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Date: January 06, 2004

UVic to Remain Open in the Event of Strike

While a strike by teaching assistants (TAs) and second language instructors at the University of Victoria will disrupt university operations, UVic will endeavour to remain open and provide instruction in classes for as long as possible, says Vice President Academic Jamie Cassels.

CUPE local 4163, which represents the two groups, served the university with 72 hours strike notice today, putting the union in a legal strike position as of 9 a.m., Friday, January 9. A labour disruption could target particular buildings or the campus as a whole.

UVic and the union tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a new contract throughout the fall, and an attempt at a mediated settlement ended on December 29 when the union asked the mediator to book out.

The university’s proposal to the union includes a 21 per cent increase in financial support for teaching assistants over three years in the form of a new fellowship program (15 per cent new funding and six per cent as a reallocation of discretionary fellowship funds). UVic has also proposed market adjustment increases to the salaries of its second language instructors.

“Our TAs, who are graduate students, make an important contribution to UVic. The university helps them pursue their graduate studies, not only by employing them as teaching assistants, but through other financial support such as fellowships, scholarships and bursaries,” says Cassels. “While our goal is to provide the most competitive compensation and financial support possible within the university’s means, UVic must operate under the provincial government guidelines that allow no general wage increases in the public sector. That’s why we developed a creative way to put more money in their pockets. Of course, we also have to balance the interests of all UVic students, since the only way to fund additional support for graduate students will be tuition increases for undergraduate and graduate students or program and service cuts.”

Approximately 22 per cent of UVic’s graduate students are teaching assistants.

Within the past year, UVic and the three unions representing staff and sessional instructors on campus have reached settlements within provincial government guidelines. There is a tentative agreement with the second language instructors’ component of local 4163 on most issues, including compensation, however both components must reach an agreement before there can be a settlement.

Last week, the union proposed that the two parties submit to binding arbitration to settle the outstanding issues. The university proposed that the two parties return to mediation where progress has been made on a variety of issues.

Cassels says that in the event of a campus-wide strike, some classes taught by sessional instructors may be cancelled and the libraries, counselling, health services, emergency financial aid and the administrative registrar’s office will offer only limited services. While meal service for residence students will be maintained, most support services on campus will be unavailable, including general food services, recreation facilities and the campus bookstore. Most public events on campus will be cancelled, and transit service and traffic may be disrupted.

The UVic Web site, www.uvic.ca, is the central information source for the status of university operations, cancelled classes and information about the rights and responsibilities of students, faculty and staff during any labour disruption. It will be updated regularly.

Media contacts:
Bruce Kilpatrick, Director, UVic Communications Services at (250) 721-7638
Prof. Jamie Cassels, Vice President Academic

UVic media releases and other resources for journalists are available on the World Wide Web at http://communications.uvic.ca/media

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