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CUPE says Dalhousie tried to 'intimidate' union into accepting offer as talks dissolve


About 1,500 school staff at Dalhousie University are back on the picket lines after talks between their union and the Halifax university failed.

Part-time academics, teaching assistants (TAs), markers, and demonstrators of CUPE Local 3912 walked off the job on Oct. 19 as they seek higher wages. The union has been without a collective agreement for more than two years and received its last raise in 2019.

The union met with Dalhousie’s board of governors Wednesday but, after a day of meetings, CUPE says the university “decided to waste valuable bargaining time” by presenting what it says is an offer similar to one previously proposed.

“Our impression is that Dalhousie’s administration did not intend to bargain today,” the union wrote in a social media post Thursday.

“Instead, they intended to try to intimidate us into accepting an unfair deal.”

However, the university says its board of governors has worked “diligently” over the past two years to try and work with the union’s “demands.”

“It has not been a quick or easy process, but we believe it has resulted in an offer that provides significant gains for our valued CUPE members,” Chris Hattie, assistant vice-president of human resources at the university, wrote in a news release Thursday.

The university says it presented an offer that:

  • Meets the union’s request for a four-year contract instead of three years
  • Increases the overall average salary increase across CUPE positions to 20 per cent over four years
  • Meets the union’s request to raise TA hourly wages to $30 and to raise hourly wages for markers and demonstrators to the Halifax living wage ($23.55)
  • Commits to measures to a) require TA assignments to be issued in a timely fashion, and b) ensure roles and responsibilities for the various positions (TAs, markers and demonstrators) are clearly understood by supervisors and implemented appropriately across the university.

But CUPE 3912 says the offer isn’t good enough. It says the offer of $30 an hour for TAs is below the wage its members deemed appropriate through a survey.

Students at Dalhousie University in Halifax walk out of class in support of school workers on strike on Oct. 31, 2022. (Sarah Plowman/CTV)

Dalhousie TAs currently make $24 per hour for a set amount of hours per year, but most say they work beyond that. CUPE wants TAs to make an hourly wage of $32.52, with the marker-demonstrator role integrated into that of TAs.

The union says the move would cost the university $1.9 million of its $67.4 million annual surplus. In 2021-2022 the university had a total revenue of $819.6 million, up $59 million from the year before.

Union members are walking the picket line in front of the Weldon Law Building from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday -- its 17th day of strike action. Top Stories

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