Update on strike/lockout of U of Toronto TAs -- Jan. 25, 2000 (fwd)

kenneth.mackendrick at utoronto.ca kenneth.mackendrick at utoronto.ca
Wed Jan 26 18:38:05 PST 2000

The U of T admin is *demanding* that courses be restructured in light of the possibility that the TAs will not return. This is interesting because it is followed with the footnote, *COURSE WILL NOT BE RECONSTRUCTED AGAIN* - in other words, TAs will no longer be required for the courses & it will be procedurally incoherent for TAs to return to work (making it difficult, if not impossible to negotiate back-to-work protocols). Professors who do not hand in these reconstructed course outlines have been threatened with some sort of disciplinary action.

The admin has *explicity* stated that they are not trying to bust the union. The Feb. 2 deadline for the restructuring (the date varies in the literature, Feb 1, Feb 2 and Feb 4 - from a departmental chair, I wiggled out Feb 2) (since the faculty, most of them, support a TA union on campus) is intended to "scare" the union back to the negotiating table. How wonderfully ironic since it is the admin that has *refused* to talk to union negotiators. The unions position is this: tuition relief is an integral part of our labour, and therefore (as the law permits) de facto open to negotiation. However, the admin has refused, on principle, to talk about it. This has created a tragic split, between students, between faculty, and between administrators.

The sides are split along these lines:

pro-union (in support of tuition relief) sympathetic to union (support of union, against any negotiations involving tuition) anti-union

It seems that a large portion of the faculty are in the sympathetic position, but by default they have aligned themselves with the administration - abiding by course reconstructions. Their reasoning is this: putting tuition in the collective agreement means that the university will be unable to hire "the best qualified" for the job (ie. U of T grads will have to be hired *before* looking elsewhere). This seems easy to get around, but many faculty members (and undergrad students) are not convinced.

The admin has openly declared that they believe it is inappropriate for unions to be involved in university life. They have stated that all of this is not an attempt to break the union. However, all of their actions indicate that they are attempting to do precisely this. This kind of thing has never happened in Canada before. There are no historical precedents to guide the struggle (not that we should feel bound by our history... it's just that the law is ambiguous about where we can go from here). Once the departments have handed in their new course outlines, the administration will have a blank cheque to absolutely refuse all negotiations with the union. The admin, of course, is not taking any responsibility for their actions. They are hoisting the entire affair onto the undergraduates, "this is not our will, it is the will of the undergrads!" We've heard this defense before ("I was just following orders, I'm not responsible").

One of the *real* problems here is the intensity of the administrations demands. The Feb 4 deadline (accept our demands or consider yourself fired) was set *2 weeks* into the strike. There has been no time for departments to organize resistance, no time to discuss this with students and administrative staff... someone somewhere refered to this as "the tyranny of the urgent." In any reasonable environment, the reconstruction of the courses could wait, but students are not being given a choice.

My apologies if this is all over the place. My fingers haven't quite defrosted yet.

Kenneth MacKendrick CUPE 3902

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