Faculty Letter calling on UofT Provost to avert TA strike sign now

Public Letter to the Provost of UofT, Professor Cheryl Misak

We are writing to you as members of the faculty of the University of Toronto who are concerned about the current labour dispute between the administration and CUPE 3902, the union representing our Teaching Assistants. We urge you to consider their three basic, popular demands:
1. Increase TA wages and benefits in step with inflation
2. Reinstate funding for senior Ph.D. students
3. Improve quality of tutorials and lab work
These demands are very reasonable and intimately tied to our intellectual passions and interests. Accepting them appears to us to be the ethical and the professional thing to do. The proposed 1.8% salary increase falls short of the 2.8% rate of inflation. We view this as a cheap attempt to balance the budget at the expense of a group that is at the core of our academic mission and the university’s claims to excellence – our Ph.D. students. Since the last strike in 2000 resulted in a considerable improvement of graduate funding, the administration has incrementally eroded the agreement and since May 2011 no new bargain has been struck. Under these circumstances, the quality of our Ph.D. students will inevitably drop (if it has not already) as current TA’s are forced to cope with underpayment and overcrowded tutorials and labs. Moreover, we fear that the best incoming Ph.D. candidates will accept offers from other universities where their subsistence is respected and better represented. The current situation makes it difficult for us to advise, with good conscience, prospective Ph.D. candidates to take up their basic offers of acceptance at UofT.
We believe that our undergraduates deserve the administration’s full commitment to the best university education in Canada. The administration may find it expedient to treat our Ph.D. students primarily as exploitable labour to provide undergraduate teaching on a shoe-string. This would be short-sighted and detrimental to our undergraduate students’ learning experience. Moreover, as faculty we consider our TAs junior and future colleagues, academics who will carry on our research, teaching and critical, independent thinking, and we, therefore, stand in solidarity with them.
We trust these arguments will influence you to come to an agreement with the union that will weigh up the far-sighted gains in striking a deal on the three central issues above and that is, therefore, in the interests of the entire academic community of the university - colleagues, undergraduates and graduates.

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