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York U teaching assistants, contract staff vote to strike

York University teaching assistants and contract staff have voted overwhelmingly to reject the latest contract offer, leaving all classes and exams suspended.

A rally will be held on Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the Keeple campus with some picketing starting on Tuesday.

CUPE Local 3903 chair Faiz Ahmed said workers hit the main picket lines on Wednesday.

According to CUPE Local 3903, 71 per cent of its 3,700 union members voted against the York contract offer.

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.

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.

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.

With many classes, labs and tutorials being cancelled as a result of the strike, students are left worrying about long-term plans.

“If they go on strike again for three months … What does that mean? Will I be able to graduate on time and move on with my life?” student Amandeep Toor said.

But it isn’t just students worrying about their future.

Rob Cappelletto, an instructor at York’s jazz program, said another strike could put a damper on attracting future students.

“Last time there was a strike…I probably had 40 per cent less students the following year and after the strike ended many didn’t come back,” he explained.

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 is day two of the strike at the University of Toronto. Teaching assistants will be hitting the picket lines today at all three GTA campuses: downtown, Mississauga and Scarborough. Many labs and tutorials are cancelled but the majority of classes remain 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.