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McGill University teaching assistants walk the picket line on first strike day


McGill University teaching assistants launched a strike Monday after voting in favour of an eight-week strike mandate last week.

"Our fight is not just for us, it is for the quality of education at this institution," said Dallas Jokic, who is on the TA bargaining committee.

Teaching assistants say they do essential work for undergraduate student's education, including running labs or tutorials and grading assignments.

"I feel like we do just as much or sometimes more work than the actual instructors of the course themselves sometimes,:" said TA Maria Elisa.

"I think that TAs are integral to my studies because most of the time I learn more from them than the actual teachers," said Max Gourmelen, a second-year student.

Negotiations for a new collective agreement started in September. The union says it's been at the table with McGill 18 times since then.

"We've seen a real lack of flexibility, especially on monetary items," said Jokic.

The union's main demand is higher wages. Despite working at a top school, Jokic says many TAs live below the poverty line and make considerably less than teaching assistants at other Canadian universities.

"U of T actually just negotiated a new contract, so as of a couple of weeks ago, they're now going to be making $51 an hour. We make $33 [per hour," said Jokic.

In a statement emailed to CTV News a McGill spokesperson wrote, "McGill looks forward to continuing discussions with the union for the renewal of the collective agreement. The university is continuing its operations, prioritizing the measures necessary to ensure that students are not unduly affected by the labour action."

However, students we spoke to say it is already affecting their studies.

"Them being gone means a lot of my tutorials are canceled, which makes my life a lot harder," said Katherine Lees, a second-year lit student.

Meanwhile, fourth-year bioengineering student Tuna Gedick is worried about delayed grades possibly affecting graduations.

The union says it heads back to the table with McGill on Tuesday. Jokic says they would love to make a deal that could end the strike mandate but adds that TAs are ready to stay there until the end of the semester if necessary. Top Stories

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