On March 27, over 3,000 teaching assistants (TAs) and contract instructors (CIs) went on strike at Carleton University. The main issue they’re striking over is wages. The most recent offer made by the university this past weekend (April 1) was for a 12 per cent wage increase spread across four years! With annual inflation still over five per cent, this amounts to a pay cut for each year of the contract, something which TAs cannot afford.
The refusal by Carleton University’s administration to raise wages with the cost of living has forced CUPE 4600 to withhold the labour that is necessary for the university to function. All of the tasks that TAs and CIs perform are essential in providing students with a proper education. However the compensation they receive does not reflect this. Instead, TAs and CIs are treated as second-class in all respects. As has been noted by CUPE 4600, the wages at Carleton lag far behind other universities in Canada, even in the same city!
The same admin that imposes poverty wages on the TAs and CIs also squeezes the students through tuition hikes. The students and staff share the same opponent and can link up their struggles. The administration is indifferent to the lives of the overwhelming majority of the campus body as long as their paychecks get fatter and fatter. For example, university president Benoit-Antoine Bacon receives over $400,000 in compensation per year, while TAs currently receive $11,000 per year. And yet it’s the TAs who are being asked to take an effective pay cut!
With this strike, CUPE 4600 is showing the admin that the university can’t function without them. In fact, the administration as it stands is nothing more than a leech on the university’s funds, causing everyone else to suffer. If administrative positions were elected with the immediate right of recall, their greed and self-interest would not be tolerated. The entirety of the campus body, from students, staff, and professors, could determine all aspects of the university’s functions on a democratic basis from the ground up, ensuring that everything is working efficiently to maximize quality of education and working conditions. For TAs and CIs, these are the same thing. The way to fight tuition hikes would be to make it free for all, to allow the fullest participation in the intellectual, political, and social life that has the potential to flourish on campuses. The power to do this lies in the united workers and students.
This struggle of TAs and CIs is linked to that of all working class people, who have been forced to accept cuts and attacks for decades. The crisis of capitalism drives bosses and governments to make cuts to public services, including education, as well as lower real wages. As a result of this, the CUPE 4600 workers have broad sympathy amongst the working class. In order to raise the temperature on the administration, which has remained stubborn on the issue of wages, the TAs and CIs should actively bring out undergraduate students to the picket lines and explain their shared struggle, and Fightback calls on all campus workers and students to join them. “The workers united will never be defeated,” as the popular labour slogan says, and the workers and students united have the power to achieve victory in this fight.
Victory to the TAs and CIs!
For a living wage tied to inflation!
No cuts—free education now!