In Solidarity with PSAC 610 – GTA Strike

Dear SOGS members,

On Monday, April 15th, the SOGS executive send a letter of solidarity regarding the PSAC 610 Graduate Teaching Assistant strike to upper administration at Western University. Please read the letter below.

Dear Dr. Shepard and the Western leadership team,

The Society’s team is closely monitoring the ongoing labour strike by PSAC 610’s Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) membership. GTAs represent a significant portion of SOGS members and we stand in solidarity with all of our members.

The SOGS Executive acknowledge Western’s proposal of a 2% annual increase to GTA wages; however, we are concerned that this figure represents a lack of commitment by university administration to ensure teaching assistants thrive and live above poverty level during a time of economic crisis. We fully support PSAC 610’s additional demands for a more financially secure graduate student experience.

SOGS advocates for livable wages for all academic workers. We expect Western to offer significant increases to GTA hourly wages beyond 2% per year in order to show a clear commitment to the wellbeing of teaching assistants and graduate students.

Furthermore, the SOGS executive are deeply concerned with the University’s recent announcement of a 2.5% rent increase in student residences—a rate that falls below the proposed pay increase for Teaching Assistants, and during a time of economic crisis. We urge Western leaders to reconsider what it means to provide GTAs with not only wages that reflect our economic times, but also sufficient additional supports. Lifting GTAs out of financial precarity would enable thousands of graduate students to continue to effectively support Western’s operations and communities while continuing to produce top-tier research that enhances the university’s global standing and reputation.

A collaborative and supportive resolution to this strike will benefit not only GTAs, but also the broader campus community and the City of London, both of which are currently experiencing significant disruptions, including increased traffic and altered public transportation routes.

In solidarity,

SOGS Executive

Letter of Support – IUOE Local 772

Sent Via Email on Monday, October 16, 2023

Dear President Shepard, Vice-President Logan, Associate Vice-President Konowalchuk, Associate Vice-President O’Brien, Associate Vice-President Challadurai,

RE: Strike of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 772

As representatives of more than 6,900 graduate students at Western University, the SOGS Executive Committee is writing to you to express our deep concerns regarding the ongoing strike of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 772 – a union of 13 operational engineers that keep Western University not only safe, but warm. This strike, which commenced on October 12, 2023, resulted from a failure of the university to negotiate in good faith with IUOE Local 772 regarding its Collective Agreement. This has also resulted in the injury of 3 people on picket lines.

Our concern is twofold: 1) by failing to negotiate in good faith, operating engineers cannot achieve pay equity or safe working conditions and 2) this strike disrupts bus access to campus impacting more than 43,000 students. As a student union that advocates for equity for students, the SOGS Executive Committee expects pay equity to be a top priority for Western University, especially in light of the recent ruling by the Ontario Superior Court that deemed Bill 124 – the Sustainable Public Sector Act – unconstitutional. Engineers across the province have been receiving yearly increases of between three and six percent, making it evident that the members of Local 772 have been faced with inadequate wages that are not competitive with market rates or industry standards in Canada.

Local 772 faces persistent staffing shortages and existing workers are being burdened with increased responsibilities. It is crucial to highlight that Local 772 has not sought an increase in benefits, premiums, or pensions, despite not seeing any adjustments for the last five years. This fact demonstrates a commitment to good-faith negotiations while advocating for fair wages.

The strike’s impacts resonate deeply within our SOGS membership. With all 11 LTC routes disrupted, and LTC buses unable to cross picket lines, our members now must walk from main roads to access the campus. For some of our members, this presents significant accessibility issues, making Western University an inaccessible campus.

We stand in solidarity with IUOE Local 772 and their quest for fair compensation. We urge Western’s administration to value and respect the important work carried out by operating engineers at Western University by providing better working conditions and equitable pay that aligns with engineers in the province. 

It is our sincere hope that the University will engage in good faith bargaining with IUOE Local 772, with the ultimate aim of reaching a resolution that is fair and equitable for all parties involved. We hope our concerns are conveyed and urge Western’s administration to prioritize this issue for the benefit and  safety of the entire community.

We look forward to a swift resolution and a return to normalcy for our graduate students.


SOGS 2023-24 Executive Committee

Waliu Alaka, President | Elizabeth Mohler, Vice-President Academic | Cherin Chung, Vice-President Advocacy | Sairam Gavajelli, Vice-President Finance | Kesavi Kanagasabai, Vice-President Student Services


In the Fall 2022 Term, SOGS released a survey asking Master’s and PhD students to tell us more about their experiences regarding housing and food insecurity at WesternU

21% of 6,800 SOGS members responded to the survey. Respondents we from every faculty (11 faculties!) and affiliate college (Brescia, Huron, and Kings) at WesternU. The survey captured data from all types of grad students (international, domestic, and those with families).

Quick facts:

  • 45% of respondents classify themselves as “food insecure”.
  • 55% of respondents cannot afford basic necessities like clothes and hygiene products.
  • 57.3% of respondents pay more than $1,000 per month for a rental apartment in London, ON. Note: the average price of a 2-bedroom apartment in London is currently $1,600 plus utilities.
  • 76% of respondents reported finding an apartment in London as a “challenge”.
  • 37% of respondents reported the increase in food costs a challenge.

READ THE REPORT! To learn more about the data collected and analyzed from this survey, please read our FOOD AND HOUSING INSECURITY REPORT.       

SIGN THE PETITION! In order to press the university to better support and fund graduate students, sign our new petition REFORM GRADUATE STUDENT FUNDING & FINANCIAL SUPPORT AT WESTERNU.
Have questions about the survey or the data? Reach out to the SOGS VP Student Services (

Letter of Support – Flooding in Pakistan

Historical image of Middlesex College clock tower with text "read the Society's letter of support regarding the flooding in Pakistan"

Statement of Support and Solidarity for our Pakistani Community

Dear SOGS Members and our Western Community: 

We stand in solidarity with our Pakistani Community, who continue to be impacted by the devastating floods in Pakistan. From mid June this year, Pakistan has been ravaged by floods leaving a third of the country submerged under water, displacing more than seven million people from their homes. According to the top UN aid official in Pakistan, the country has recently entered a “second wave of death and destruction”: more than 20 million people are in need of humanitarian relief, five million people are facing a severe food crisis, and diseases such as malaria and dengue fever are running rampant. As of early October, the UN has increased its funding appeal by five times to scale up life-saving assistance and prevent many more deaths. 

It is also important to highlight that the traumatic flooding in Pakistan has likely been exasperated by global climate change. Julien Harneis, the U.N. Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan said “They show what happens, what are the consequences when we do not stop global warming. The scale of it is beyond imagination. It is a climate change disaster that you can see from space.” As humanitarian crises like the one now unfolding in Pakistan become increasingly common under climate change, we must also consider how the impacts of severe weather and anthropogenic environmental changes are affecting the lands, waters and global biodiversity that humanity depends on to survive. Our support for Pakistan must be informed by our moral imperative to reduce emissions at home. The decisions we make here in Canada, now and in the coming years, have ripple effects across the world, and will determine the livability of our planet for future generations. 

In solidarity,

  • SOGS Executives
  • SOGS Commissioners
  • Brendon Samuels, SOGS Sustainability Coordinator
  • Jake Collie, SOGS Sustainability Committee Member
  • Unaizah (Zoya) Abbas, Graduate Student

How our Western Community Can Support 

Donate Today and Spread the Message: You are welcome to donate to the UN Refugee Agency Canada or the Canadian Red Cross

Support Resources for Graduate Students 

We recognize the impact such a devastating humanitarian crisis has had on the Pakistani students and encourage anyone in need of support to consider the following resources: 

ReachOut: Crisis support for those in the London/Middlesex area – 24/7. Phone or Text – (519) 433-2023, Online web chat is available HERE

Good2Talk: 24/7 confidential helpline: 1-866-925-5454 or Text 686868. 

EmpowerMe: Free remote health and wellness support 24/7 in Canada and the U.S. for Western University graduate students. Empower me is a multi-faith, multilingual service that pairs graduate students with trained professionals via telephone. Not happy with the counsellor you are matched with? Contact Empower Me to request a new counsellor based on individual preferences and needs. To access Empower Me, call 1-833-628-5589. Learn more HERE

Statement on the Ontario Provincial Government’s Bill 23: “More Homes Built Faster” Action Plan

Dear SOGS Members and our Western Community: 

Following the SOGS Climate Emergency Declaration, the Society of Graduate Students stands against ​​Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 introduced by the Ontario provincial government on October 25. We recognize that the single greatest cause of biodiversity decline is the conversion of habitat to development in Ontario and globally. On the surface, the omnibus Bill 23 appears to address Ontario’s housing crisis by removing processes that result in some development taking longer. In reality, Bill 23 significantly limits the role of Ontario’s conservation authorities, municipal governments, and the public in reviewing and approving new developments that risk negative impacts to habitat, biodiversity, farmland and climate change mitigation and adaptation. The purpose of this statement is to share information with SOGS membership about relevant changes proposed in Bill 23 and to raise awareness of ongoing public consultations where comments can be submitted online (see below).

Ontario is facing a serious shortage of new housing, but let there be no mistake: creating more affordable housing does not require destruction of irreplaceable farmland and habitats in the greenbelt, sprawl beyond urban growth boundaries, or eliminating processes that incorporate environmental oversight and climate change forecasting into growth planning. 

New students arriving in London to study at Western may have trouble finding an affordable place to live. Many social problems facing our communities, such as rising rates of homelessness, addictions, and petty crime, are interconnected with this lack of available affordable housing. More housing, specifically medium and high-density, affordable units built upwards inside of existing urban areas, and not on the edge of the city, are required to meet housing needs of students and vulnerable populations. At the same time, it is imperative that governments continue to prioritize conservation of farmland and natural resources and maintain public and expert consultation processes supporting new development approvals.

Conservation authorities and environmental protections are not barriers to growth. Rather, conservation authorities are essential partners for balancing development pressure with protections of Ontario’s watersheds and natural heritage. Conservation authorities provide technical advice to municipal governments to support reviews of development plans. Bill 23 proposes capping funding to conservation authorities, opening up all conservation authority lands for development, and limiting the scope of feedback provided by conservation authorities to flooding and natural hazard mitigation. Furthermore, Bill 23 proposes allowing the provincial government to override municipal governments’ decision-making authority over development approvals. Municipal governments will no longer be allowed to implement green standards in site plan control to require new buildings to be designed sustainably, meaning municipalities like the City of London will be limited in how they can manage growth while meeting targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions set out in climate change plans. Bill 23 proposes amending the Land Tribunal Act to remove the right of individuals or bodies in Ontario to appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal about reviewing planned development.

Expert reviews of Bill 23 suggest that the proposed changes will result in environmental disasters, leading to fast-tracked developments in areas at risk of severe flooding. This will ultimately result in a high cost for municipal governments and taxpayers left to cover expensive maintenance associated with sprawling development as well as future disaster mitigation. The current provincial government has already made numerous legislative changes to erode environmental protections and recently proposed additional changes that would weaken the evaluation and conservation of wetlands while offloading responsibility to municipalities, many of which will lack resources provided by conservation authorities. Meanwhile, the government is failing to fulfill its obligations to reduce carbon emissions, curb plastic pollution, and conserve Species at Risk of extinction in Ontario. These changes, and lack of government accountability for protecting the environment, are occurring with little public awareness or engagement. 

We call on our representatives in the provincial government and the Western community to speak up against Bill 23 and to call for the government to preserve the ability of Ontario’s conservation authorities to comment on development matters concerning land conservation and environmental pollution, to not facilitate development in the greenbelt, and to allow municipal governments to implement green standards in new sustainable development.

Action: How our Western Community Can Support 

  1. Get informed. Review summaries of ongoing changes to Ontario’s environmental protections:
  1. The public can sign petitions and submit comments on Bill 23 and proposed changes to legislation. Consultation links and petitions are compiled here.
  2. Write to your Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) and urge them to speak up against Bill 23, for reasons described in this letter and by the sources listed above. 
  3. Educate your community. Talk about this with your peers, family, and friends. Many people are unaware of the changes that are being pushed through quickly and without media focus.
  4. Get involved with local community and regional organizations that work on building climate change resiliency and advocate for stronger environmental protections, such as Ontario Nature, Environmental Defense, Nature London and Climate Action London

-The Society of Graduate Students at WesternU

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