OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Feb. 25, 2014) - The quality of students' instruction was front and centre when teaching staff at Carleton University delivered a strong strike vote last week.
At issue for Carleton's academic workers are the links between their working conditions, the value of their contribution to students' success and the quality of the teaching they provide to students.
"Our members want to provide the highest quality instruction and teaching support to Carleton students," said James Meades, president of Local 4600 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). "That is why we are seeking collective agreements that will ensure adequate staffing levels, reduce turnover among teaching staff, and allow us to manage our work properly.
"So far, the university's proposals only serve to undermine students' learning experience at Carleton."
Over three days last week, Carleton's teaching assistants (TAs) and contract instructors (CIs) took part in separate, university-wide strike votes, which place the workers in a legal strike position as of 12:01 a.m. on Monday, March 10.
Meades emphasized that the union's bargaining proposals are designed to bring a measure of stability to the work of TAs and CIs, and therefore to the students they teach and support.
"Student achievement and the quality of their education are directly tied to the working conditions of staff," stressed Meades.
Some 1800 teaching assistants (TAs) and 700 contract instructors (CIs) at Carleton are represented across two units of Local 4600 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Though their bargaining issues differ in details, they share similar concerns over the ways that low wages, precarious work and lack of benefits negatively affect the service they provide to students and faculty.
"Carleton TAs make on average $10,000 a year. Out of that salary, they also pay their own graduate course fees, which range from $8,000 to $10,000 a year for full-time domestic students and between $18,000 and $24,000 for full-time international students.
"To make up for the rising cost of tuition - which erodes their base salary - TAs currently receive a rebate on their fees. But the current system is flawed, inaccurate, and no longer provides adequate protection against tuition increases."
Carleton CIs receive no benefits and are paid 8 per cent less than the provincial average (13 per cent less than CIs at the University of Ottawa).
Meades believes that a directive from the province is behind Carleton's determination to hold back wage increases and its refusal to provide even basic benefits for CIs. But he charges that this short-sighted attitude is having a negative impact on Carleton's students.
"The quality of instruction is a priority for Carleton's teaching staff and it should be for the university's administration as well," he declared.
Note for editors
Last week's strike vote was only the latest salvo in the long and protracted negotiations between CUPE and Carleton University: months ago, the university's TAs and CIs took to social media, airing their concerns and frustration on Twitter (@cupe4600) and through the blog weteachcarleton.ca.