Today, two locals of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing about 8,000 academic and support workers at the University of Toronto filed with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB), setting the scene for a possible strike later this month.

“U of T workers face serious struggles, whether working in a classroom, a cafeteria, or a sports facility: distress due to inadequate wages, burnout from overwork, disrespect in the workplace, favouritism, and job insecurity,” said Eriks Bredovskis, president of CUPE 3902, which represents teaching assistants, postdocs and other academic workers who provide the majority of instruction at the university. “Education workers cannot work for substandard wages. The only way that we can continue providing top-tier education to our students is if our pay and our working conditions actually reflect the value we bring to this institution.”

The two locals have been negotiating with the university since October last year. Once the OLRB issues its report, the workers will be in a legal strike position in 17 days.

“The University of Toronto prides itself on being a good, equitable employer. But the truth is that racialized workers are disproportionately in jobs that do not pay a living wage,” said Luke Daccord, president of CUPE 3261. “Right now, we have workers on this campus doing the same jobs and being paid differently. We need a living wage for all workers at this university.”

Despite more than a decade of declining government funding, the University of Toronto remains one of the wealthiest schools in the country.

“There are a lot of inequalities at the University of Toronto, and it’s driving a real affordability crisis for lower-waged workers,” said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario. “This was made worse by the Ford government’s unconstitutional wage restraint legislation – Bill 124. But that’s gone and there’s no excuse for a world-class university to not commit to a living wage for all employees.”