Strike of 8,000 University of Toronto workers averted

Union signs employer's final offer just minutes before day of strike

Strike of 8,000 University of Toronto workers averted

More than 8,000 academic and support workers at the University of Toronto (U of T) who are represented by their union will not be walking off the job today following a last-minute agreement.

“Just minutes before midnight, we received the university’s final offers, and signed historic tentative agreements,” the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said in a statement, according to a City News report. “All CUPE 3902 and 3261 members should report to work as normal on Monday.”

On Friday, CUPE said that about 7,000 academic workers and about 1,000 maintenance workers, caretakers, groundskeepers, casual workers, student residence and foodservice staff and others will be on strike Monday if their employer does not come up with “a plan to address the growing affordability crisis and equality concerns on campus”.

“The biggest issue is that the university insists on dividing student educators, caretakers, postdoctoral researchers, and food service workers. We know that no matter what our job is we work for the same employer and we face the same challenges that must be addressed now,” said Eriks Bredovskis, president of CUPE 3902, which represents the contract instructors and teaching assistants who provide the majority of instruction at the university.

“We have made our priorities clear to the university. We see and talk to students every day and know how important this time of year is for them,” added Luke Daccord, president of CUPE 3261. “The problem is that the university treats us like we’re disposable. Management needs to realize that service workers are integral to the university’s mission of providing a world class educational experience. What we’re asking for is for respect, dignity, and a living wage.”

Elementary teachers in Ontario also previously voted in favour of a strike. 

12.8% wage increase for U of T workers

Under CUPE’s tentative deal with U of T, CUPE 3902 Unit will receive a 12.8 per cent wage increase over the next three years, according to the City News report.

Meanwhile, CUPE 3902 Unit 5 got across-the-board increases of 9%, retroactive to 2023.

Officials say along with specific demands that apply to each of the bargaining units, all three unions were demanding that the university accept proposed wage increases above Bill 124, which capped public sector wage increases to one per cent per year but was recently ruled unconstitutional, according to the report.

Aside from wage increases, the deal also includes protections for health-care benefits, and stronger mental health coverage, according to CTV News.

"The agreement follows a marathon session of negotiations over the weekend," CUPE said, according to the CTV News report. "It is the outcome of historic coordination among campus unions, and ongoing organizing by teaching assistants, contract instructors, postdocs, maintenance workers, caretakers, groundskeepers, veterinary technologists, casual workers, student residence and food service staff, and others."

CUPE members will be able to review the details from the tentative agreement ahead of a ratification meeting early next week, according to the union.

In August 2023, support staff at public colleges in Ontario secured bigger wages and extended benefits from their employers. The College Employer Council (CEC) and Ontario Public Service Union - full-time college support (OPSEU/SEFPO CAAT) mutually agreed to boost the previously set wage increases for these workers.

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