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Overwhelming strike mandate for University of Toronto instructors

Contract academic workers at the University of Toronto have given their bargaining team an overwhelming 91% mandate in favour of strike action for Unit 3 of CUPE 3902, which includes non-student sessional lecturers, writing instructors, and music professionals.

The vote came on the heels of back-to-work legislation that ended a five-week strike by Ontario college instructors. The main issue faced by instructors is the reliance of post-secondary institutions on precarious labour, a situation that is unfair to students and teachers alike. At the University of Toronto, Sessional Lecturers deliver over 20% of all undergraduate teaching, yet earn less and have little to no job security.

For Sessional Lecturers at the University of Toronto, there is no clear path to permanent employment, said CUPE 3902 Chair, Pamela Arancibia.

“Many of our members have been working at the University of Toronto for decades. The minimum per-course salary for Sessional Lecturers is less than $15,000, whereas Faculty members earn at least $23,000 for teaching the same courses.”

“That’s less than two-thirds of the pay for the same work,” said Arancibia, “and it doesn’t even touch on the fact that nearly half of all Sessional Lecturers are women, whereas more than 60% of all faculty are men.”

Referring to Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which passed its third reading in Queen’s Park today, she continued, “Kathleen Wynne’s government recognizes that equal pay for equal work is a crucial issue for Ontario’s workers; so too should the University of Toronto.”

While undergraduate tuition continues to rise, and the University of Toronto attracts ever-increasing numbers of foreign students, it refuses to commit to long-term job security for the people delivering many of its undergraduate courses.

Jess Taylor, Spokesperson for the Unit 3 Bargaining Team, said “After four months at the bargaining table, we’ve made some gains in terms of wage increases, but the University believes that our mandate to pave a pathway to permanent employment is unacceptable, and that addressing the precarious nature of our work is fundamentally inconsistent with current hiring practices.”

“Our members sent the strongest possible message to the University,” Taylor added, “and we sincerely hope that this message was received by their negotiators.”

The two sides are scheduled to resume bargaining on 24 November.

Founded in 1973, CUPE 3902 represents more than 9,500 contract academic workers at the University of Toronto.

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