At the beginning of my Buddhism and Cognitive Science class last Friday at the University of Toronto, my professor informed our class that the sessional faculty labour union (CUPE 3902), of which he is a member, will be in legal strike position starting Nov. 9. While negotiations with the university are ongoing, failure to come to an agreement by that day would probably mean indefinite cancellation of the 30 per cent of classes at U of T taught by sessional faculty.
Obviously nobody wants a repeat of the catastrophic York strike last year (where, incidentally, sessional faculty members earn 13 per cent more than their counterparts at U of T), but the motivation behind the strike seems hard to ignore. Currently, sessional faculty, almost all of whom hold PhDs, have to re-apply for their jobs every four to eight months and are paid only $2.25 more per course than a U of T graduate student with no PhD and no teaching experience. Considering my professor has been teaching at the university for 16 years and has won numerous teaching awards, this level of compensation and job security is absurd.
With the University of Toronto Students’ Union officially supporting the sessional faculty, CUPE 3902 has indicated that it intends to sue the university to refund students’ tuition should classes be cancelled. Along with the thousands of other students potentially affected by this strike, I’ll be holding my breath until Nov. 9.