Please see the official letter in support of PSAC 610 here.
March 7, 2018
Paul Jenkins, Chair, Board of Governors
President Amit Chakma
Dear Mr. Jenkins and President Chakma,
On behalf of the Society of Graduate Students, we are writing to express support for the bargaining efforts of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs). We urge Western University to acknowledge graduate students’ contributions to teaching excellence at Western by committing to improving GTA funding.
Poverty among graduate students, including GTAs, is a major stressor precluding us from succeeding. GTAs are unable to afford basic living expenses, with many incurring debt to cover their costs. Accelerated increases in tuition, combined with decreases in real income, exacerbate the situation, making poverty prevalent among Western’s graduate students.
Many SOGS members are GTAs, or are former GTAs now beyond their funding period. When beyond the fourth year of a doctoral program or the second year of a master’s program, we lose our scholarships, and in many cases, our opportunity to work as GTAs or research assistants. We must often seek other employment, extending our time to completion or forcing withdrawal from the program.
We urge Western to seriously review the demand for an extended employment period. GTAs work hard to support undergraduate students’ education as a part of their student experience. It is time for
Western to extend its public mandate of providing the “best student experience” to graduate students, by offering them fair wages and working conditions.
We find it troubling that Western has discontinued the health and financial assistance benefits of GTAs during bargaining. Without the Extended Health Plan and Financial Assistance Fund, members may
experience personal emergencies related to unaffordable health and dental care, or food insecurity, as illustrated by the extensive use of foodbanks by graduate students at Western.
On March 1, 2018, SOGS Council unanimously mandated that it will support GTAs in bargaining. The graduate student body expresses solidarity with PSAC 610 GTAs in their efforts to advance all graduate student conditions, and it is the position of SOGS that no graduate student shall take up the work of a GTA who engages in legal withdrawal of their labour.
We trust that as a renowned research institution, Western University appreciates the gravity of this mandate, and will make efforts to improve the working and living conditions of GTAs.
Mary Blake Bonn, SOGS President
Jina Kum, SOGS VP Academic
Vanessa Lilly, SOGS VP Advocacy
Laura Cabral, SOGS VP Finance
Madison Bettle, SOGS VP Student Services