The University of Guelph Faculty Association (UGFA), the union for faculty on campus, is in a legal strike position on Friday, March 14th, at 12:01am (press release). They’ve been negotiating a new agreement with the University Administration for about 18 months now, and haven’t reached something amicable yet.
It’s tough to find information on the specific outstanding issues, but information from the UGFA at least details what faculty members were voting for when they voted for the strike mandate.
But what are we students supposed to do: Graduate Students who are GTAs, Sessionals, or those of us just attending classes?
I’m currently a GTA, so a member of CUPE 3913. CUPE 3913 is the union for all UTA, GTA, GSA, and Sessional Lecturer employees on campus. I’ve been trying to get some information about what to do, as a GTA, in case there is a faculty strike and my supervisor is on the picket line.
Remember that nobody is legally allowed to ask GTAs to do the work of the striking faculty. Furthermore, performing that work would seriously undermine and cut the legs out from underneath the people striking. Strikes are typically financially crippling for the people on the picket lines, and personally I don’t feel like compromising their position any further. The rule of thumb for TAs is don’t do anything differently than you would otherwise do if your supervisor wasn’t on strike.
If you’re unsure of your duties, check out the Unit 1 Collective Agreement between the U of G and CUPE 3913 … it’s a great read for a variety of reasons. This year is also the year this agreement expires (in August). Notice how only one (1) of the 70+ pages of the agreement concerns itself with the hourly wage. There is a lot of information there regarding benefits, leave, termination, multiple supervisors (not allowed), overtime, health & safety, harassment, rules regarding guaranteed TA-ships, and much more.
Update: If there is a strike & Survey (from CUPE 3913) as received in my inbox on March 12, 2008.
Sessional Lecturers are employees hired to teach one course, one semester at a time. Since they are not faculty, they are not subject to the UGFA vs. U of G negotiations. They have their own Unit 2 Collective Agreement, which also expires this August.
Sessionals are generally used in place of faculty to do the same teaching, with similar qualifications, for far less pay, less benefits, and very little job security.
I think Sessionals can use this strike as an opportunity to raise a little hell regarding their position as well. If you’re a sessional, I believe that during a faculty strike it’s the Dean of your College that becomes your immediate supervisor. Before crossing the picket-line, call your supervisor and ask for your legally-entitled security escort, and join the picket-line for a bit.
Show some solidarity with the UGFA, because God knows your union will need some faculty support during Unit 2 contract negotiations this summer!
If you’re a student, remember that it’s the job of the University Administration to make sure you get your education without compromising their duties and responsibilities towards their employees.
I hate to see students vocally undermining organised labour, special interest groups, and fellow students in realms where the Administration makes policies, doles out the cash, and ultimately has control. In the 1960′s and 70′s students used to strike and picket on behalf of groups and causes that were far removed from student life … now we can’t even rally together for causes affecting people on our own campus.
Educate yourself before decrying someone’s work. Keep your eye on the official University of Guelph News for updates on exams, classes, and their negotiations with the UGFA.