416 Strike City
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416 Strike City

Toronto universities' contract faculty and TAs have had enough with subpar wages.

With major labour disruptions at Ontario’s two largest universities, Toronto has become a flashpoint in the discussion over labour rights for TAs and contract instructors that universities across Canada increasingly rely on.

This afternoon, members of CUPE 3903, the 3,700-member union that represents TAs and contract instructors at York University, are wrapping up a day of picketing that began at York Boulevard, after rejecting the university’s final offer last night. Their strike comes hot on the heels of the University of Toronto’s CUPE 3902 rejection of a tentative agreement with the university on Friday, and marks the first time a labour disruption has cancelled classes for York’s 55,000 students since 2008. (At the University of Toronto, only courses taught by CUPE 3902 Unit One members will be affected.)

The union’s rejection of U of T’s offer is not very surprising, given the vocal contingency that has taken to social media to express its frustration over ongoing—and unchanging—work conditions. CUPE 3903 member Ryan Toews, a York contract faculty member, posted this on Facebook following CUPE 3902’s (ultimately rejected) tentative agreement on Friday:

Hey 3902 folks, I hope your tentative agreement is a good one and I mean no disrespect to your bargaining team that got the deal (bargaining is hard awful work, and whatever the deal, the folks that do it should get some respect) but if the deal falls short of what you sought to win I hope you vote it down. Partly, I’m being selfish here. At the moment, CUPE 3903 is facing serious concessions, including, most seriously, an attack on tuition indexation that ensured tuition increases would not erode our wages. We may need to strike, but it would be much better to do it in solidarity with you. We would be stronger together.

As a result of the current strikes at York and U of T, more than 100,000 undergraduates in the GTA are seeing their semesters put on hold, though campus facilities like libraries, labs, athletic centres and cafeterias at both institutions will remain open throughout the labour disruptions.

York’s contract faculty teach a reported 64 per cent of the University’s undergraduate courses.