I’m not sure if everyone has read this in the news, but there is strike action is imminent at UBC. The teaching assistants have voted to strike and picket lines may go up as early as this week.
The main points of contention between the TAs and the University are: wage parity and tuition increases. UBC TAs are among the lowest paid in Canada. UBC has also increased the tuition of grad students, but not their wages. The TAs say this amounts to a wage cut.
If you want to get into the nitty-gritty specifics of the strike action, you can visit the website for CUPE Local 2278, which represents the TAs.
The effect of this strike remains to be seen. It could serve to be a minor disruption, or it could shut down the campus entirely. It wouldn’t be that bad for a while if the TAs stopped working. Marking wouldn’t be done and definitely lots of labs would not be run. The profs however, would still teach for the most part (if they didn’t honour the picket line). The question in all of this is how will the other unionized workers on campus react?
I have no doubt Local 2278 has been in touch with the other unions. Solidarity seems to be a quality most unions have. One of my profs explained that most likely other unions will honour the picket line. How does that manifest itself? I haven’t been here during a strike, but this is was my prof said. Buses will only run to Alma. That’s a 20 – 30 minute walk to campus proper, and what ever is left to get to your building. This will hit the students the hardest. Picket lines might be setup at the major roads into campus. In years past, people on the picket line walked really slowly across the crosswalks, going in pairs in opposite directions. Cars have no option other than stopping. Legally, the strikers can’t block traffic indefinitely, but this slows traffic down.
On the actual campus, I believe that no more construction work will done, and this goes for Plant Ops as well. The residences might be hit hard. Food for them has been deemed an essential service, so the first-years will be fed. Their cleaning staff, however, will not be deemed essential. This means that in Vanier and Totem Park, their washrooms will not be cleaned. From personal experience, I can tell you that after just one weekend of not being cleaned these washrooms were a war zone. I cannot imagine what they’d be like after a week.
I imagine a few UBC Food Services outlets will be closed too. Thankfully, the Village isn’t union run, so people will be able to get food there. I guess we will see how many unionized workers are employed at UBC, just by their absence.
So, will you see me out there with a sign, warming my hands next to an empty oil drum fire? Unfortunately, no. I was kinda standing behind the door when they were handing out TA positions in the summer. Most of my fellow residents here at SJC are TAs however. They’ve all signed up for picket duty and will receive strike pay for doing so. In rare cases, some TAs will actually make more money from this strike than if they just did their TA work.
This week will be a very interesting one on campus. And into the unknown we go…
P.S. Enetation, my commenting service is currently down. From what I see in their forums, their entire user base can’t get into their comments. Yikes. I’ll keep you updated.
UPDATE: Comments are back up! I think…