TORONTO, Jan. 23, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Last night, hundreds of members of the University of Toronto’s Teaching Assistant’s union set a strike deadline of February 26 at midnight.

CUPE 3902’s Unit 1 Collective Agreement expired on December 31st, 2017. They have been bargaining with the University since September. In early December, over 1500 members voted 89.4% in support of a mandate to strike.

“The overwhelming support for the strike mandate before the holidays showed the University that we’re serious about making the U of T a better place for students and workers alike,” said Pamela Arancibia, CUPE 3902 Chair. “We’ve seen good momentum as a result, in particular on improvements to protections around discrimination and harassment, but we still have a long way to go in terms of ensuring that our members have adequate mental health care and equitable pregnancy and parental leaves. And even though the University administration has recently shown a willingness to look at creative solutions, the key issue of graduate student funding remains unresolved.”

CUPE 3902 members recalled the last round of bargaining, which saw them on the picket lines and the University’s reputation significantly tarnished. “This round of bargaining began slowly. It was looking like our key demands were simply incompatible with what the Employer said we deserve,” said Aleks Ivovic, Unit 1 spokesperson. “As our members have continued to demonstrate their willingness to fight for their demands, we’ve made more progress in the five meetings since our strike vote than in the previous ten meetings,” he continued.

In 2015, U of T’s Teaching Assistants struck for four weeks in a highly public strike along with TAs at York University. The main contentions in that strike were that U of T’s Teaching Assistants perform 60% of the face-to-face teaching for undergraduates, yet are allocated barely 3% of the university’s budget. Graduate student funding is about 30% under the poverty line for Toronto.

Unit 1 workers are bargaining for a minimum $20,000 per year graduate funding package. Graduate students at the University of Toronto continue to pay full tuition even after they complete their course work – effectively paying $8,000 per year for a library card, gym pass, and meetings with supervisors for four more years. At all comparable ivy-league universities in the US graduate students move on to nominal post-residency fees, which allow them the opportunity to focus on research and teaching.

CUPE 3902 and the University of Toronto jointly filed for Ontario Labour Board Conciliation on December 18th, 2017. Their first conciliation session was January 19th, with two more meetings to follow on the 24th and February 7th. Arancibia said, “We can’t tell yet what will happen at the table between now and February 26. But we’re ready to make a deal and we hope the administration continues to bargain in good faith and won’t put undergraduate students and their families through another strike.”

Contacts:

Aleks Ivovic
Unit 1 Spokesperson
416-838-3784

Pamela Arancibia
Chair, CUPE 3902
416-593-7057

Kathryn McDonald
CUPE 3902 Staff
613-532-5415