Toronto—After months of legal wrangling, nearly 500 teaching assistants at Ryerson University are certified as members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). The certification comes after months of stalling by the employer, Ryerson University, that delayed the counting of ballots cast by teaching assistants last November. As required by Ontario’s Labour Relations Act, the teaching assistants voted last fall on whether they wanted to join CUPE.
“Labour law says we are entitled to vote and that ‘a vote’ meant that our ballots would be counted. Instead, Ryerson has stalled the process and raised legal issue after legal issue. They purposely delayed the count for months. Imagine an election where the results weren’t known for months. This is worse than the last U.S. Presidential election,” says Shawn McFadden, chair of the Ryerson Teaching Assistants Organizing Committee (TAROC).
Due to chronic provincial under-funding for post-secondary education and increasing student enrolment and class sizes, teaching assistants are shouldering more and more of the teaching responsibility at universities across Ontario.
At Ryerson, the teaching assistants are frustrated with the intransigence of university administration that refuses to recognize the important contribution we make. There’s a lot of pent-up energy out there that we’ll be bringing to the bargaining table, says McFadden.
Major concerns for the Ryerson teaching assistants are wages, job security, a complete lack of benefits and tuition controls for those teaching assistants who are also Ryerson students.
CUPE is Canada’s largest union with over 500,000 members of whom over 50,000 are university workers. CUPE represents teaching assistants at 16 universities, the vast majority of unionized teaching assistants in Canada. With Ryerson now unionized, in Ontario only Laurentian, Waterloo and Queen’s have substantial numbers of non-union teaching assistants.
“The Ryerson certification brings us one step closer to our goal of organizing 100 per cent of teaching assistants in Ontario and across the country. With that level of unionization, teaching assistants will be able to make substantial gains both for themselves as employees, but also for the quality and accessibility of post-secondary education across the country, says Derek Blackadder, a CUPE National organizer.
For more information please contact: Derek Blackadder, CUPE National Organizing, (416) 518-9214 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications, (416) 578-8774