On March 5, members of Local 3903 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) at York University, began strike action after overwhelmingly rejecting York University's final offer. CUPE 3903 represents nearly 3,000 part-time 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 groups have been attempting to negotiate a collective agreement with York for many months.
Devin Lefebvre, chair of CUPE 3903, 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. On April 13, the Ontario Ministry of Labour appointed an industrial inquiry commissioner, lawyer William Kaplan, to investigate the strike and produce a report for the Minister. On May 8, the Ontario provincial government unsuccessfully attempted at the last minute of the legislative session to pass a bill to force the workers back to work. The bill required unanimous consent and was opposed by NDP members in the legislature so the sneaky maneuver failed.
CUPE 3911 continues to extend its full support to the striking workers at York and calls on everyone to support their just demands. At our last meeting, in response to a call by CUPE National President Mark Hancock, we passed a resolution whereby CUPE 3911 will send $500 to 3903 to support their fight.
Here is the most recent report on the strike, copied from the 3903 website (https://3903.cupe.ca/news/) where it was posted May 16 by the CUPE 3903 Communications officer. It clearly shows that 3903 is open to negotiation.
CUPE 3903 Letter to York Administration
Dear President Lenton, Board of Governors, and York University Bargaining Team,
This letter serves as written confirmation that the CUPE 3903 has the authority and is prepared to meet with you as early as 9:00 am May 17th to resolve as many of the remaining issues as possible. The union’s bargaining team would also like to reiterate that we have the ability to be flexible around many issues including the three issues that have been previously identified by the Employer as barriers to a negotiated settlement. Those issues include wages and benefits, conversions, and Unit 3 jobs.
The union is prepared to sign off on the employer’s proposed increases to the Childcare Fund, the Extended Healthcare Benefits Fund and post-retirement benefits for Unit 2. We feel as if the two bargaining teams can reach a fair settlement on yearly wage increases once both sides have returned to the bargaining table.
Your suggestion that a “typical” number of Conversion appointments is around two per year is simply not accurate. Your position also ignores the significant need for faculty renewal at York University at this time. With the planned increase in Tenure-Track hires over the next few years, there is room to maintain or increase the annual number of Conversion appointments.
We would only consider moving below 8 Conversions per year if the new Collective Agreement specified a minimum percentage of Tenure-Track hires that would go through the Conversion program (such as 10 per cent which would both ensure the ongoing viability of the Conversion program and continue to recognize that the vast majority of Tenure-Track hires will be filled through other procedures) or if we received notable trade-offs on other Unit 2 job security issues such as SRCs, LSTAs, the CSSP and/or qualifications language.
Let us be clear – prior to the labour dispute, the union modified its unit 3 proposals by removing the floor on 700 jobs and addressing the employers concerns in order to find a path for resolution. We have always been willing to work together to find ways for the fellowship and the opportunity to access GAships to exist symbiotically. There is no reason to believe that the union and the employer cannot creatively find a solution to this issue. The union also strongly emphasizes the need to work together to remove all institutional barriers that prevent principle investigators (PIs) from hiring GAs. To this end, we also remain flexible and committed to finding a pathway to settlement.
As we stated in our previous communication, our Bargaining Team has the authority to bargain and compromise in order to reach a negotiated settlement and we hope that the York administration’s bargaining team has a similar mandate and authority to bargain and compromise in order to reach a negotiated settlement.
Sincerely, CUPE 3903 Bargaining Team
(Outsider Note: On May 1, 2018 York President Rhonda Lenton and Chair of the Board of Governors (BoG) Rick Waugh (former CEO of Scotiabank) both were admonished in an official letter sent by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) for their concerted and repeated attempts to undermine academic self-governance at York University. This official statement was preceded by a significant number of faculties issuing their majority carried non-confidence towards decisions made by the BoG's Chair and President Lenton.)