McMaster, CUPE to mediate in attempt to resolve teaching assistants’ strike

McMaster University and the union representing teaching (TA) and research assistants (RA) have agreed to meet with a provincial mediator on Friday to continue negotiations on a new contract.

The move comes amid a two-and-a-half week strike by CUPE 3906 workers, whose demands include pay increases and tuition reimbursements.

Representing about a third of the workforce at McMaster, the union contests the teaching assistants account for only 3.7 per cent of the school’s annual payroll.

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Despite the strike, ongoing since November 21st, the university’s facilities have remained open, and classes are expected continued despite the work action.

A spokesperson for the university says the entity’s current salaries are “strong” for the part-time work done by assistants and that their current offer is “fair.”

Read more: Teaching assistants at McMaster University on strike

“We respect the work they do, we respect them as students, but we really need to just get back and focus on negotiating a new deal,” manager of communications Andrea Farquhar told Global News.

In mid-October, 90 per cent of the assistants voted yes to job action, demanding a fair and reasonable offer to protect students from tuition increases and address rising cost of living concerns in Hamilton and the lack of work opportunities for graduate students.

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A group of McMaster students and faculty delivered giant letters to the university’s president on Thursday, showing their support for those workers.

Naia Lee, a second-year arts and science student, cites the recent wave of inflation further challenges assistants trying to make enough to meet the cost of living.

“The inconveniences we are experiencing during the strike just show how essential TAs and RAs are to our learning,” Lee said. “Students deserve certainty about our education.”

McMaster students showed off letters signed by more than 700 students and faculty on campus Dec. 8, 2022. The demonstators insist McMaster has enough money to improve the deal that’s currently on the table. Global News

The letters, signed by more than 700 people, insist McMaster has enough money to improve the deal that’s currently on the table.

CUPE says the university made an estimated $232 million in 2021, but used just under four per cent of it’s total payroll last year on assistants wages.

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The strike is the first labour disruption at McMaster since 2011. The last strike involving teaching assistants was in 2009.

&© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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