U of T teaching assistants will vote on a strike mandate from Dec. 3 to Dec. 9. If they pass the mandate, their unit of the Canadian Union of Public Employees 3902 will have the option of striking should contract negotiations with the administration break down.
CUPE 3902 has been bargaining with U of T since July. Improved maternity leave, smaller tutorials and labs, wages tied to inflation, improved health and dental benefits, and a two-year contract are currently on the table.
The union hopes to gain momentum from a yes vote, but the prospect of an actual strike will have to wait at least until February, after either the admin or the union has sought conciliation from the Ministry of Labour. If the parties still don’t reach an agreement, the union can then strike.
“The university continues to bargain with CUPE 3902 and we are hopeful that we will be able to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both parties without a strike,” said Angela Hildyard, VP of human resources at U of T. Several meetings are scheduled between the union and admin, starting today.
CUPE bargaining team spokesperson Rebecca Sanders said that they had reached agreements on several smaller issues, but not major monetary concerns.
“Before the strike vote they said no to our maternity and parental leave program,” said Sanders. Since the strike vote was announced on Nov. 4, she said, the proposal has been revisited.
Not all teaching assistants are supporting a possible strike. Mathieu Roy, a TA at U of T, wrote in opposition to TA strikes in the National Post, “I’ve had a taste of the exceptional conditions and wages, and believe me, you will never find better for a part-time job: $36 per hour, health and dental benefits for the entire family, flexible schedules, guaranteed re-hiring until graduation.”
“I can tell you from personal experience that TAs usually work considerably greater hours than what is in their contracts,” said Sanders. She argued that at those rates TAs earn $15,000 a year, which is below the poverty line. Sanders added that to complete their degrees, grad students complete hours of research outside of TA duties, for which they are paid little or nothing.
The University of Toronto Students’ Union and the Graduate Students’ Union have both pledged support for CUPE 3902. A strike would only occur in the event of a serious breakdown in negotiations. In September, the Steelworkers union passed a strike mandate but reached an agreement with admin before they were due to strike.
“None of our members want to go on strike, but it is one of the few tools left to us if our demands are denied,” said Sanders.
TAs at York University went on strike on Nov. 6, shutting down classes. No resolution is in sight. The York Federation of Students has been criticized for announcing public support for the strike, even though 50,000 York students could lose a semester.
Article taken from The Varsity (U of T newspaper)
This is interesting. My previous predictions that York might wait until U of T made a move seems to either be given a lot more gravity or is completely flawed. I claimed previously that the York Union (3903) would wait until the U of T Union (3902) moved before CUPE 3903 would entertain any serious negotiations. Both York and U of T are trying to get 2 year contracts so that they can participate in the 2010 Collective Bargaining Projective that several Ontario universities have already secured 2 year contracts in order to participate in. The Unions and the Administrations are certainly in contact and since the two universities are the largest in Ontario their participation (or lack of) in the 2010 could make or break the planned bargaining project. I predicted that once U of T went on strike it would complicate and make the negotiations process much slower since they would have to move in co-ordinated fashion.However this new information that U of T will not be on strike until after the holiday break flips this prediction on its head. This means that either the York strike will be elongated until U of T goes on strike or York will go its own way.
Obviously the latter is preferable, but we have no way of knowing. If both U of T and York went on strike simultaneously it would be epic. Almost 100,000 angry students concentrated in one city. This would pressure everyone – most importantly it would pressure the government to tell the Universities to ‘fix this situation immediately!’ This option seem so tempting to both the Unions and the entire 2010 movement in general. Imagining this strike going until February so that they can play in the sand box together just seems far too impossible to be a reasonable expectation.
Perhaps I am reading too far into this 2010 deal. We shall see…