The University of Toronto says it has tabled a generous offer to its teaching assistants and expects the union to put it up for a vote to all its members, a condition the union says it cannot meet.
"This has not gone to a vote of the membership … we are asking CUPE to take it to their membership," said Cheryl Regehr, vice-president and provost at the university.
The statement suggests the university will not go back to the bargaining table any time soon. TAs began a strike on Monday morning after a deal their bargaining committee and the university had struck early last Friday morning was rejected at a meeting later that day.
The union's bylaws prevent the executive committee from taking a deal, that was voted on by those who attend an initial membership meeting, to a vote by every member, said Erin Black, chair of CUPE 3902.
"We underestimated the anger of the membership in having the funding package frozen since 2008," Ms. Black said.
Graduate students' funding package includes a stipend, scholarships and income from working as teaching or research assistant for 205 hours a year. The minimum amount in the package before tuition is $15,000. Many graduate students have said the money is not enough to live on in Toronto and they take other part-time jobs in contravention of university guidelines on how many hours students are supposed to work.
In a statement released on Sunday, the university emphasized that the teaching assistants are full-time students and that its offer increased their wages to $43.97 an hour from $42. But TAs picketing on campus on Monday said the offer fixes the wrong thing.
"We are not saying wages are not high enough, but that our overall funding is insufficient," said Dominic Alford-Duguid, a PhD student in philosophy.
The university will not discuss its overall funding of grad students as part of labour talks. It offered a new pot of money for scholarships to which students could apply.
"The funding package is made up of grants and scholarships, and no university collective agreement in Canada includes that," Dr. Regehr said.
Many undergraduates polled informally while they were studying on campus said they supported their TAs and appreciated that individual teaching assistants had rushed to hand back assignments before the strike deadline. Others were waiting to see how the strike would affect their courses before taking a position.
The university remained open, and students were told they could choose not to cross picket lines, but would be responsible for the class material.
York University's non-tenured teaching faculty voted on Monday night to join their colleagues on the picket line. That union's bargaining committee recommended the school's offer be turned down.
Key issues between the York union and the administration have been job security for contract faculty and tuition costs for international graduate students. About half of York's faculty are part-time instructors.
A strike at York University in 2008 ended with back-to-work legislation after workers were on the picket lines for three months.
For now, classes are continuing at U of T, Dr. Regehr said, and the university has no plans to invoke its policy on academic continuity.
That policy, passed two years ago, allows the school to change term lengths or marking schemes.
More than 100,000 undergraduate students attend the two schools.