Withholding our labour
Negotiations between our union and the employer are not going that well. Not only did the employer stand up our Contract Instructors Friday morning, they are still offering a real dollar pay cut to all members, and are continuing to be resistant to many of our other demands that would see working and learning conditions at Carleton improve. No one on our bargaining teams wants to sign a deal that would see us taking a pay cut, and that would see working and learning conditions deteriorate. This is why a strike appears likely tomorrow. A strike means that we will collectively withhold our labour from our employer in an attempt to achieve fairer treatment. This is one of the only tools that workers have to gain leverage, and it is most effective when we act in concert.
Scabbing Helps the Bosses (and hurts us)
Choosing to work while your colleagues make sacrifices for a fair deal is commonly referred to as 'scabbing' and it is harmful to yourself and to your colleagues. It is, in fact, illegal in some jurisdictions for this reason, but currently there are no such rules on the books in Ontario.
Scabbing is harmful because it undermines the collective power of TAs and CIs on campus, and negatively impacts their ability to achieve better working conditions. Scabbing helps the employer get concessions from the union which would cause our working conditions to deteriorate; this is not conducive to a healthy learning environment for our students. Furthermore, helping the employer continue its movement away from providing well-paid, full-time, stable academic work to providing increasingly low-paid and precarious part-time academic work, reinforces the slow privatization process of our public universities.
Joining the Strike Helps Us Win
Joining the strike is actually in (y)our interest. Not only because it can help us achieve higher pay and better conditions going forward, but also because when collective agreements are signed, they generally include a retroactive wage top-up, so for every hour you have worked since the last collective agreement expired, you could be receiving back-pay that would reflect the difference between the old wage and the new wage--the stronger our strike is, the higher that amount is likely to be.
It is also worth considering, however, how we can positively impact the lives of our colleagues, and of future generations of TAs and CIs, by joining the strike. Indeed, the benefits we currently enjoy as TAs and CIs are the product of sacrifices made by previous generations of TAs and CIs.
Scabbing jeopardizes gains already won
Should the union be forced to accept yet another bad deal, those members who chose to work during the strike will still be subject to the terms of that bad deal once the deal is agreed to. If we are forced to take a cut to our benefits or our wages at the table as the result of a weak strike, you will take those cuts too, even if you chose to work instead of striking.
Members who choose to scab will NOT be covered by the collective agreement
All of the language that protects our working conditions by laying out clear ground rules for us and for the employer is no longer in effect once a strike is called. Members who choose to work will do so without the protections the union offers, including access to a grievance procedure.
The longer the picket line, the shorter the strike
CUPE 4600 members who agree to work for the employer during a strike will still be affected by the strike, and are helping to prolong it. If they arrive on campus by bus or by car, they will still face delays getting to work. The fastest way to resolve the strike and ensure that everyone can return to business as usual is to send a strong message to the employer by not working and joining us on the picket line.
What about those who are financially unable to make this sacrifice?
We do not want you to put yourself in a financially untenable situation, especially one that would force you into unwarranted sacrifices (e.g. not having enough to eat, or enough to pay rent). So, if you are uniquely vulnerable in a strike situation, your colleagues can come together to help. They already have, for example, by establishing a hardship fund, which you may be able to access. If you think this may be appropriate for you, then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about it; there may be other ways we can help as well, so it's important to open that line of communication. As fellow workers and unionists, this is what we strive to do: to look out for each other, and to live and work in solidarity with one another.
What Happens if you Keep Working During a Strike?