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Arbitration Settles Dispute between University of Toronto and Teaching Assistant Union

Tuesday, July, 21, 2015

Arbitration is frequently utilized to settle disputes that involve employee unions and the recent dispute between the University of Toronto and the teaching assistant union was no exception. The University came out of the arbitration hearings victorious in the ruling that settled issues related to the month-long strike by 6000 teaching assistants this past spring.


The arbitrator ruled the university is no responsible for guaranteeing each graduate be given a set amount of new funding, which had been requested by the union throughout the dispute. Instead, union member graduate students are now eligible to apply to two bursary funds totaling approximately $1 million.


This means the amount in the bursaries will be renegotiated in the upcoming round of talks, scheduled two years from now. Should the funds not have enough money, the arbitrator ruled “… it is open to the parties to change them in the next round.” A set guarantee of money per student would have meant the university’s control over distribution would be negotiated during collective bargaining.


In response, the Vice President and Provost of the university stated, “We are very committed to graduate student funding… [This is] an academic issue and needs to be addressed through an academic process.”


During the course of the strike the union stated that grad students who are in teaching roles are employees, not students, and deserve to be paid more than the $15,000 annual funding guarantee.


Supporters of the deal point out that the new bursary funding now leaves senior year grad students much better off than before. Both the union and the university are happy with the arrangement.


Union reps also stated that a committee has been formed as a result of the arbitration that includes the union, undergraduate students, and the faculty association. This group will discuss how funding will be handled in the future.