TRAC Mobilizes Strike Committee After Contract Demands Refused
Union Set to Move Beyond Bargaining
Union leaders say Concordia negotiators refused to acquiesce to the pay and benefit demands of the Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia at a bargaining session Feb. 11, leading to the creation of a strike committee to examine alternative forms of action at a general assembly Thursday night.
“[The new committee sends] a very clear statement that [union members are] not happy with the current collective agreement and they want changes, and based on the way negotiations are going so far, they see the need to take further action rather than accept what’s on the table,” said TRAC President Adam Szymanski.
Union members at the meeting were told their pay demands could not be met because of a clause in previous union bargaining agreements, which requires the university to increase the pay for each union by the same amount should a single union receive a pay increase of over two per cent as part of their new collective agreement.
Szymanski says that he respects that reason insofar as it ensures all unions benefit when one does, but that teaching assistants need “in some regard to have different treatment,” because they have to pay tuition to even qualify for their jobs, and therefore their pay ought to cover their tuition as well as living expenses, he said.
Bargaining officer Erik Chevrier mentioned that many TAs are expected to grade more papers without an increase in hours, leading many to say the quality of their work has been compromised.
Robin Graham, a graduate student in the English department, said that he was in charge of a much smaller class than some of his colleagues, so they worked out an informal agreement where he took on some of their workload to make everyone’s task more manageable.
Similarly, a union member and PhD student in film and imaging studies said that he had to grade many more papers than were set out in his contract.
University spokesperson Chris Mota was unable to provide Concordia’s position on the negotiations.
“As is the case with all collective bargaining, we do not discuss the content of negotiations. However, I can tell you that we are working diligently to reach an agreement,” she said.
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