CUPE 3902, the Union representing nearly 11,500 academic workers at the University of Toronto, called on all members of the campus community today to show their support for the members of Unit 1 at a socially-distanced, COVID-19-safe solidarity event taking place this Wednesday, March 24 from 1 to 3 p.m. Unit 1 consists of about 8,000 teaching assistants, course instructors, peer assistants, and exam invigilators.
“While we are in a legal strike position at this time, our goal remains to achieve a negotiated settlement without having to withdraw our labour. To facilitate discussions towards a settlement, we have agreed to not exercise our right to strike until at least March 25th,” said Amy Conwell, Chair of CUPE 3902 and a U of T Course Instructor.
Both U of T and the Union have been in a legal position to impose a lockout or strike action since March 21.
“We are prepared to strike if necessary. Our working conditions are ultimately the working, learning, and living conditions of students, faculty, and every other member of our campus community. That is why members of Unit 1 are coming out Wednesday to prepare signs, rehearse chants and choose picket locations in an event called “Prepare to Strike Day,” she added. Students, faculty and members of the broader community are urged to show their support by participating in the Unit’s e-action, which can be found at https://weareuoft.com/e-action/.
All members of Unit 1 are encouraged to attend one of 10 outdoor Strike Prep locations across the city and help prepare Unit 1 for job action by making picket signs and get familiarized with picketing protocols under pandemic conditions. Those who can’t join are invited to bring signs bearing expressions of support and solidarity to the south exit of the John P. Robarts Research Library, located near the intersection of Harbord, St. George and Hoskin Streets.
The Strike Prep event is taking place on Wednesday March 24 from 1 to 3 p.m., and the 10 locations are listed on https://weareuoft.com/prepare-to-strike-day/. Unit 1 members will collect all signs from the 10 locations and use them to decorate Robarts Library, a University landmark. The ‘sign forest’ will then stand as an expression of the broad support for Unit 1 members and their bargaining goals.
Unit 1 members identified hiring practices, pandemic-related working conditions, and sick days for all as key priorities for this round of bargaining. Conwell said that while the two sides have made progress throughout the more than 28 days and 160 hours of negotiations that have taken place between the parties, “that progress has been painstakingly slow.”
She added, “Our Bargaining Committee continues to believe that we can achieve a timely and fair agreement provided both parties continue the hard work of negotiating in good faith.”