JESSICA YANG / MULTIMEDIA ASSISTANT
TAs and RAs have decided in a 90% positive vote that they’re ready to strike if McMaster University doesn’t meet their demands regarding fairer wages and benefits
On Oct. 20 the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3906 announced that teaching and research assistants had voted in favour of striking if necessary. The union is in negotiations with McMaster University on raising wages and increasing benefits. CUPE3906’s President, Chris Fairweather, says the university’s offer was unacceptable for workers.
The poll showed workers strongly supported the strike, with 90% of TAs voting to strike if necessary. While TAs and RAs are not striking as of yet, they are willing to do so if an agreement cannot be reached at the bargaining table. No dates have been set for a possible strike.
This decision comes from CUPE3906, who says the University is raising wages at less than the rate of inflation. CUPE3906 claimed in an Instagram post that if the university had continued to raise the wages to keep up with inflation, TAs would be paid $5/hr more than the current rates.
The 2019-2022 Collective Agreement between McMaster University and CUPE3906 on behalf of Unit 1, McMaster’s 2500 teaching and research assistants, expired the first week of September before the contract could be renegotiated. The agreement stated that TAs may not strike for the duration of the agreement.
Prior to the poll, CUPE3906 held two Q&A sessions as well as a special general membership meeting before the vote that took place between Oct. 17 and Oct. 19. CUPE3906 urged TAs to vote in favour of the strike in order to prevent falling further behind in job quality.
CUPE3906 claims that many universities have allowed their employees’ salaries to fall behind the rate of inflation and that schools are making large enough profits to fairly compensate their workers. In McMaster University’s 2020-2021 Annual Financial Report, they claimed a $232 million excess of revenues over expenses, surpassing the original estimate of $43.4 million.
During ongoing negotiations, CUPE3906 is pushing for three key issues, the first being financial security and compensation. CUPE3906 is pushing for increased wages, minimum 65-hour contracts opposed to current 32-hour minimums, closing the wage gap between undergraduate and graduate students, and other employee services for example access to parking.
Their second key issue is physical and mental health and wellness which asks for expansion of current health care reimbursements, additional UHIP coverage for international students, affordable dental coverage and expansion of the Gender Affirmation Fund.
The final key issue CUPE3906 will be negotiating for is improved working conditions meaning regulating the number of students that can be assigned to a TA in a seminar or tutorial, further clarity on hours of work forms, transparency of working conditions and re-securing 5 hours of paid training in the new collective agreement.
The bargaining team has been authorized by the positive vote to call for a strike if a fair agreement cannot be reached. TAs and RAs will be informed through their McMaster emails with updates on the bargaining. Updates can also be found on CUPE3906’s website at https://bettermac.ca/.
Yoohyun Park/Production Coordinator
It’s time to kick the arbitrary four-year timeline to the curb
By: Ardena Bašić, Contributor
Post-secondary educational programs are often presented as allotted timelines that correspond to annual requirements. For example, a four-year bachelor's degree assumes five courses a semester, or 10 a year in Ontario. Yet, these are only guidelines and are not set in stone.
There are benefits to both shortening and prolonging a degree, along with costs. Unfortunately, the latter is often met with criticism in our increasingly workaholic society. This stigma needs to be reevaluated so that students can achieve success at their own pace without undue pressure.
Firstly, it is worth noting that there are multiple benefits to extending the time one takes to complete a degree. For one, with fewer courses at one moment in time, there are more opportunities to pursue extracurriculars, work and social activities. The former two are highly valuable in adding to one’s resume and expanding future job prospects, but the latter is also important in encouraging a strong life balance.
With the unfortunate increase in mental health disorders today, striving for such a balance is even more crucial. Additionally, focusing on fewer courses means there is a greater chance of savouring course content, as opposed to working only to meet deadlines. Given the exorbitant time, energy and money that education demands, one should take every chance to get the most out of their education.
One should also consider that there is a positive correlation between time spent completing a degree and the graduation rate. For instance, Harvard’s four-year graduation rate is approximately 85% whereas the five-year graduation rate is almost 95%. To put it into perspective, this 10% increase represents about 700 students at Harvard and 3000 students at McMaster.
If extra time spent on your degree makes such a significant difference, then why haven’t we yet accepted taking your time? Especially in a society where degrees are progressively becoming more valuable. Overall, there are a myriad of benefits to slowing down one’s education instead of trying to relentlessly pursue the socially-accepted completion time.
These benefits are met with only a few consequences. Firstly, prolonging one’s studies could eventually dispel motivation. One may start eager to learn, but eventually become apathetic and neglect coursework by the end of the study period. Moreover, the jobs one may obtain in their extra time, or even school guidelines, may lower the amount of scholarships available. This is most distressing for those who have high financial need, but not as much for those who already obtained sufficient scholarship funds at the beginning of their education. Individuals considering a longer study time should reflect on the benefits and costs to decide the right course of action for them.
In our increasingly competitive world, part-time studies — or any form of studying that takes longer than what is outlined — seems to be frowned upon. Individuals might believe that such a person lacks the time management, productivity skills or even basic intellect to finish a degree at the same time as others.
However, this is far from the truth. It takes a high level of honesty to commit to putting oneself first in a time where there is a binary between an actual person and their work. Taking the time off to focus on self-development and maintaining balance in one’s life will pay off more than attempting to fit in with the status quo. In this way, such individuals should be revered for their courage as opposed to being discriminated against.
Everyone is incredibly unique and one’s education should follow suit. There is no reward in joining the same race as everyone else if one would be better off running to the beat of their own heart. So, instead of discouraging the truth in our manipulated and photoshopped society, let’s reward those with the courage to defy it.