Many departments have policy or a “best-practice model” in which full-time graduate students are not supposed to work more than an average of 10 hours a week at university-related or other employment over the school year. This is not currently university-wide policy, and the GSU will fight to make sure it doesn’t become policy. 

Employment can be defined broadly or narrowly; teaching assistantships, lab demonstration, and research grants are included in their definition of university-related employment. With the 4-year PhD time limits being more stringently imposed, departments are more vigilant about PhD students working off-campus. Take care and call us if you have concerns.

You may also search for full-time, part-time, and summer employment at the U of T Career Centre.

CUPE 3902 180 Bloor St. W., Suite 902
Phone: 416-593-7057; FAX: 416-593-9866

A message from CUPE 3902:

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 3902 is the trade union which represents teaching assistants, teaching fellows, demonstrators, tutors, markers, invigilators, instructors, TEPAs, teaching laboratory assistants and part-time lecturers who are undergraduate or graduate students or post-doctoral fellows at the U of T. We also represent student Chief Presiding Officers in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

More than 3,900 U of T students and post-doctoral fellows hold down one or more of the positions listed above. Welcome to your Union! In order to have a say in the operations of the Union, you must sign a Union card. We try to send a card to everyone as soon as we know someone is employed here. You can also get one from your departmental steward or from the Union office. Everyone employed in one of the categories above is required by law to pay Union dues.

Members of the Union are the Union. Members tell the Union what to do through general membership meetings and through their stewards at Stewards’ Council. Membership meetings are well advertised by poster, newsletter and email. Please come out and tell us what is on your mind – it’s the only way we can represent you!

Office and Services

In addition to bargaining contracts, the Union is here to help you with any problems that arise in your employment as a TA or instructor. Please call us or visit the office anytime on Tuesday to Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm. Union officers and staff are available on Monday and Friday by appointment. Our officers and staff can help you with the Collective Agreement, working conditions, hours of work, employment insurance, income tax, or immigration problems. If we cannot provide the assistance you need, we will tell you who can.

Your Rights as a TA/instructor

Guaranteed Funding: As a result of the last two rounds of bargaining, including the January 2000 strike, coupled with the GSU and CUPE 3907 campaigns, all doctoral-stream TAs are now guaranteed a minimum funding package of tuition and fees plus $12,000. Part of the $12,000 may include a TAship of no more than 240 hours in 2003-04. The number of hours the U of T may count in the package will decrease every year of the Collective Agreement. However, the guaranteed appointments (see below) do not decrease. If your department offers a package superior to the minimum, they are obliged by the Collective Agreement to continue to offer it to you.

Job postings: Positions in our bargaining unit – for TAs or instructors – must be announced by means of written notices as far in advance as possible (September jobs should be posted by April and January jobs in the Fall) and must remain posted for at least 20 working days (4 weeks) before they may be filled. Such notices must include: the title and number of each course; expected course enrollment; number of expected positions; total number of hours of work; dates of appointment; salary; qualifications required and duties expected; the application procedure; and, a notice that the Department’s hiring policy is available in the Department and at the Union office. If jobs are not advertised properly in your Department, let the Union know. The Union now gets copies of all job postings. We are working at making these available on our website.

Job Security: If you’re a PhD student, the Department which first hires you as a TA or instructor is not just hiring you for that year. You are automatically entitled to a second, third and fourth appointment in subsequent years. These subsequent appointments must be at least the same number of hours as your first appointment. These are normally in succeeding years, but if you have a good reason for delaying them – like a year of fieldwork in New Guinea – you should be able to arrange it. An “appointment” consists of all the hours you work in a given academic session. Note: if you are first hired in the Winter session the hiring department cannot count an appointment in a Summer session as a “subsequent appointment”. The reverse holds true if you are first hired in the Summer session. If this happens to you, please contact the Union for advice. (N.B. Appointments in the School of Continuing Studies do not qualify a person for subsequent appointments.) If you are not notified of your second, third or fourth appointment by April 30 of the current year, or if an appointment is scheduled for a period in which you are unavailable, call the Union immediately.

Hiring Criteria: According to the Collective Agreement, there are two procedures by which TAs get hired: (1) the apportionment of positions to individuals who are guaranteed appointments by virtue of “subsequent appointments” clauses (see above), and (2) hiring for all positions which remain open after (1) has taken place. With some exceptions, for all such open positions, preference must be given to graduate students and students who have been accepted as graduate students. In addition to this “graduate preference”, the criteria for hiring are ability, academic qualifications, suitability for the position and the university’s “need to attract” graduate students. The Union has lost a number of arbitration decisions on hiring that leaves much of the hiring process in the exclusive hands of the Department. If you believe that you have been unfairly denied a job, please contact the Union immediately. The biggest exemption to the graduate preference rule is the case of “sole-responsibility” instructorships, i.e. appointments to teach a course. Departments do not have to post such positions to graduate students; however, before they can consider any graduate student, they must post to all graduate students.

Dental Reimbursement: Currently this is the only health-related benefit we enjoy. TAs/instructors with appointments of at least 50 hours can get a $500 reimbursement for dental expenses anytime during the academic year in which they are appointed. Spouses and children are eligible for up to $300 each. Take your receipt to the Union Office (902-180 Bloor St. W.) or Human Resources, 215 Huron Street, 8th Floor; Business Services, North Building, Room 157 (UTM); or, Personnel Office, Room S418C (Scarborough).

Job Descriptions/Overwork: You must receive a written job description within 3 weeks of being offered a position. Your supervisor must meet with you to discuss your duties and again mid-course to revise your job description as necessary (this can and often does involve increasing your hours). If this is your first time TAing in a course, your supervisor must meet with you within the first month to discuss your workload and ways of preventing overwork (working more hours than your job description specifies). Use the Workload Log supplied by the Union to keep track of your hours – it is the only way to prevent overwork. If you don’t get a job description, or if your job description turns out to be unrealistic, you have to take action immediately. Please call the Union for advice. Note: Course Instructors do not receive job descriptions.

The Collective Agreement allows the Union to audit up to eight departments a year for workload issues. We hope to use the audit process in conjunction with member complaints to deal with systemic workload problems.

Workload Study: The inadequacy of the job descriptions which TAs receive and TAs’ inability or reluctance to deal with the resultant overwork have been a source of concern for many years. Our strike in 1991 was settled when U of T agreed to establish a joint Union/Management Committee to study TA and instructor workloads. That committee (The Work Study Committee) submitted its recommendations to the Provost in the Fall of 1992 and most of the recommendations have been incorporated into the Collective Agreement.

No Discrimination: Discrimination or harassment on the basis of age, race, colour, national origin, ethnic origin, religious or political affiliation or belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender orientation, marital or parental status, positive HIV test or AIDS-related illness, mode of dress, personal appearance, record of offences, or physical handicap that does not prevent you from doing the work is prohibited. In addition, discrimination for union activity, such as filing a grievance, serving as a steward or officer, or attending membership meetings is strictly prohibited.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual Harassment is a form of discrimination and is specifically prohibited in the Collective Agreement. Anyone who suffers sexual harassment or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation can file a grievance under the Collective Agreement. Speak to the Union’s Staff Rep or Grievance Officer if you think you have been harassed.

Regular Payment: Payment should be made in equal monthly installments over the period of the appointment. Late payment is frequently a problem at the beginning of an appointment. If you are told that you will not get your first cheque on time, contact the Union. We are often able to get the Administration to provide you with a cheque.

Leaves: We have paid sick leave, paid bereavement leave, paid pregnancy leave, unpaid parental leave, unpaid compassionate leave, and paid jury duty leave. See the Union website or contact the Union for details.

Materials: Departments of work must provide each TA with an individual mailbox, and, if possible, office space. Necessary books and materials must be provided by the Employer. If you have to commute between St. George and the UTM (Erindale) or UTSC (Scarborough) campuses, you are entitled to free university or TTC bus tickets.

Employment File: Your employment file must be kept separate from your academic file. You are entitled to inspect it and receive copies of any document in your file upon request. It should contain only documents relating to employment that you have read and signed. It is a good idea to periodically check your file. Contact the Union if there are any problems.

Health and Safety: The contract states that no TA shall be required to act in a way which is hazardous to health or safety and that the U of T must provide all necessary protective equipment. You can serve on and be paid for serving on all the Health and Safety committees across the University.

How to Protect Your Rights

As an employee of the U of T, you may find yourself plagued by overcrowded tutorials, vague job descriptions, overwork, late pay, and unrealistic job demands or you may even be denied a job for which you were well-qualified. The Collective Agreement provides a formal grievance procedure to protect you from such job-related problems. Many problems can be quickly and easily solved by speaking with your supervisor as soon as you become aware of any difficulties. Should your supervisor be unable or unwilling to correct the problem, or if you are dissatisfied with the supervisor’s efforts, contact the Union. Do this as soon as possible since there are time limits for filing grievances. Often problems can be solved informally without filing an official grievance. The Union can help.