While Around 1,000 contracted professors were settled down with an agreement last week, teaching assistants at University of Toronto decided to reject the deal their union got with the University, and they are now officially on strike with 90% vote against the collective agreement. Most of the classes will still be going on, but the ongoing strike will certainly shut down quite a number of tutorial and labs effectively.
Erin Black, one of the chairs from CUPE 3902 executive committee suggests that TAs and sessional lecturers fill the gap between teaching and understanding, and the deal offered by university simply makes it hard for TAs do their job. TAs plays an important part in teaching but get paid 30% lower than the minimum living wage in Toronto ($23,000). “We don’t have hard number” Said Black, “It wasn’t necessary to physically count the number because it is so clear (that we are going to reject).”
Similar strike happened in 2000 at University of Toronto when teaching assistants walked out from their job for 3 and half week.
U of T administration announced that classes in three branches would still continue while TAs walk out of their job. Adjustments will be made to make sure classes are delivered and marked.
But it is also obvious that U of T officials are not pleasant with the result. According to Althea Blackburn-Evans, the director of news and media relation in U of T, the university officials believe that the latest deal with the teaching assistants were “fair and reasonable.”
For university students, a difficult time of their school year will be expected, because teaching assistant plays a crucial role in their academic lives. TAs fills the gap between teachings and understandings, more importantly they grade most of paper, assignments and exams in courses. And with the upcoming exams and assignments season in the university, the strike is likely to impact many, especially for those who are graduating this year.
Despite the potential impact of the strike, the strike gets some supportive voice from students. Representatives at University of Toronto Student Union (UTSU) expressed their thoughts, “It’s unfair that the people doing 60 per cent of the teaching at U of T are making less than poverty-level wages.” the president of the student union said, another executive in the student union also suggested that it is important for student to support teaching assistants because their working condition will essentially influence the teaching quality.
At York, 3,700 teaching assistant will go on strike on Tuesday if a deal can’t be made in talks over the weekend. Similar strike happened in 2008 at York, teaching assistants went on strike for 3 months and it was ended with a back to work legislation.