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Accusations fly as Western U teaching assistant strike begins

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Spring undergraduate exams have begun under the backdrop of a strike at Western University.

For now, writing sessions continue.

Two thousand teaching assistants, members of Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Local 610, are picketing at multiple entrances to campus.

Reported issues include wages and wage claw backs. In an online post, Western University stated it has offered TAs an hourly wage rate of $48.16 to $51.10 per hour.

But the strikers say that’s not a fair perspective.

“The maximum hours a student can do is 10 hours a week. Many students have only five or less,” stated 610 Local President Pardis Baha.

Baha said her members are struggling to support themselves. TAs are also full-time grad students.

Patti Dalton, the president of the London and District Labour Council, agreed.

Patti Dalton is the president of the London and District Labour Council. April 11, 2024. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)

“Their wages are well below the poverty level. They are struggling with rent,” she said.

Dalton claimed area labour unions will regularly join strikers until a new collective agreement is signed.

She also made strong accusations against the University. Dalton alleged Western is encouraging 610 members to cross picket lines.

She also suggests Western is trying to fill local 610 roles with non-members.

“We call it what it is, which is an attempt to union bust,” said Dalton.

Western declined an on camera interview with CTV News London, however they said in a statement, “Some Western staff have chosen to receive training so they can assist with exam supervision" and add exams will continue. 

The university also suggests PSAC members walked away from the negotiation table.

Pardis Baha is the president of PSAC Local 610. April 11, 2024. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)

Pardis countered by claiming talks Wednesday with a mediator lasted for 10 hours.

Walking to write his first exam, undergraduate student Chrisaanth Kennedy passed through the Richmond Street picket line.

He told CTV News London he wants a quick resolution as undergrad students are caught in the middle.

“I hope it gets settled soon. At the moment we’ve been told our exams are going to happen. I hope for the best,” said Kennedy.

It appears most picketing is not interfering with traffic flows, despite advisories of delays. However, some LTC routes have been modified.

Paradis said there are no new talks slated.

“We are ready to return to the table as soon as Western is ready to hear what we have to say at the table.” 

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