More than 8,000 academic and support workers at the University of Toronto will be on strike Monday if their employer does not come to the table this weekend with a plan to address the growing affordability crisis and equality concerns on campus.

“The biggest issue is that the university insists on dividing student educators, caretakers, postdoctoral researchers, and food service workers. We know that no matter what our job is we work for the same employer and we face the same challenges that must be addressed now,” said Eriks Bredovskis, president of CUPE 3902, which represents the contract instructors and teaching assistants who provide the majority of instruction at the university.

In addition to about 7,000 academic workers, the strike would involve about 1,000 maintenance workers, caretakers, groundskeepers, casual workers, student residence and foodservice staff and others who are members of CUPE 3261.

“We have made our priorities clear to the university. We see and talk to students every day and know how important this time of year is for them,” said Luke Daccord, president of CUPE 3261. “The problem is that the university treats us like we’re disposable. Management needs to realize that service workers are integral to the university’s mission of providing a world class educational experience. What we’re asking for is for respect, dignity, and a living wage.”

In addition to remuneration, the locals are calling for the university to pay the same wage to workers who do the same work, and for the university to provide access to free public transportation for contract education workers.

“A lot of what we’re negotiating directly affects the quality of education and the university experience. We want workers to be able to focus on students – whether they’re in cafeterias, residences or classrooms – instead of long, stressful commutes and juggling multiple jobs,” said Bredovskis. “Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.”