Monday: Both sides reject deal

CUPE 3902’s Unit 1 and the university both decline offers made by the other side after Unit 1, which represents around 6,000 teaching assistants (TAs), exam invigilators, and other university staff, drafted a settlement and presented it to the university on Friday, March 13. The university revised the agreement on Monday, which the Unit 1 bargaining team rejected.

Unit 1’s initial proposal included $600,000 of extra funding, to be spread out over four years. This figure would have helped to raise TAs’ funding from $15,000 and included a $17,500 tuition waiver. According to Ryan Culpepper, CUPE Unit 1 chief negotiator, the university’s counter offer did not include any new funds and was around $22,500 less than the first offer that Unit 1 rejected on Friday, February 27, triggering the strike.

Tuesday: Disruption at UTM

Following the deal rejection on Monday, increased picket line presence blocked the three entrance points to UTM, causing delays of up to 90 minutes. Police were stationed at various locations in the UTM area to direct traffic, and drivers were advised to take alternative routes if possible. The UTM shuttle bus service relocated its stops and warned travellers that delays were expected.

According to The Medium, UTM administration was slow to notify its students of the delays. Despite picket lines reportedly forming as early as 8:00 am, notices of the disruption were not issued until 11:00 am on the UTM administration’s social media channels, and not until 4:15 pm on their website.

Wednesday: St George students walk out; “tentative agreement” reached

Around 1,000 students staged a walkout on the St George campus, congregating in front of Simcoe Hall. They remained there for around two hours, playing music and chanting in support of the striking TAs.

Later that day, the university announced that it had reached a tentative agreement with CUPE 3902 Unit 1. This potential deal includes a “graduate funding package top-up,” intended to give Unit 1 members at least $17,500 of base funding, proposed as a fund and not on an individual basis. The reallocation of funds means an augmentation in the amount available to the top-up and for tuition assistance from $3.3 million to $4.935 million — an increase of $1.635 million. Under back to work protocol, strikers would receive 15 of 22 working days of pay.

Thursday: UTSC students stage sit-in

UTSC students gathered in front of their registrar’s office to protest “severe financial insecurity and unfair treatment of our TAs, the increase in tuition fees for domestic students, the unregulated tuition fees for international students, and the university’s investments in weapons’ manufacturers and fossil fuels.”

The sit-in occurred with the support of CUPE 3902 members, who said that the students “should absolutely go ahead with the sit-in.” Students present held banners and signs that read “I <3 TAs,” “U of T Negotiate,” and “#WeAreNotYourBasicIncomeUnit” among others.

The protest happened following the release of a letter dated March 17 from UTSC’s chairs and academic directors, calling for the provost to commit to a minimum funding package for graduate students that is competitive and takes into account the cost of living in Toronto.  

In the meantime, some students are encouraging others to record the number of classes, labs, or tutorials they have missed due to the strike and demand a refund for an amount based on that figure.

Friday: Simcoe Hall vandalized; union votes to send agreement for ratification

Students and staff awoke to the sight of “SHAME” emblazoned in large red letters over the doors of U of T’s Simcoe Hall, which houses many of the university’s most important administrative offices.

While it is unclear who was behind the incident, CUPE 3902 strongly condemned it. “To vandalize a building in the heart of the St. George campus does not advance any one’s cause. Rather, it only serves to distract attention from where it needs to be, resolving a labour dispute that is hurting the university community,” said CUPE 3902 chair Erin Black in a statement.

At a meeting in the evening, Unit 1 members voted to send the tentative agreement reached on Wednesday to a ratification vote of the entire membership. The decision narrowly passed, with 789 votes in favour to 739, and eight spoiled ballots.