U of T teaching assistants set up picket lines on campus
Thousands of striking University of Toronto teaching assistants are planning to set up picket lines at three Toronto-area campuses on Monday morning.
Students have been told classes will go ahead at the university’s three campuses — in downtown Toronto, Mississauga and Scarborough — but there may be some strike-related interruptions to some labs and tutorials.
Erin Black, the chair of the teaching assistant’s union, said students will notice a difference.
The some 7,000 teaching assistants, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees 3902, had a tentative deal in place last Friday but voted overwhelmingly to reject it.
CUPE continues to stress a teaching assistant’s take home pay is below the poverty level.
The university, however, insists it offered "generous" improvements to teaching assistants’ compensation and benefits — which are among the highest in Canada, it said in a news release.
"Despite the strike action, we are staying open and will be focused on our commitment to students and their academic success," said Professor Cheryl Regehr, the University’s vice-president and provost.
Several students, including Svetlana Davidchuk who is in the sociology program, voiced their support for the striking workers.
"Everyone has a right to fight for a better life. If this is the only way they can do it, I guess they have the right," Davidchuk said.
Still, she said, "I’d rather go to the lectures and tutorials that I paid for."
Others students said they’re concerned a prolonged strike could wind up costing them summer jobs. Joanna Owdell, a cellular biology student, said that’s the situation her classmates are in.
"The practical components of the laboratory are necessary for them to get summer jobs."
York University will be keeping a close eye on the disruption, as it is facing a teaching assistants’ strike of its own.
York, whose teaching assistants walked off the job for three months in 2009, is in ongoing contract negotiations. Teaching assistants will be in a legal strike position on Tuesday.
At the U of T campuses, several TTC routes are diverting around the picket lines.