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Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 3902, the union representing all 4,200 teaching assistants, graduate-student instructors, lab demonstrators, invigilators and writing instructors at the three University of Toronto campuses, have rejected the tentative agreement reached by the Union and the University during conciliation.

At a membership meeting on January 30, members decided by a 96 per cent majority not to send the agreement to a ratification vote. They then unanimously voted to set a strike deadline of February 24 in the event that the University of Toronto administration fails to offer them a reasonable contract. 

We heard a loud and clear message tonight from the members of our union,” said Ryan Culpepper, chair of CUPE 3902’s bargaining team. “Clearly, what we’ve negotiated to this point is not sufficient. Because we are a democratic organization, any new contract has to be accepted by our members. We look forward to reopening negotiations with the university, and we’re committed to bringing back a contract that meets our members’ needs.” 

Since the last contract between the university and the union was signed in 2008, the size of tutorials and labs – which are taught by CUPE 3902 members – has grown dramatically. Research support has dropped, and the university has begun requiring CUPE 3902 members to perform new categories of work at lower pay rates. The university also eliminated the only guaranteed source of income for graduate students in the final years of their degrees. CUPE 3902 members spoke passionately at the meeting about each of these issues, and demanded a contract that seriously addresses them. 

We have been trying to negotiate a fair contract for seven months,” said James Nugent, the bargaining team’s chief spokesperson. “We’ve been fighting for better learning conditions for our students and better working conditions for our members. Last night, our members sent us back to the bargaining table to keep fighting for those things, and that’s what we intend to do.” 

Monday’s meeting emphasized the increasing frustration of our members,” said Wayne Dealy, chair of CUPE 3902. “This is the second unequivocal message they’ve sent to the University of Toronto, and the University really needs to start listening.” 

The previous CUPE 3902 – Unit 1 contract expired on April 30, 2011.

For more information, please contact: 

James Nugent
Chief Spokesperson, Unit 1

Wayne Dealy
Chair, CUPE 3902 

Mikael Swayze
Chief Negotiator, Unit 1

Wendy Forbes
CUPE Communications