Around 6,000 teaching assistants and sessional lecturers forming Unit 1 of the local labour union, CUPE 3902, are expected to return to the bargaining table to renegotiate contracts with the University of Toronto administration starting on September 25 CUPE 3902 is working in collaboration with other resident labour unions, including those representing childcare, maintenance, building, trades, and library employees, and the United Steel workers, as part of the “2020 Vision” alliance.

This alliance places forth nine demands for the university management to reach by the year 2020, including steps taken by the university to ensure that job security exists through lasting employment.

During the bargaining process, those specific members to CUPE 3902 will bargain for at least $20,000 per annum for graduate students, and for student appraisals to be excluded from appointment and advancement decisions due to their undependable nature in general, and bias against certain marginalized communities. The union also expects to attain a $10,000 rate for contract course instructors.

“This would mean, for our members, that finally a contract faculty member teaching a full-time course load would earn a decent, middle-class salary. This is the minimum we should all expect for full-time academics with Ph.D.’s teaching at Canada’s top university,” said CUPE 3902 Chair Ryan Culpepper in an interview with The Medium.

As of press time, details on the negotiations between the university and CUPE 3902 are still unavailable.

As for Unit 3, which comprises roughly of 1,500 contract teaching staff, they have already begun negotiating with the university as of July 31st. According to the university’s director of media relations, Althea Blackburn-Evans, in an interview with The Medium, the administration is currently meeting daily with Unit 3 of CUPE 3902.

“We are always bargaining with the hope that we’re going to have productive conversations and we’re going to work very collaboratively with our union partners to reach a collective agreement,” stated Blackburn-Evans.

“Collective bargaining is always difficult. Our members are overworked, underpaid, and lacking job security. As such, they need, and insist on, meaningful improvements to their standard of living,” Culpepper stated, “so I think the negotiations may be tense, and they may take a long time, and they may lead to a labour disruption.”

“Our members are dedicated teachers and researchers, and they want to be at work. But our demands are real and serious, and we have demonstrated that a strike is not something we’re afraid of,” said Culpepper.

When asked about the possibility of another strike, Blackburn-Evans stated that the university’s goal is to “always have those productive and constructive rounds of bargaining to reach those collective agreements without any labour disruption. We always want to work collaboratively with our union partners to achieve that.”

During the last round of bargaining with CUPE in 2015, both sides were unable to reach an agreement, which resulted in a strike that lasted just over a month at all U of T campuses, disrupting some lectures, tutorials, and labs for the term.

The collective agreement for Unit 1 is set to expire on December 31st of this year.

This article has been corrected.
  1. September 11, 2017 at 4 p.m.: The article had been updated with correct quotations and information from the interviewees.
    Notice to be printed on September 18, 2017 (Volume 44, Issue 3).

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