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CUPE strike update ‑ Oct 19

Posted by admin on October 19, 2022 in Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Local 3912

The memo below was sent to all faculty, staff and students.


To:                   Dalhousie students, faculty and staff

From:              Deep Saini, President and Vice-Chancellor

Date:               Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Re:                    CUPE strike update – Oct. 19

As our CUPE members begin their first day of strike action, I wanted to take a moment to share with our entire Dal community some background and perspective on where we are and how we got here.

First, a reminder that if you missed yesterday’s message on the strike and its implications, please visit the CUPE Strike Information Page, which will continue to be updated with the latest information along with Q&As.

Finding common ground

A labour dispute is one of the more challenging experiences a university community can go through. It puts strain on nearly every facet of our university — most of all, on our students. In the case of a CUPE strike, it’s important to remember that many of those who are striking are also students themselves.

This group includes other important colleagues in our academic life. CUPE members — Part-Time Academics, Teaching Assistants, Markers and Demonstrators — play critical roles in the academic life of the university. They support nearly every department and Faculty. They teach. They tutor. They create memorable lab and fieldwork experiences. They ensure students get timely feedback on assignments and examinations. They are a key part of delivering Dalhousie’s outstanding academic experience and helping our students succeed in their academic pursuits.

We are disappointed that the negotiating teams for the University’s Board and CUPE Local 3912 were not successful in attempts to come to a tentative agreement. Part of that disappointment stems from the fact that all parties at the bargaining table share the same beliefs about the important roles CUPE members play in our community. One of our strongest shared beliefs is that CUPE members' compensation needs to be fair and commensurate with the important role they play in our institution.

We agree with CUPE’s commitment to bringing Dalhousie’s wages for Part-Time Academics, TAs, Markers and Demonstrators closer in line with similar roles at our national comparators. We want to find ways to account for the increased costs of living while we all hope that inflation can be brought under control. And Markers and Demonstrators, in particular, are CUPE roles where we need to address gaps in compensation.

The past two years of bargaining have included extensive work with a conciliator and one tentative agreement reached that was voted down by CUPE members earlier this year. Unfortunately, despite what we feel has been significant progress made at the table, the two sides have not been able to fully align on the particulars of how to achieve these shared goals. CUPE 3912 members have decided to exercise their legal right to strike action.

Dalhousie’s proposal

In the interest of transparency, the final offer presented at the table on behalf of Dal’s Board of Governors has been made publicly available on the Labour Relations website. The proposal is a three-year contract that, over the three years , would provide:

  • A 12 per cent wage increase to part-time academics
  • An 8 per cent wage increase to hourly paid instructors
  • A 17 per cent wage increase to Teaching Assistants
  • A 30 per cent wage increase to Markers and Demonstrators

We believe these increases are significant and would represent substantial progress towards our shared goals.

In addition to monetary considerations, there are two other issues raised by CUPE during negotiations where we feel an explanation of the university’s point of view would be helpful.

  • CUPE has requested that all TAs receive their offer letter of employment one week prior to the start of classes. This would require TAs for the fall term to be recruited in the summertime — when many, if not most, of the students who would be applying for these roles aren’t even on campus — and for all TAs to be hired when course enrolment is still uncertain. This means the amount of support a course may require, and even which courses will be offered or not, is still subject to change. For these reasons, we feel this CUPE proposal does not align with the realities of our academic calendar.
  • CUPE has also requested that we eliminate the Marker and Demonstrator roles entirely and classify all CUPE members as Teaching Assistants. Our academic community relies on CUPE members in distinct ways. Some Faculties, departments and programs need more support in labs or in grading and marking, while others require the more fulsome responsibilities of TAs. We strongly believe that having distinct roles within our CUPE membership, with distinct compensation appropriate for those roles, is a fair and accurate reflection of the duties being performed across the university. We do wish to recognize the importance of the work done by Markers and Demonstrators, which is reflected in the higher wage increase being proposed for these roles.

What comes next

Even though most Dal courses are continuing, we know these initial days of a CUPE strike will represent a significant disruption to our students and our entire academic community. While I have great confidence in our community’s ability to work through these challenges, there is no doubt the impacts will be felt across the university.

You have our assurance that Dalhousie is committed to exploring all options to reach an agreement with CUPE that will bring this strike to a swift conclusion. We believe strongly in the shared goals that came through the collective bargaining process — and that there is fair agreement that can be reached based on those goals.

Please continue to visit the CUPE Strike Information Page in the days ahead, and we promise to share any significant updates as soon as we are able to.