Should Teaching Assistants’ pay be tied to Tuition hikes?

philipcox bargaining, Component 1

Should TA pay be tied to Tuition hikes?

Teaching Assistants (TAs) are most commonly  students who work as TAs to financially support themselves while enrolled in post-secondary education.  TA wages are relied on for tuition, food and lodging, among other living expenses.  Looking back from 2009 forward to this year (2014) Teaching Assistants’ wages have not been keeping pace with Tuition Fee increases.

From September 1, 2009 through September 1, 2012 the cost of student tuition was raised by 2% per year while Teaching Assistant’s wages stagnated.  During that period, the Provincial Government implemented, through the Public Sector Employers Council (PSEC), a net zero mandate for no wage increases for each of those years.  During the same time period, tuition increased by 2% per year. 

The PSEC cooperative gains mandate was in place for the 2012 round of bargaining.  This meant that despite the Union’s best efforts to negotiate a fairer wage, from September 1, 2012 to March 1, 2013 Teaching Assistant’s wages were staged in increments of 1%, which amounted to less than 2% per year.  In the 2012 round of bargaining the staged wage increases allowed the union to establish a Conference Award fund accessible to TAs, which would not have been achieved any other way according to the PSEC mandate.

The recently released University of Victoria’s 2014/15 budget framework provides for 2% tuition increase, 2% parking increase, 3% dorm & cluster housing increase and 3% child care increase.

With the Component 1 & 2 agreement (TAs, Computer Help Desk, Second Language Teachers and Cultural Assistants) expiring August 31, 2014, CUPE4163 along with all other public sector workers will be bargaining under the cloud of PSEC’s Economic Stability Mandate.  Several public sector unions have recently settled within this mandate for 5.5% over a 5 year term. 

The forgoing provides the backdrop for the conversation.  Let’s talk. TAs’ wage increases should at the very least meet tuition hikes.