Teaching Assistants (TA’s) from York University and the University of Toronto are still on strike leaving thousands of students at home right after midterms. They are fighting for a living wage.
Diana Samu-Visser is a steward for the union representing TA’s at Western University.
She says that TA’s have two streams of funding. The first is what they are paid for their work as a university employee, and the second is the package they receive for being a graduate student. The package they receive for being a graduate student is supposed to cover their living expenses and their tuition, but it does not even come close to doing so.
Samu-Visser says, “Most TA’s at Western, unless they have external funding, are below the poverty line.” She says, just the cost of living and tuition are much higher than both of their packages combined.
Come August 2015, Western’s TA contacts will be up meaning it is time to start negotiating new terms. Samu-Visser says the new contract will have to be fair.
“What we expect is that we are given funding packages that don’t put us in such dire financial circumstances, where are health is effected, where we are unable to make ends meet, where we need to go to the food bank.”
She adds that when the time comes to begin bargaining, TA’s want more than just a financial raise. She says, “One thing that I can predict is that there is always this misconception that what we are asking for is more money, more money! But often what we are asking for is better support. Child support, improvements to our health plan, improvements to financial assistance in case of emergencies.”
Samu-Visser says that the pressure to perform academically becomes very difficult when TA’s have the added stress of not being able to make ends meet.