that the best way to make programs adjust is to introduce financial responsibility, for example in the form of an extended employment period. The University stated that extending employment will stimulate a longer completion time - as if to suggest that TA income is enough to cover living expenses and tuition fees (beyond funding period there are no scholarships or mandatory supervisor/department support). We argued that a long completion time (5.0 years for PhD on average) is departments’ fault too, and the financial responsibility must be shared. We also pointed out that the departments currently benefit from tuition paid by students beyond their funding period. The employer refused to entertain the possibility of extending guaranteed employment period.
Our proposal for considering TA’s input into assignment were repeatedly ignored, despite no obvious associated costs, and the fact that this is already practiced by many departments.
The University is not willing to entertain our proposal separating TA appointments from external scholarships.
The University has declined our request for tuition increase rebates. Two main points have come up repeatedly. The first is that “the minimum funding guarantee increases with tuition”. They have agreed, though, that for members with funding above the minimum guarantee, an increase in this minimum guarantee may not result in a funding increase. The minimum guarantee does not apply to Master students at all. According to our fall survey, more than half of our members experienced a decrease in net income when tuition increases. Thus, we stated that the majority of our members do not benefit from this guarantee. The Employer then accused us that we present the existence of this guarantee in a negative view. The Employer then called grad students that are paid above the minimum guarantee (but still well below poverty line) “fortunate”. Secondly, when asked to comment on TAs being the only employee group on campus with no tuition benefits, the Employer responded by saying that we are able to take any undergraduate course for free, as long as it is approved by our supervisor. They completely ignored the fact that faculty, librarians and archivists, managers and administrators, operation engineers, campus police, food service workers, facility employees are eligible to tuition reimbursements for their dependents.
The employer has not considered our proposals of UHIP subsidy, citing that international students are only about 30% of our membership. In our surveys we see that international TAs are significantly underpaid compared to their domestic colleagues. International TAs use our assistance programs, including food bank, disproportionately more frequent. They have to purchase the additional health insurance (UHIP) for $612 a year.
The employer offered only a small increase to the GTA health plan and financial assistance fund (used to pay financial aid to struggling TAs), stating that based upon the data presented we do not need an increase. In fact, the data we presented showed substantial unmet need in the current program.
This is a non-monetary demand that we have had significant movement on. We believe the progress we have made (an overtime form, and an agreement on the production of a manual for properly filling our Duties Specification Agreement (DSA) with appropriate hours estimates and administrating overtime provisions) constitute a huge improvement for members.
Lead GTA and Professional Development programs
The Employer stated prior to bargaining that they would not be continuing the Lead GTA program. The reasons they gave during bargaining were: (i) it does not reach enough members and (ii) it does not address professional development adequately. We proposed a replacement program which addressed their concerns. It was rejected. The employer has not proposed a program to replace the un-renewed Lead GTA program. These are 8 to 10 GTA positions that currently are lost without any replacement.
We strongly believe that with the support of members we can secure more. It is within the university's power to make a meaningful move. We cannot come any closer to the university's position without direction from membership. It is time to demonstrate commitment to your demands, mandated by membership on Oct 5th. We are seeking a strike mandate from you.
During our February 6th Concilication session, we had presented our full monetary package to the employer, and had received the Employer’s responses to Hours of Work, Letters of Offer, and the Duties Specification Agreement. On March 2nd, while our team anticipated responses to the monetary articles, we received neither a timely nor comprehensive monetary response. The University presented a package containing several articles, relating primarily to some outstanding non-monetary issues. We engaged in discussion about various ways to address unreasonable workload without drastic changes to the DSA. Ultimately, both teams made a few compromises in order to move on these articles. The University conceded not to extend the probationary period of our employees, and the union had to let go of some potential changes to the DSA. We received a trickling of responses to several monetary articles.
Tentative agreement was reached on most of the outstanding articles (in near-chronological order):
- Hours of Work, Letters of Offer, the new Request for Overtime Pay Form
- Health and Safety
- DSA and a Letter of Understanding regarding the creation of a Guide to completing the DSA and overtime provisions
- Services and Facilities, and a Memorandum of Understanding regarding updating the security of the Local's office
- Leaves of Absence
- Non-discrimination / Harassment (including training for GTAs and supervisors)
- Letter of Understanding regarding the implementation of student evaluations
- Agreement on Service on Executive and Other Committees
The University responded to Appointments - a highly ranked priority among members. The university offered changes to the distribution of extra TAships; however, the main items were not addressed: input to TAship assignment, independence from external funding, and guaranteed TAships beyond regular funding period.
Following this, we also received a response to the rest of our monetary demands (e.g. pensions and benefits, tuition rebate, GTA professional development program, leaves, vacation pay). Many of our requests were declined, and so we produced a counters that moved us closer to the University's position.
The university held to their purported mandate, and the GTA team held support for the demands of the membership. Small moves were made, but the majority of moves being asked by the university could not be made without further consulting our membership.
We have received so much helpful and encouraging feedback from our information sessions.
Please stay tuned for a video FAQ from the bargaining team made about the strike information sessions. And remember that the best way to avoid a strike, is to be prepared for one.
The Team continues to thank all members and the Mobilization Committee and organizers for their continued efforts in supporting GTAs’ bargaining demands. Please stay tuned for upcoming mobilization activities.
Your Bargaining Team (email@example.com)
Update - March 7
Much of what we are presenting has not been heard. The university seems to be attempting to incite labor action. It is late evening now, after several long days of bargaining. We will have a full communique soon.
It is our view that with the support of members we can secure more. It is within the university's power to make a meaningful move. We cannot come any closer to the university's position without demonstrating the support of our membership. We are seeking a strike mandate from you.
More information to follow.
The Union is hiring Campaign Organizer to support GTA bargaining
PSAC Local 610 is hiring 6 organizers to promote the ongoing negotiations for a new collective agreement between Graduate Teaching Assistants and Western. These positions will have a duration of about 2 weeks, and organizers will be paid up to $500 as honorarium for their contributions!
Interested candidates should email Shannon Potter at firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional Strike Information Sessions - Feb 28 and March 1, 2018
- 9AM in TC343
- 11AM CMLP 60 A/B
- 1PM in TH 4185
- 5PM in TC 342
- 9AM in UCC 54B
- NOON in WSC 240
- 4PM in HSB 11
TC - Talbot College, CMLP - Claudette MacKay-Lassonde Pavilion, TH - Thames Hall, WSC - Western Science Center, HSB - Health Science Building
Strike Information Sessions - Feb 15 and 16, 2018
Your Union is organizing short Strike Information Sessions, where we will provide information about strike provisions and answer questions. Your Bargaining Team will underscore what must happen before a strike, what it means to vote on a strike mandate, and what it would mean to go on strike. At this time, information sessions are scheduled for February 15 & 16, but additional sessions are being scheduled and please check your emails for updates and additional meetings. For more information, please contact email@example.com. Your Bargaining Team including MaryAnne Laurico, the PSAC Chief Negotiator, will be there to answer all your questions.
FEBRUARY15: 9AM in UCC54B, 12PM in SSC3022, 3:30PM in SSC2032
FEBRUARY16: 11AM, 2PM in UCC58
Update - Bargaining Meetings, Feb 5 and 6, 2018
University Stalling Bargaining? Union Tables Monetary Proposals
Greetings, Graduate Teaching Assistants!
On February 5th and 6th the GTA Bargaining Team tabled all of our remaining proposals. We plan to meet with the Employer again on March 2, 5 and 6, if not sooner. In the meantime, the Union will be organizing Strike Information Sessions.
A meeting between our GTA Bargaining team and the Employer took place, opened by the GTAs presenting our revised proposals addressing overtime. Now, all non-monetary outstanding issues (Hours Work, Letter of Offer, DSA, Probationary employee, Discipline, Non discrimination, Harassment) were being held by the Employer. They stated their wish to continue bargaining on February 6th in the presence of a conciliator, providing no response to these articles.
Today, the GTA Bargaining Team officially entered conciliation, during which a neutral third-party conciliator from the Ministry of Labour was present. We presented the rationale for GTAs’ monetary demands, focussing on GTAs’ financial needs. The employer suggested we focus on the TA portion of graduate student funding. We objected to this, citing a number of other articles in the expired CA that relate TA income to other funding sources. They also requested the exact wording of questions used to conduct our surveys, questioning our results. Our understanding is that this is standard practice for employers. After the presentation, we went over our monetary proposals (Wages, Appointments, Tuition, Benefits) in detail. The bargaining teams separated to allow the employer time to review the comprehensive package.
After receiving our monetary articles, the employer responded to Hours Work, Letter of Offer, and DSA. Unfortunately, it seems that many of our main points regarding changes to the DSA have been ignored. The Employer has not moved on issues relating to reasonable allocation of hours for marking (assignments, exams, etc.) in the DSA. The parties do have agreement in Hours of Work, Letter of Offer, and the Overtime Request Form, however.
Future meetings and Strike Information Sessions
All of our demands have now been tabled. Future meetings will revolve around having the needs of our members met, and working toward an improved Collective Agreement.
There is a chance that the Union will need to organize in the form of labour action. Your Mobilization Committee in conjunction with the GTA Bargaining Team are organizing short Strike Information Sessions, where we will distribute information about strike provisions. Your Bargaining Team will underscore what must happen before a strike, what it means to vote on a strike mandate, the importance of a strong strike mandate in bargaining, and what it means to go on strike, if we need to. Please stay tuned for critical information about the time and location of these Strike Information Sessions.
Thanks to all who came out to our Winter Wonderland event last week. Despite the cold, we saw that the spirits of GTAs burn brightly! The Team continues to thank all members and the Mobilization Committee for their continued efforts in supporting GTAs’ bargaining demands. Please stay tuned for upcoming mobilization activities.
Your Bargaining Team (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Active participation of GTAs is crucial to the bargaining process. If you would like to learn more about the Mobilization Committee, or would like to become involved, contact via email@example.com.
Update - Bargaining Meetings, Jan 4 and 5, 2018
Happy New Year, Graduate Teaching Assistants!
Today, the GTA Bargaining Team finished our third bargaining session with the University’s Bargaining Team. This session included meetings on January 4th and 5th, during which our remaining non-monetary demands were presented and discussed.
Our meeting opened with receiving the Employer’s responses to our proposed language for Union Security, Hours of Work, and Intellectual Property (Articles 8, 17, and 24). We reached tentative agreement on changes to Union Representatives and Activities (Article 5), and Intellectual Property. All Articles signed during negotiations are subject to ratification by our membership. Several proposals were exchanged, and meaningful discussion took place about Hours of Work.
Our bargaining team sought clarification on a few monetary articles, in anticipation of presenting our full proposal on coming dates. In particular, the team inquired about appointments, including the Employer’s criteria for assigning GTAs to courses, and for scheduling final exams.
The Employer responded to our proposed modifications to Letters of Offer (Appendix A), and Duties Specification Agreements (DSA, Appendix B). The intentions of these modifications are to i) clarify the distribution of duties across weeks, ii) underscore workload and student/TA ratio, as well as iii) further enshrine the concept of mutual agreement between GTAs and their supervisor regarding the distribution of their work hours. A response to our newly proposed Overtime Request Form was presented by the University, prompting the bargaining team to engage in an open discussion about GTA workload and overtime, referencing statistics obtained from our recent Overtime Survey.
Our Bargaining team closed out the day by presenting our full response to Hours of Work.
Our meeting began with the GTA Bargaining team presenting counters to Letters of Offer, DSAs, and the Overtime Request Form. These counters were prepared after discussion with the Employer on January 4th. Both teams also signed off on Union Security (Article 8), and Purpose (Article 1).
The Employer gave a comprehensive response to Hours of Work (Article 17), tieing in Letters of Offer, DSAs, and the Request for Overtime Form.
We asserted that members are working overtime hours without compensation, and the employer asked for further information regarding the prevalence and origin of these issues. We presented information from our Fall 2017 Overtime Survey and detailed examples of issues that lead to overtime. More information on that discussion is available here.
We proposed a DSA that addresses i) the issues that cause overtime, and (ii) the TA’s right to negotiate the distribution of their hours with their Course Supervisor prior to signing (including the option to have hours fit within 10 a week). The latter is already guaranteed in the previous Collective Agreement. The Employer has expressed that they are not interested in an hours break down that indicates the number of students in the course, and the time required and/or allotted for specific duties. We are adamant that supervisors need to record these estimates on the DSA to ensure that expectations are reasonable. Further, we are adamant that the option to negotiate the distribution of hours prior to signing should be explicit on the DSA.
Western indicated that two outstanding Articles, Probationary Employees and Discipline, Suspension and Discharge (15 & 16), could not be discussed until a final comprehensive package is presented. In response, the GTA Bargaining Team replied that a comprehensive package of outstanding articles, including monetary articles, would be presented at the next meeting.
One future date was secured to meet with the Employer. The next session is scheduled to take place on February 6th, 2018.
Your Team will be tabling monetary demands on February 6th. Our forthcoming proposals are to secure real wage increases without clawbacks, extended funding period, tuition rebate, and benefits.
Recent communication between members and the Bargaining Team (while eating pancakes or otherwise) has lead to publishing a short communication on retro-pay. This can be found here.
The Team continues to thank all members and the Mobilization Committee for their continued efforts in supporting GTAs’ bargaining demands. Please stay tuned for upcoming mobilization activities.
Active participation of GTAs is crucial to the bargaining process. If you would like to learn more about the Mobilization Committee, or would like to become involved, contact via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update - Bargaining Meetings, Dec 11 and 12
Dear Graduate Teaching Assistants,
Today, the GTA Bargaining Team finished our second bargaining session with the University's Bargaining Team. This session included meetings on December 11th and 12th, during which our remaining non-monetary demands were presented and/or discussed.
Our meeting opened with the GTA Bargaining Team presenting more of our non-monetary demands. The Team also received the Employer's responses to many articles presented at our November 22nd meeting. The Teams reached agreement on and signed "Article 6: No Strike / No Lock-out", and "Article 7: Correspondence." All Articles signed during negotiations are subject to the ratification of our membership. Our discussions with the Employer were productive and we efficiently exchanged several proposals and counter proposals.
We proposed a modified Letter of Offer (Appendix A) and a substantially modified Duties Specification Agreement (Appendix B). The intent of the modifications to the DSA is to clarify the distribution of duties across weeks, as well as to further enshrine the concept of mutual agreement between GTAs and their supervisor regarding their duties. We also proposed an Overtime application form, which will be discussed in future meetings.
We proposed stronger language for more proactive approaches to handling Workplace Harassment/Discrimination/Violence, and issues involving Union Security (the information the Union receives from the Employer).
The second day began with signing two additional draft articles, "Article 9: Joint Labour/Management Committee", and "Article 12: Information". Our Bargaining team opened by presenting the remainder of our non-monetary demands. The Employer presented their responses to a few articles presented on December 11th, leading to discussion about the Union's role in orientation events and ultimately improved language.
The Employer agreed to meet on two of our previously proposed dates, January 4th and 5th, 2018, but not January 8th, which was also proposed. They suggested meeting on January 22nd, but our Bargaining Team is unavailable. Your Bargaining Team previously proposed the following dates in February: 6, 9; 13-16; and 19, 20. We are still waiting for their response to these proposed dates.
After non-monetary demands are off the table, your Team will table our monetary demands. Our forthcoming proposals will address clawbacks members have experience to other funding sources after previous GTA wage increases.
We requested data on times to completion from the Employer, to help us form our monetary proposals. We received some data, and are seeking more.
The Team continues to thank all members and the Mobilization Committee for their continued efforts in supporting GTAs' bargaining demands. Please stay tuned for messages from your Local Executive and Mobilization Committee about information, actions, and activities.
Please join your PSAC Local 610 Bargaining Team and Mobilization Committee at the Wave this Thursday, December 14th, for a complimentary breakfast between 8:30 to 10:30 am, to meet your fellow members and talk about bargaining!
Please RSVP here.
Bargaining Meeting, November 22
Today, the GTA Bargaining Team had our first meeting with the University’s Bargaining Team, consisting of:
- Jane O’Brien - Associate VP Human Resources (Chief Negotiator)
- Katie Osborne - Human Resources Consultant, Employee Relations
- Linda Miller - Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies)
- Ron Wagler - Direction of Administration (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies)
Our meeting opened with the GTA Bargaining Team presenting our proposed non-monetary changes to the current Collective Agreement. Following this, a few non-monetary articles were also highlighted by the University.
Both teams proceeded cautiously, but this did not preclude fruitful discussion of the non-monetary demands proposed. Monetary proposals and a few non-monetary proposals were put on reserve for future meetings. Your Team has requested disclosure of information relevant to bargaining.
Of the material discussed today, the Lead Graduate Teaching Assistant Program was discussed at length. This program was introduced in the 2012-2015 Collective Agreement as a pilot program, and was continued for the 2015-2017 Collective Agreement. The reported intention of the program was to facilitate professional development of GTAs at the department level. Both parties agreed that the program was beneficial, but the Employer expressed that in their view this program has “completed”, and should not continue as it currently exists. The University’s concern was the program was not broad enough in scope to affect a large number of GTAs. The Employer seemed interested in working with the Union to implement training opportunities inspired by the Lead GTA program that will benefit a greater number of GTAs. The bargaining team is seeking input from members regarding skills they would like to develop as teaching assistants. A survey will be posted to collect this input, so please respond!
The bargaining teams secured two additional dates for bargaining: December 11th and 12th, 2017.
The Team wishes to thank the Mobilization Committee for their work. Active participation of GTAs is crucial to the bargaining process. If you would like to learn more about the Mobilization Committee, or would like to become involved, contact via email@example.com. Stay tuned for a message from your Mobilization Committee about an upcoming event.
We continue to push for GTAs’ demands to be met, and are committed to working toward a fair Collective Agreement.
First bargaining date is scheduled!
The GTA Bargaining Team will meet with the Employer on November 22.
GTAs mandate bargaining demands and priorities
Dear Graduate Teaching Assistants,
On October 5 the GTA membership approved the list of priorities proposed by the GTA Bargaining Team as follows (ordered starting from the highest priority):
- Real wage increases
- Appointments (including criteria and extended funding period)
- Tuition Rebate
- Hours of Work and Overtime
In addition, a larger list of demands (not ordered) was approved. The discussion at the meeting was very useful for the GTA Bargaining Team. There was a motion to amend the order of priorities which, although it did not carry, also led to productive discussion. We thank everyone who participated in the meeting. Your active participation in the process is crucial.
Some slides (not complete) from the meeting are attached here. To ensure a strong position in bargaining, we do not make available all details from the meeting. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us throughout the bargaining process. We value your input, and are always happy to discuss if you have any questions or comments.