Negotiations between the University of Toronto and members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 3902) broke down this week after the university offered what the TAs, among others, considered an unreasonable contract.
Members of the CUPE 3902 voted against the new contract on Tuesday, considering the offer both insulting and unfair.
“We heard a loud and clear message from the members of our union,” said Ryan Culpepper, the chair of CUPE 3902’s bargaining team. “Clearly, what we’ve negotiated to this point is not sufficient. Because we are a democratic organization, any new contract has to be accepted by our members.”
CUPE 3902 plans to strike on February 24 if the university has not offered what the union considers to be a reasonable contract.
“You hear this type of thing every year,” said Andrea Zadro, a fourth-year art and art history specialist. “I wouldn’t hold my breath for a strike, since they threaten it every single year. However, a strike would put a lot of unneeded stress on the professors.”
Professors around the UTM campus promise that the TA strike wouldn’t affect the curriculum, but that syllabi would have to be adjusted to make more time otherwise saved by the teaching assistants.
“I always forget that I have a TA because most of them are so absent from my school experience,” said Bonny Catherine, a fourth-year English and history major. “I will care, however, if this strike puts school on hold and prevents me from graduating.”
It’s difficult to determine the extent of the impact a TA strike would have. It is recommended that students become familiar with the university’s academic continuity policies.
“We look forward to reopening negotiations with the university,” said Culpepper. “We’re committed to bringing back a contract that meets our members’ needs.”
The union represents 4,200 teaching assistants, graduate-students instructors, lab demonstrators, and invigilators at U of T. TAs are asking for increased wages and improved benefits, among other demands.