University of Toronto teaching assistants reject deal, strike continues

Striking teaching assistants at the University of Toronto have narrowly voted down a tentative contract settlement.

Striking workers narrowly vote down tentative contract settlement by 1,100 to 992

Members of CUPE 3902 voted not to ratify a tentative agreement reached with U of T. (CBC)

Striking teaching assistants at the University of Toronto have narrowly voted down a tentative contract settlement. 

The union is demanding a guaranteed per-member minimum funding package that PhD and master's degree students receive for their work. 

That money was offered as a lump sum rather than as an exact figure promised to each union member, and the contract was rejected as a result.

"There is a lack of desire from the university administration to guarantee per-member rights and funding," said Omar Sirri, a strike communications representative. "They have been trying to evade the issue for many years now." 

Canadian Union of Public Employees 3902, Unit 1, said just over 1,100 members voted to reject, while 992 voted to ratify.

"Our members have clearly indicated that continued strike action is necessary to achieve the gains that are necessary for long-term financial security as student workers," said Smith. 

Without contract for 10 months

Teaching assistants and course instructors have been without a contract for more than 10 months.

Members say tuition fees in Ontario are the highest in Canada, and that the province spends the least per student in Canada.

CUPE 3902 Unit 1 represents 6,000 workers. Union members have been on strike since Feb. 27. 

The proposed agreement provided enhanced wages, improved benefits, better financial assistance and tuition fee offsets — making it one of the best teaching assistant compensation packages in Canada, the University of Toronto said in a statement. 

“We continue to be in close contact with the provincial mediator and remain committed to finding a solution to this impasse that would end the strike and allow affected students to complete their academic term without further disruption,” said Prof. Angela Hildyard, vice president of human resources at the University of Toronto. 

Meanwhile, more classes are set to resume on Monday at York University, where two of CUPE 3903's three bargaining units remain on strike. 

Classes were cancelled at York when the strike began on March 3, but have gradually resumed, leading to some tense confrontations between picketers and people trying to get on campus. York's website has a list of courses that will resume. 

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