I am definitely not pro-collective bargaining. In these tough and unchartered economic times nobody should be asking for a raise as far as I am concerned; especially when this raise comes from Ontario taxpayers, who fund, to a great extent, our post-secondary institutions. This holds even more so when Ontario faces a huge deficit of approximately $16 billion, and mediocre (at best) economic growth of 1.8% over the next two years. Yet somehow I managed to X the box voting “yes,” and gave my CUPE union a strike mandate—why?
TAs make about $39 per hour at the University of Toronto, which is a great wage compared to what our counterparts in Québec apparently make. We have guaranteed funding packages of $15,000 minimum for anyone in the doctoral stream, and a pile of benefits. To clarify, the unions want more of all the above: paid childcare, compensation for travel time between the University of Toronto’s three campuses, and a tutorial cap of fifty students. What a nice world these representatives live in.
I did not vote yes for any of these reasons. And I most certainly did not vote yes because, as union leaders explain, “voting yes actually prevents a strike.” I will not even comment on the terrible logic behind that argument. I also did not vote yes because the union representative was watching me as I crossed “yes” on my ballot—how democratic of CUPE.
I voted yes because I want to raise my voice. My tuition is $8,000 per year; my one-bedroom apartment within walking distance of the University is $1395 per month; travelling 400 km home for Christmas, Thanksgiving and Eastern puts me back about $500 with Via Rail; and I don’t even know how to add up my eating costs—not so extravagant mind you.
I am not complaining when I list these prices because I received a scholarship from the Government of Canada worth $18,000 (SSHRC), so I count myself luckier than many of my peers who have neither a scholarship nor TAship. But I want to make a comparison here. According to the Ministry’s website, which discloses public-servant salaries, one of my professors makes over $162,000 per year, and a professor of Accounting & Finance makes $350,000 per year. Even a Slavic Studies professor brings in a whopping $133,000. I am sure all of their research is crucial to the 21st century; but I ask myself, where is the equality?
Students come to this University because they believe great minds deserve a great education, yet they find that they cannot afford to live here because living costs are too high, even with a funding guarantee and benefits. They also find that their professors, whom they directly support with their tuition dollars, are at times less than welcoming to their questions (however dumb some of these might be in my experience).
So, I voted yes because I want to get the University of Toronto’s attention. It is no longer about money; it is about being fair, and fair means bringing people “back to Earth,” having them realize that nobody in the public sector is worth 350k per year or even 133k per year, especially when it’s about Slavic Studies. It is about telling the University that tuition cannot become $10,000.00 per year for a useless Master of Arts degree in order to fund professors’ salaries and outrageous TA benefits, such as those listed above.
In these times, we all have to make sacrifices. Yet nobody at the University seems to want to make them. I reflect on having voted “yes” yesterday, and I wonder if the union will even realize my stance.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of The Prince Arthur Herald.
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