University of Toronto contract staff vote to strike

Almost 2,000 faculty could walk off the job if bargaining breaks down

Contract academic faculty at the University of Toronto have voted to strike, should they hit a wall at the bargaining table.

For only the second time in a decade, instructional assistants from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local 3902 cast their votes 92.1 per cent in favour of a strike — doubling previous voter turnout.

“This vote reflects members’ resolve that ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option,” said Erich Vogt, vice-chair of the unit of the local CUPE chapter. “It serves notice that members demand the kind of job security, compensation and benefits that reflect their contribution to the university’s reputation and position as one of the world’s top teaching and research institutions.”

This particular group of sessional lecturers perform about 35 per cent of all undergraduate teaching at the University of Toronto, yet comprise only one per cent of the university’s overall budget, according to CUPE.

“The majority have the same qualifications and experience as permanent faculty, but lack job security, never knowing what work they will have from term to term, and having to reapply every four to eight months for courses they have successfully taught in the past,” the union said.

There has been no increase in base wages for contract academic faculty since August 2012, and benefits have remained frozen for a decade.

Also part of CUPE local 3902 are graduate student teaching assistants and course instructors, who overwhelmingly approved a strike mandate back in the fall. Between the two units, almost 2,000 education staffers at the university are willing to strike if a deal cannot be ratified.

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