Undergraduate Students Rally in Support of Striking Academic Workers

TORONTO, March 6, 2015 /CNW/ - Over one thousand students from across the Greater Toronto Area are planning to attend a rally in support of their course instructors, teaching assistants, and lab assistants who are currently on strike, protesting poverty-level funding and compensation among other issues. These students are supporting the call of striking workers at the University of Toronto and York University for living wages and call upon both institutions to return to the bargaining table.

The rally is scheduled for Friday, March 6 from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.,  at the entrance to the University of Toronto St. George campus at College St. and King's College Road.

"We are calling for the University of Toronto to return to the bargaining table, and offer a fair agreement to CUPE 3902 to end the strike," said Yolen Bollo-Kamara, President of the University of Toronto Students' Union. "Tutorials, labs and hundreds of lectures at the University of Toronto and at York University are currently canceled. This is more than just a U of T issue. This represents a systemic funding issue with post-secondary education. We demand that our universities – and quite frankly, the province – prioritize our education and prioritize the people responsible for facilitating our learning."

At the University of Toronto, the minimum funding package for graduate students is $15,000 – about $8,000 or 35 per cent below the Low-Income Cut-Off line. "The work of graduate students is crucial to the University's reputation and its mandate of teaching and research," says Phillip Baiden, an executive of the Graduate Students' Union. "Most graduate students work full-time to produce high-quality research, while also leading tutorials, teaching courses and supervising labs. Yet, they are expected to live far below the poverty line, with funding that has not increased in over eight years."

"When our teaching assistants and course instructors are underpaid, or when their contracts don't include enough time for them to correspond with us, mark our work or meet with us, it affects their ability to provide us with a quality education," says Kriya Siewrattan, President of the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students. "If the administration can find money in the budget year after year to increase their own bloated salaries, they can find the money to provide fair compensation to our teachers, whose wages have been stagnant for almost a decade."

The rally was organized by the University of Toronto Students' Union and endorsed by about twenty student groups at the University of Toronto, York University and elsewhere. The University of Toronto Students' Union represents 50,000 undergraduate students at the University of Toronto.

SOURCE University of Toronto Students' Union

For further information: Yolen Bollo-Kamara, President, University of Toronto Students' Union: 647-287-4291 | media@utsu.ca; Sandra Hudson, Executive Director, University of Toronto Students' Union: 416-722-8842

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