Teaching assistants on strike at U of T

Picketing begins at all three campuses

Picket lines are up and teaching assistants are on strike at all three University of Toronto campuses.

On Thursday, a tentative agreement was unanimously approved by CUPE Local 3902 Unit One bargaining team, but the 1,000 Unit One members who attended a meeting Friday voted against it.

CUPE Local 3902 represents approximately 6,000 teaching assistants, lab assistants, demonstrators, tutors, markers and others at the St. George, Mississauga and Scarborough campuses.

According to a U of T news release, the tentative agreement included a new wage of $43.97 per hour plus vacation pay – teaching assistants now earn $42.04 per hour – improved health care and more financial assistance to assist with childcare and education-related expenses.

The bargaining team was looking to address three main points.

“The key issues the bargaining team is seeking to address … one, the status of the graduate funding package, which has not increased in eight years. Two, some form of tuition relief or financial support for students outside of the funded cohort and for international students. Three, increases to the benefits fund members currently have access to, such as the childcare fund, the financial assistance fund and, the health care spending account,” said Erin Black, chair of CUPE 3902 in an email before the strike.

In the email, Black said the membership would compromise, but if a reasonable agreement could not be reached it would strike.

“The team is thinking of creative ways to address members’ concerns and needs, and hopes that the university administration joins with us in the process and that a fair agreement can be achieved at the table,” Black said in the email before the strike.

According to an update from the UofT Vice-Provost, the school is disappointed that an agreement was not reached.

“We negotiated a generous agreement that lifts teaching assistants’ compensation and benefits to some of the highest levels in Canada,”said Professor Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President and Provost in a press release Sunday.