PSAC Local 610
University of Western Ontario
1313 Somerville House
London, ON  N6A 3K7

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This communique covers bargaining progress made from March 2nd to March 7th.


We are not able to progress further without direction from membership, and will be holding a strike mandate vote. Dates & times will be announced ASAP.


Please see the FAQ on Strike Mandate Vote, prepared based on what we heard from you at our Strike Information Sessions.


Also, you can see this video which can answer some of your probable questions about strike mandate vote.




Bargaining Status

Although almost all outstanding non-monetary issues have been resolved, and we have agreed on meaningful improvements, much of what we are presenting with regards to monetary proposals has not been addressed in the Employer’s responses.


Real wage increase

The Employer offered a comparison of TA wage rates from Ontario universities, stating that Western’s wage is competitive. However this information does not take into account wages gained from rebates / bursaries which may offset some portions of rates of pay (and some of the reported wages were not accurate). The Employer’s wage proposals over a three year period (starting September 2017) is below the Ontario Consumer Price Index forecast. Agreeing to their proposal would further aggravate poverty among our members. Our fall survey shows that 43% of GTAs have net income below $11,000. Accepting their proposal of a real wage decrease will make it more difficult to pay for groceries, housing and other basic needs.



Our proposal to extend GTAship employment guarantees (5 years for PhD, 2 years and one term for masters) were declined by the employer. The only move the University offered was to prioritize PhD students beyond their funding period within a given department over funded graduate students from other departments. This only concerns vacancies, and does not address the essence of our demand.


The Employer argued that extending employment entitlements would require the university to restructure the graduate funding. Our position is that reducing the precarity is a priority worthy of these revisions. When we asked what the University does to ensure completion time within the funding period, they answered that SGPS has reviewed the structure of the programs. We pointed out that this was not effective and that the best way to make programs adjust is to introduce financial responsibility, for example in the form of an extended employment period. The University stated that extending employment will stimulate a longer completion time - as if to suggest that TA income is enough to cover living expenses and tuition fees (beyond funding period there are no scholarships or mandatory supervisor/department support). We argued that a long completion time (5.0 years for PhD on average) is departments’ fault too, and the financial responsibility must be shared. We also pointed out that the departments currently benefit from tuition paid by students beyond their funding period. The employer refused to entertain the possibility of extending guaranteed employment period.


Our proposal for considering TA’s input into assignment were repeatedly ignored, despite no obvious associated costs, and the fact that this is already practiced by many departments.


The University is not willing to entertain our proposal separating TA appointments  from external scholarships.


Tuition rebates

The University has declined our request for tuition increase rebates. Two main points have come up repeatedly. The first is that “the minimum funding guarantee increases with tuition”. They have agreed, though, that for members with funding above the minimum guarantee, an increase in this minimum guarantee may not result in a funding increase. The minimum guarantee does not apply to Master students at all. According to our fall survey, more than half of our members experienced a decrease in net income when tuition increases.  Thus, we stated that the majority of our members do not benefit from this guarantee. The Employer then accused us that we present the existence of this guarantee in a negative view. The  Employer then called grad students that are paid above the minimum guarantee (but still well below poverty line) “fortunate”. Secondly, when asked to comment on TAs being the only employee group on campus with no tuition benefits, the Employer responded by saying that we are able to take any undergraduate course for free, as long as it is approved by our supervisor. They completely ignored the fact that faculty, librarians and archivists, managers and administrators, operation engineers, campus police, food service workers, facility employees are eligible to tuition reimbursements for their dependents.


The employer has not considered our proposals of UHIP subsidy, citing that international students are only about 30% of our membership. In our surveys we see that international TAs are significantly underpaid compared to their domestic colleagues. International TAs use our assistance programs, including food bank, disproportionately more frequent. They have to purchase the additional health insurance (UHIP) for $612 a year.


The employer offered only a small increase to the GTA health plan and financial assistance fund (used to pay financial aid to struggling TAs), stating that based upon the data presented we do not need an increase. In fact, the data we presented showed substantial unmet need in the current program.


Hours of work and overtime

This is a non-monetary demand that we have had significant movement on. We believe the progress we have made (an overtime form, and an agreement on the production of a manual for properly filling our Duties Specification Agreement (DSA) with appropriate hours estimates and administrating overtime provisions) constitute a huge improvement for members.


Lead GTA and Professional Development programs

The Employer stated prior to bargaining that they would not be continuing the Lead GTA program. The reasons they gave during bargaining were: (i) it does not reach enough members and (ii) it does not address professional development adequately. We proposed a replacement program which addressed their concerns. It was rejected. The employer has not proposed a program to replace the un-renewed Lead GTA program. These are 8 to 10 GTA positions that currently are lost without any replacement.


We strongly believe that with the support of members we can secure more. It is within the university's power to make a meaningful move. We cannot come any closer to the university's position without direction from membership. It is time to demonstrate commitment to your demands, mandated by membership on Oct 5th. We are seeking a strike mandate from you.


Bargaining Summary


During our February 6th Concilication session, we had presented our full monetary package to the employer, and had received the Employer’s responses to Hours of Work, Letters of Offer, and the Duties Specification Agreement. On March 2nd, while our team anticipated responses to the monetary articles, we received neither a timely nor comprehensive monetary response. The University presented a package containing several articles, relating primarily to some outstanding non-monetary issues. We engaged in discussion about various ways to address unreasonable workload without drastic changes to the DSA. Ultimately, both teams made a few compromises in order to move on these articles. The University conceded not to extend the probationary period of our employees, and the union had to let go of some potential changes to the DSA. We received a trickling of responses to several monetary articles.


Tentative agreement was reached on most of the outstanding articles (in near-chronological order):


  • Hours of Work, Letters of Offer, the new Request for Overtime Pay Form


  • Health and Safety


  • DSA and a Letter of Understanding regarding the creation of a Guide to completing the DSA and overtime provisions


  • Services and Facilities, and a Memorandum of Understanding regarding updating the security of the Local's office


  • Leaves of Absence


  • Non-discrimination / Harassment (including training for GTAs and supervisors)


  • Letter of Understanding regarding the implementation of student evaluations


  • Agreement on Service on Executive and Other Committees


The University responded to Appointments - a highly ranked priority among members. The university offered changes to the distribution of extra TAships; however, the main items were not addressed: input to TAship assignment, independence from external funding, and guaranteed TAships beyond regular funding period.


Following this, we also received a response to the rest of our monetary demands (e.g. pensions and benefits, tuition rebate, GTA professional development program, leaves, vacation pay). Many of our requests were declined, and so we produced a counters that moved us closer to the University's position.


The university held to their purported mandate, and the GTA team held support for the demands of the membership. Small moves were made, but the majority of moves being asked by the university could not be made without further consulting our membership.


We have received so much helpful and encouraging feedback from our information sessions.

Please stay tuned for a video FAQ from the bargaining team made about the strike information sessions. And remember that the best way to avoid a strike, is to be prepared for one.


The Team continues to thank all members and the Mobilization Committee and organizers for their continued efforts in supporting GTAs’ bargaining demands. Please stay tuned for upcoming mobilization activities.


In solidarity,


Your Bargaining Team (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.):

Matthew Coady, GTA and PhD candidate in Chemistry

Nadia Ivanova, GTA and PhD candidate in Anatomy and Cell Biology

Dmitrii Marin, GTA and PhD candidate in Computer Science

Shannon Potter, GTA and PhD candidate in Economics

MaryAnne Laurico, PSAC Negotiator

Active participation of GTAs is crucial to the bargaining process. If you would like to learn more about the Mobilization Committee, or would like to become involved, contact via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


A significant portion of our members are also members of the University of Western Ontario Society of Graduate Students.