Strike looming for University of Guelph teaching assistants and sessional lecturers

The union representing teaching assistants and sessional lecturers at the University of Guelph is preparing to go on strike.

Scott Duchesne, the president of CUPE 3913 said they have been negotiating with the university since October. He notes the university has been very slow when it comes to responding to demands and has filed for conciliation, or a no-board report. The union could strike just as students are headed to exam season in early April.

“We don’t want to strike,” said Duchesne. “But we are in a position where if we are not getting a reasonable and just collective agreement, we will strike if we have to.”

The union is looking for wage and benefit increases affected by Bill 124 and to decrease the workload required by graduate students. Duchesne also said the university has not engaged in conversations on a mental health fund, so members can receive counselling and other services.

“We’ve tried other things, but these are the three that we are working on,” said Duchesne. The graduate students association at Guelph cited to the union that the workload reduction proposal as a priority.

The university has told the union they are in a deficit and lack the funds to do what the union is looking for.

A strike vote is expected to take place next Tuesday by members of the union. Duchesne said about half of the membership voted at the strike mandate, with 92.5 per cent in favour.

“We feel fairly confident going into the vote next week that we are going to receive the same percentage… and the same number of people voting, if not more,” said Duchesne.

Guelph is not the only university to face strikes in recent weeks. York University in Toronto has been on strike since Feb. 26. The University of Toronto also just averted a strike that could have affected over 8,000 academic and support workers.

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