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On the morning of Thursday December 11, CUPE 3902 held a media conference at Hart House to discuss the results of our positive strike mandate. At the media conference Rosario Marchese, Ontario NDP Education Critic announced that he would be mentioning our negotiations during Question Period at Queen’s Park to raise concerns about funding for Ontario’s universities. Below please find the statement read by Rebecca Sanders, PhD candidate in Political Science at UofT and Chief Spokesperson for the CUPE 3902 Unit 1 Bargaining Committee. FOR MEDIA INTERVIEWS, please contact Rebecca Sanders at 647.225.3902.

Statement read by Rebecca Sanders at CUPE 3902 media conference, Thursday December 11:
 CUPE 3902 represents Teaching Assistants and Course Instructors at the University of Toronto. Our members have been working without a contract since the end of April. Over the last 5 months we have spent at the bargaining table, the union and university have agreed on several important issues. However, the UofT has rejected the union’s reasonable and moderate proposals to improve equity and accessibility for our members and has refused to offer a fair financial package. Because of this, our members called for a strike vote.

Between December 3 and 9, over 1100 members cast a ballot. Around 700 of them, or 63%, voted in favour of a strike mandate that authorizes the executive to call for a strike should talks break down. Despite the fear and anxiety generated by the economic crisis and the very difficult situation unfolding at York University, almost 2/3 of our members courageously indicated their willingness to back up their demands with labour action if necessary. None of our members want to strike, but they have clearly signaled that they are not prepared to accept a deal that ignores their core concerns. While a last resort, our members have spoken: they will walk off the job if the UofT continues to fail to offer a just contract.

There are several bargaining days scheduled between the union and the employer. We are committed to keep on bargaining in good faith to reach a settlement. Among the demands that we will continue to press for are:

Meaningful childcare assistance for our members to ensure women and families can access education.

An end to the outrageously expensive, private for-profit University Health Insurance Plan, currently forced on international students and their families, and a commitment from the employer to cover the premiums in the meantime.
Measures that address ballooning tutorial and lab sizes and thus maintain the quality of education for our students.
Finally, a fair financial package including wages that keep up with cost of living and tuition inflation, health benefits that keep up with rising medical expenses, tuition assistance for a small group of unfunded students, and adjustments to the guaranteed funding package that bring our members closer to the UofT’s own published estimates of the minimum funding necessary to survive in Toronto.
The employer needs to understand that we will not accept any concessions. We have already wasted a great deal of valuable bargaining time resisting the employer’s now withdrawn proposal to rollback maternity leave eligibility. We want to make it perfectly clear that we will continue to reject any proposals that leave our members worse off now than they were during our last contract.

We hope the UofT has heard the stand taken by our members and will return to the table in a more conciliatory spirit. We can reach a fair deal without a strike, but only if the employer takes our demands seriously. We look forward to seeing their modified proposals and working with them to find creative solutions to our members’ and their students’ needs.

CUPE 3902 Strike Vote Media Advisory, December 11
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