Striking York and U of T staff rally at Queen’s Park

By Codi Wilson, CP24

A rally is being held today in support of thousands of teaching assistants, graduate assistants and research assistants who are currently on strike at York University and the University of Toronto.

At the rally, which is taking place at Queen’s Park, striking staff are calling on the province and university administrators to “play fair” at the bargaining table.

In a written statement released on Wednesday, CUPE officials said daycare subsidies and poor conditions for parental leaves are part of the reason union members are striking. For University of Toronto teaching assistants, the statement said many are “frustrated by the lack of a funding package that would bring them over the poverty line.”

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The University of Toronto Basically Forced Its TAs to Go on Strike for Some Reason

By Tannara Yelland, Vice

On March 2, around 6,000 teaching assistants and course instructors walked off the job at the University of Toronto. After 14 months with an expired collective bargaining agreement and apparently uninterested negotiating partners in the university’s administration, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 3902 says its bargaining team was handed a deal it didn’t like but was forced to approve it anyway.

Given a 15-minute deadline to unanimously approve the deal and hand it over to membership for a general vote (at 3 AM on a Friday, no less) or have the offer taken back, the bargaining team did just that. An overwhelming majority of the membership present rejected the deal, and now TAs and instructors find themselves on the sidewalk rather than in the classroom.

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University of Toronto students affected by strike demand tuition refund

From Canadian Newswire

TORONTO, March 11, 2015 /CNW/ – Hundreds of students are petitioning the University of Toronto administration to refund their tuition fees in the wake of the ongoing CUPE 3902 strike. These students are frustrated that the University of Toronto has yet to even meet with CUPE 3902 since the strike began to negotiate a fair deal and a quick end to the labour action.

“We are affected by this strike, we have had classes cancelled and are being starved of the education we’ve paid for,” said Victoria McKenzie, an undergraduate student who started the campaign. “We have the right to demand a refund. We are not getting the quality education we deserve, so we want our money back.”

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York strike shows lack of critical thinking on campuses: Cohn

By Martin Regg Cohn, Toronto Star

Labour strife has exposed fault lines in university faculties — byzantine hierarchies where part-time teachers toil in classroom sweatshops.

When part-time teachers took to the picket line at York University they became canaries in an ivory tower no different from a coal mine.

Campus cataclysms, like mining disasters, are best avoided by heeding the warning signals: Students lost three months of classes in the strike of 2009, leaving York’s reputation in ruins

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What the University of Toronto isn’t telling you about the TA strike

By Ruth Wilson, Raluca Bejan, Sajedeh Zahraei, Jessica Carriere, Marie Jolie Rwigema, Shely Polack, Meg Gibson,

Cheryl Regehr, the Vice-President and Provost of the University of Toronto, is telling you a lot about the Teaching Assistant strike.

Cheryl is telling you that teaching assistants and course instructors at the University of Toronto are the highest paid in the country at $43.97 an hour. And if that were the end of it, Cheryl would be telling you the truth. But Cheryl isn’t telling you that our contracted work is a convenient fiction. She is telling you that she will decrease the number of required work hours into our contract to 180 from the current 205. She knows full well, although she does not mention it, that we all work far more than the stated hours, and that we will continue to do so no matter what number she writes on our agreement.

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TA compensation, the argument for a competitive institution

By Zane Schwartz, The Varsity

We can’t be a world-class university without paying top dollar for world-class talent

Citations matter. They force you to prove that you’re not just making things up. I know this because U of T threatens to expel me if I don’t cite properly every time I start a new class.

So it’s a bit hypocritical for our university to not provide any sources for all the numbers they’re spouting regarding the TA strike.

For example, provost Cheryl Regehr maintains that graduate student funding has increased to an average of $35,000 per year. This is — to use U of T’s own language on academic honesty — a misrepresentation of facts.

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No bargaining dates after a week

by Maria Iqbal, The Medium

The university still refuses to meet with Unit 1 a week into the strike, according to the unit’s vice-chair Ryan Culpepper.

After Unit 1 members voted down the tentative agreement, CUPE 3902 immediately issued a press release saying that the bargaining team was prepared to meet on short notice to continue negotiations.

VP human resources & equity Angela Hildyard said in a memo on Wednesday that the university will meet Unit 1 when the provincial mediator “thinks there is a basis to return to the bargaining table”.

Culpepper, vice-chair of Units 1 and 2, was sceptical.

“The mediator has only one job and that’s to bring the parties together,” he said. “I can’t believe that if the union is saying it’s ready to meet any time and the employer is saying it’s ready to meet any time that it’s somehow the mediator that’s the hurdle. It’s ludicrous.”

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Letters to the Editor: Two PhD Students Weigh in on the Strike

by Nicole Daniel & Brian Law, The Varsity

Dear undergraduates of the University of Toronto,

I understand your frustration with the strike and I’m not asking for your support (although very welcome) but just the opportunity to explain my position, which is shared with many grad students. Like yourselves, we are frustrated with the high cost of your tuition, especially since it is unclear where all your money goes since those who do more than 60 per cent of the teaching at U of T account for only 3.5 per cent of the budget.

Graduate school might seem like a great deal, because we don’t pay tuition and get $15,000 in funding. However, many grads including myself are paying tuition ($8000-$20,000 a year) and nearly 60 per cent of that is earned through work as TAs, research assistants (RAs), and course instructors (CIs). Yes, we are paid $42/hour for this, but this is part of the $15,000, so wage increases mean nothing when the funding remains unchanged.

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