York U TAs, contract staff rally at Keele campus

York University teaching assistants and contract staff hit the picket lines Tuesday morning at the virtually empty Keele campus.

Seventy-one per cent of CUPE Local 3903’s 3,700 union members voted against the latest York contract offer on Monday night, leaving all classes and exams suspended.

The bargaining committee was recommending members reject the offer, which included a 1.5 per cent raise for contract faculty and teaching assistants. The union wanted a three per cent raise and improved job security.

Workers gathered around 11 a.m. at a rally which quickly migrated onto the streets.

“Full time wages for full time work” was chanted as workers marched at the campus’ entrance.

The union said two-thirds of undergraduate courses are taught by contract workers, and they want annual contracts replaced with three-year contracts to ensure job security for its members.

CUPE Local 3903 chair Faiz Ahmed said there is still hope the two sides can reach an agreement.

“We are directing our bargaining team to go back to the bargaining table with the university to negotiate a better agreement,” Ahmed said.

It’s a statement echoed by York officials.

“We believe that we can settle this, we can get back to the bargaining table promptly and we will resolve this as quickly as possible,” Rhonda Lenton, vice president Academic and Provost at York University, explained. “We believe that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Lenton said she hopes a deal can be reached in days, not weeks.

York’s last strike started in Nov. 2008 and lasted 12 weeks. It was the longest strike at an English speaking Canadian university. There was also the threat of strike action in 2012.

Meanwhile, Tuesday was day two of the strike at the University of Toronto. Teaching assistants hit the picket lines at all three GTA campuses: downtown, Mississauga and Scarborough. Many labs and tutorials were cancelled but the majority of classes remained as scheduled.

So far there’s been no word on when both parties will restart bargaining. Students are still advised to check Blackboard, the internal website, for updates.

Many TTC routes are affected by the two strikes. Click here for details.

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