On March 5, teaching assistants, graduate assistants and part-time faculty at York University, members of Local 3903 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), began strike action after overwhelmingly rejecting York University's final offer.
CUPE 3903 represents nearly 3,000 contract faculty, teaching assistants, graduate assistants and research assistants at York within three separate units: Unit 1 (Graduate Students with Teaching Contracts, mostly Teaching Assistants), Unit 2 (Contract Faculty) and Unit 3 (Graduate Assistants). All three have been attempting to negotiate a collective agreement with York for several months.
In mass meetings, members of all three units voted a resounding No! to permitting York's "final offer"' to even go to a ratification vote. "Our members have loudly and clearly given York University Administration the same message we have been telling for months -- namely that the positions they were advancing at the bargaining table were unacceptable," said Devin Lefebvre, chair of CUPE 3903.
"York could have listened to what we've been telling them and actually negotiated. Instead, they chose to hold to positions they knew were unacceptable to the bargaining committee and the membership," Lefebvre said.
Lefbvre says that there were three outstanding issues the union wanted to see addressed: job security for contract faculty, accessibility and equity in the workplace, and stable and predictable graduate studies funding.
Revealing that the stand of Ontario College faculty for stable working lives is also an issue in the Universities Maija Duncan, communications officer for the union, said that contract faculty sometimes learn just weeks or days ahead if they will be teaching in the upcoming semester. "A lot of people here have been teaching at York for five, 10, 20 years, and they still need to reapply for their jobs every semester," she said. "We are deeply concerned that the administration insists that it will be 'business as usual' and will not be cancelling classes," said Devin Lefebvre. Administration needs to be honest with students -- our members are responsible for delivering 60 per cent of the course work on campus, and it will not be business as usual [...]."
CUPE 3911 extends its full support to the striking workers at York and calls on everyone to support their just demands for job security for contract faculty, accessibility and equity in the workplace, and stable and predictable graduate studies funding.
(Reprinted from Workers Forum, March 8, 2018.)
Update, March 19: YorkU, Union Give Conflicting Accounts of Bargaining Status
As the work stoppage at York University enters its third week, the university has expressed its willingness to return to bargaining. According to a university statement, CUPE 3903 has not moved since it rejected a proposal from the university on March 13. “In the interest of our students, York believes it is important to return to the table to hear CUPE’s proposals to reach a resolution,” stated YorkU Spokesperson Barbara Joy. The union told CBC that it offered two counter-proposals on Feb 28 and March 5, both of which it says YorkU ignored. “We want to come to a negotiated settlement in good faith. This means that York must table counter-proposals that address our priorities,” said the union in a statement.