Unlike the University of Toronto, a possible strike at York University this week would cancel most classes.

The academic senate of York University posted a statement online that says in the event of a CUPE 3903 strike “all academic activities, classes and examinations will be suspended at the University, except for a minimal number with distinct characteristics.”

CUPE 3903, which represents approximately 3,700 contract faculty and teaching assistants, says it will strike Tuesday “if talks over the weekend fail to produce a deal.”

At issue for teaching assistants is a funding package worth approximately $16,000 per year, which they say leaves them living below the poverty line.

Graduate teaching assistants are expected to work no more than an average of 10 hours per week, on top of their research and class commitments, according to their last contract.

Richard Whelan, of the York University Faculty Association, told CP24 that tenured professors are supportive of CUPE’s demands and would not be required to cross their picket lines.

“Being a graduate student, you’re doing a lot of the teaching and research at the university, and you have to be able to make ends meet,” he said.

Meanwhile, Whelan said contract faculty deserve more job security. “You may get three courses one year and get none the next year.”

He said he is “optimistic” that a deal can be reached to avoid a strike. “I think there may be a fair offer in the works.”

Previous strikes at York University have caused long delays for students.

When CUPE 3903 walked off the job in December 2008, the strike dragged on for three months.

It only ended after the provincial government passed special legislation forcing them back to work.

Many students had their semesters extended.

Pickets planned at U of T

Meanwhile, picket lines are expected to go up on Monday at all three campuses of the University of Toronto, where teaching assistants voted on Friday to strike.

The university administration says most classes are expected to continue, but warns “there may be some classes, labs or tutorials that may need to be cancelled due to strike-related absences.”

The U of T administration says students should expect it to take longer than normal to get to classes during the strike. Transit on campus may be affected if bus drivers choose not to drive through picket lines.

The administration says students remain responsible for fulfilling course requirements, even if they choose not to cross picket lines in solidarity with those on strike.

Erin Black, chair of CUPE 3902, sent out a statement to students on Friday evening members deeply regret the inconvenience, but believe the strike is necessary.

“We are poor, precarious and we need an increase in our standard of living,” Black said.