CUPE 4600 Solidarity Letter

CUPE 4600, one of the member locals of our council, represents teaching assistants, internally-funded research assistants, and contract instructors at Carleton University.

Both of their units (TAs and RAs are Unit 1, and CIs are Unit 2) are bargaining with their employer. We have written this letter in solidarity:

Dear CUPE 4600,

Your fellow CUPE members here in Ottawa support you in your bargaining with Carleton University.

Your members have seen their spending power plummet as inflation far outpaces wage increases. As you have pointed out to management, your Unit 2 members are paid 13% less than their colleagues at University of Ottawa, while a Unit 1 member working a full term’s worth of hours can expect to earn $720 less than a UofO colleague. Carleton’s proposals do not cover this gap.

Your Unit 1 members, being mostly full-time students, also carry the burden of tuition fees, which, even adjusting for inflation, stand at a rate much higher than what management (for example) paid when they were students. This burden is unfair for all students across Ontario, but is even more absurd for your upper-year PhD students, who do not take courses and, in their capacity as students, impose almost no demands on Carleton’s finances.

Your Unit 2 members teach the same courses as full-time faculty members with minimal job security. They tell us stories about scheduling conflicts with multiple other jobs and about carefully planning their medical care so that they can use their health and dental benefits during the window that Carleton has seen it fit to assign them courses. Being a part-time faculty member is notoriously precarious work, and that is true across North America—so the least that Carleton can do is raise wages and increase benefits alongside inflation.

But not all of your bargaining demands are financial. You also justly demand that your work be well-defined and equitable. Currently, neither CIs nor TAs have any certainty or guarantees regarding student ratios or ratios for support: one course may have 90 students and 2 TAs, while another might have 300 students and still just 2 TAs. Moreover, teaching assistants and part-time faculty might find themselves working past their contract to accommodate delayed exams or other unforeseen circumstances, without an agreed-on mode of compensation for this extra work. Clarity over the amount of work, and when the work begins and ends, is just common sense for most employers. Yet Carleton management refuses even these basic concessions.

We hope that your employer comes to their senses, but we are here to support you if the bargaining process escalates further.

Sincerely, Ottawa CUPE District Council Executive