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TORONTO, Ont. – Teaching assistants at the University of Toronto, members of CUPE 3902 Unit 1, have given their bargaining team a strike mandate to back their demands in the current round of bargaining.

“Despite the fear and anxiety generated by the economic crisis and the very difficult situation unfolding at York University, almost two-thirds of our members courageously indicated their willingness to back up their demands with labour action if necessary,” said Rebecca Sanders, chief spokesperson for the local’s Unit 1 bargaining committee, at a news conference Dec. 11.

With several bargaining days scheduled, the union will continue to press for:

  • assistance with child care costs
  • an end to the expensive, private for-profit University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) forced on international students with a commitment from the employer to cover premiums in the meantime
  • measures to address ballooning tutorial and lab sizes
  • a fair financial package to help students with the cost of living in Toronto, which the university itself says requires a minimum income of $18,000 a year.

Lending his support to the local, Ontario NDP Education Critic Rosario Marchese accused university presidents across the province of being complicit in government underfunding of post-secondary education.

“They simply pass on the problem to students and the people they hire,” he said. “I am urging universities to do what is right and fair for workers and take this issue to Queen’s Park.”

Also joining CUPE 3902 at the news conference were representatives of the University of Toronto Students’ Union, the Graduate Students’ Union and the Canadian Federation of Students.