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In overwhelming numbers, CUPE 3902 – Units 1 and 5 – authorize any and all actions, including strike, if necessary

Course Instructors, Teaching Assistants (TAs), and Post-Doctoral Research Fellows (Post-Docs), represented by Local 3902 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUP­E 3902), have overwhelmingly authorized their bargaining committee to take whatever actions are necessary to secure a fair collective agreement with the University of Toronto (U of T).

This week, CUPE 3902 held an unprecedented joint strike vote of two bargaining units – Unit 1, which represents 6,000 Teaching Assistants, Course Instructors and Exam and Accessibility Services employees, and Unit 5, representing Post-Doctoral Research Fellows who unionized at U of T in 2013 and are negotiating with the university for the first time.

Setting a new record for voter turnout, 90.3 per cent of Unit 1 ballots were cast in favour of giving their bargaining committee a mandate to take any and all action necessary to secure a fair collective agreement, up to and including strike action.

Post-Doctoral Research Fellows (Unit 5), who unionized at U of T in 2013 and are negotiating with the university for the first time, gave their bargaining committee the same mandate if U of T will not provide them with a fair first Collective Agreement, with 81 per cent of ballots cast in favour.

University of Toronto administration has told CUPE 3902 negotiators no net financial increases are possible and the value of all renewal Collective Agreements must be frozen indefinitely, meaning stagnant wages and funding, as well as cuts to benefits and other losses to inflation. While graduate funding at U of T has not increased since 2008, tuition and other costs have risen dramatically.

Unit 1 Vice-Chair Ryan Culpepper said, “Zero is not a number TAs and Course Instructors can accept, and these remarkable vote results make that clear. Across every department and faculty, workers came together to demand a fair and progressive agreement, and we are proud to carry those demands to the bargaining table.”

Post-Docs have been told that the University administration cannot commit any money whatsoever from its central budget to their wages and benefits, even for a first collective agreement.

Supriya Syal, Vice-Chair for Unit 5, said that “Post-Docs who do world-class research for U of T have been underestimated and disrespected for a long time. That is why we unionized and that is why we voted to authorize labour action. Now, with this strong mandate, we intend to continue pursuing the basic protections, compensations and benefits Post-Docs deserve.”

All CUPE 3902 members are precarious workers on short-term (one year or less), with few benefits and little job security. Many already live below the poverty line.

CUPE 3902 is proud of our members and the decisiveness of their vote. They don’t want to strike, but won’t compromise their core needs,” said Erin Black, Chair of CUPE 3902. “With this vote, they have shown their resolve to take action, if necessary. The university would be wise to take heed of this, especially since our members contribute significantly to the quality of teaching and research of which it is so proud.”

For more information, please contact:
Erin Black
CUPE 3902, Union Chair

Tom Laughlin
CUPE 3902-Unit 1, Bargaining Spokesperson

Kevin Wilson
CUPE Communications