York University strike is CUPE’s Waterloo

You know a strike lacks support when even The Toronto Star doesn’t get behind it

Thursday, on the first day of the strike, The Star‘s editorial board decided Friday’s editorial would be critical of the actions of CUPE 3903:

Union representatives say they’ll resume negotiations when the university makes a “serious offer.” In fact, the university’s final offer of 9.25 per cent over three years and other improvements was serious enough for two other campus groups – maintenance workers and clerical staff – who ratified similar contracts.

Given those recent settlements, and the fact that York’s teaching assistants already earn the highest wage in Canada, the latest offer seems in line with the tough economic times. The university’s proposal to settle the dispute through binding arbitration also seems a reasonable way to bring a quick close to this strike. The union has refused.

I wrote Thursday that the strike comes down to basically one issue: the length of the contract. CUPE wants a two year contract to position itself to shutdown most of Ontario’s universities in 2010. York U wants the standard three year agreement.

I’ve received an interesting array of comments and emails on my conclusion. A couple of people have called it conspiratorial and one person called it a ridiculous theory suggesting my opinion piece be removed.

I stand by my assessment and feel that the lack of willingness to accept arbitration by CUPE 3903 strengthens my argument.

If the dispute goes to arbitration, the union and university are well aware that an arbitator will look at the standard for agreements across Ontario. The union may get a little more compensation and may see a decrease in tuition fees for its members compared to the university’s most recent offer. In short, they will get much of what they are asking for. They only thing they are guaranteed to not get is a two year contract. The arbitrator will order a standard three-year agreement.

The only thing the union has to lose from arbitration is their plan to strike in 2010. Until the union’s two-year demand is off the table, there is no reason for the university to come to the table. Frankly, the university’s compensation offer is reasonable, and even The Star agrees with that assessment.

Most pro-union talking points include 2010 as an issue and the latest talking points I’m hearing are saying that the university is “stubborn” because it isn’t even moving on “non-monetary issues” such as length of contract.

Thankfully, for students and union members alike, the strike has a limited lifespan.

Everyone knows that the provincial government will not be able to sit on its hands and allow this strike to continue beyond January 2, 2009. The provincial legislature recesses for Christmas on December 11, 2009 and is not scheduled to return until the middle of February.

This means back-to-work legislation is likely to be introduced at the beginning of December. The only questions are when will it be introduced, will the NDP delay its passing based on principle, and will York U attempt to salvage a few instructional days prior to the Christmas break.

I do not have the answers to these questions.

I would expect the government to introduce the legislation at the last possible moment. Governments are loath to interfere in union disputes and only do so after having great pressure placed on them. The TTC strike is a rare case of the government acting quickly, and a great deal of the speed was the result of public outrage at the actions of the union.

As for the NDP, they will not vote in favour of back-to-work legislation, but will likely not interfere with the passage of a back-to-work order.

York University, if the strike lasts into December, will have to salvage as many days as they can during the Christmas break. While disruptive to Christmas break plans, the alternative is classes in May; a much worse scenario in the long term for York students.

For TAs, back-to-work legislation will result in arbitration. The only difference between arbitration now and then are all the wages and benefits they will lose during the intermediate period.

The real question is what will the rank and file TA do? Allow the union to keep them on the picket line until the government orders arbitration or force union leaders to accept the offer of arbitration? With even The Toronto Star coming out against the union, it must be clear to graduate students this strike is a lost cause; the only thing left for them to decide is how much damage they do to themselves in the process.

See also: More Maclean’s On Campus coverage of the York University labour dispute.


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York University strike is CUPE’s Waterloo

  1. I’m going to try something new here and add a poll to the comments section of this article.

    At what point should the Ontario government intervene and issue a back-to-work order?

    [poll=17]

  2. Seems to me that, as with other strikes, they’re not getting people on their side. Especially those students who have jobs lined up in January since they expected to graduate in December.

  3. The poll didn’t work in comments but I managed to get it at the bottom of the post.

    In terms of other strikes, it’s not impossible for unions to garner public support. Teachers enjoyed support in 1997 when they took on the Harris government.

    Steelworkers often win public support here in Hamilton.

    The fact that CUPE 3903 has lost the support of The Toronto Star is a clear sign that they have completely lost all public support.

    I’m still flabbergasted by The Toronto Star so quickly writing against the union.

  4. I agree with the article’s perspective on the leverage factor in 2010. I don’t believe the contract, at the end of the day will include both a fair compensation package and a 2 year term and. The latter is typically the choice of the political leaders within a union, not the rank and file. The union’s members will have to decide which is more palatable.

  5. The Toronto Star’s editorial says more about the paper than about the strike. To paraphrase hate mail to the Dixie Chicks, TorStar says “shut up and teach.” Frankly, I’m gob-smacked. While I support the media’s place as a purveyor of reportage and opinion, I’m startled by the lack of information which has gone into that editorial. On the other hand, CUPE is suffering from a bit of its own hubris. Having chortled at being the highest paid in the land, those words have come to signify greed rather than hard won gains. They have destroyed the perception they are still a poorly paid lot. They need to turn the message and soon.

    I’m not sure how many members will be able to make it to January so government intervention may be a moot point.

  6. So if this is our Waterloo, are you conceding that Canada’s ruling class is like the Holy Alliance? At least that is truue – otherwise we will win….

    As a rank and file member of CUPE 3903 as well as former working rporter, I think that a unionized (I presume) reporter at Macleans should be a little bit more objective with his information, in a spirit of solidarity.

    Yes, within two days we’ve caught a lot of flack, but things may turn around. What I will say is that to even suggest “back to work” and polling around that issue, as opposed to polling in regards to the very idea of such legislation, which is anti-worker and anti-democratic is disturbing. To not offer a platform to CUPE to respond officilly to your tyrades. Check out our lives at cupestrikevideo.wordpress.com

    I don’t think Joey here has ever been on strike. I don’t think Joey understands that morally, no one deserves to be poor. I don’t think that Joey understands that aall commodities, be it gold or manure or knowledge are worth the same thing, as it were, since all are exchangable for variable amounts of capital. In other words, would Joey be saying the same thing about manual labourers? I doubt it, but who knows? There is a tendency, however, to contrast intellectual labourers like us with manual labourers, and for people like joey to support the latter but not the former.

    Joey shold also know that we represent contract faculty who work harder and more hours than most tenured faculty.

  7. I feel the need to respond to what amounts to poor journalism here.
    The 2010 agreement is certainly not the main striking point. One of the major issues at stake here is job security for contract faculty. These are union members who teach at york, often with the same degrees, publication records, etc. as tenure faculty. But there is a difference between contract faculty and tenured faculty, which comes down to the fact that these contract faculty members work 2x the number of courses for a fraction of the pay. Also, they have to reapply for jobs each semester, even if they have been teaching for 20 years.

    In terms of binding arbitration: this is something that is to be used after negotiations have actually occurred, when there might be 1 or 2 issues left unsettled. Binding arbitration is not meant to be introduced 3 weeks into negotiations, before most of the proposals had even been presented. And this is exactly what York U did. They tried to skip negotiating all together, which is why we are in the position we are today.

    And I would like to point to the fact that the chief negotiator for the administration (aka high price lawyer that was hired by York) is the same lawyer who did negotiations in 2000/2001. And we all know how that turned out – 11 week strike.

  8. First, I’m not unionized with Macleans. I freelance. I am, however, a member of LIUNA 183 at my weekend job.

    I strongly believe that unions are important to society and have a place as one of many checks and balances in society.

    That said, my membership in LIUNA does not cloud my ability to write an opinion based upon the information in front of me.

    Solidarity for the sake of solidarity is a concept I do not agree with. The idea that a reporter should bias themselves in favour of a strike for the purposes of solidarity is disturbing to me.

    That said, I can understand a reporter having a more positive opinion of a union than an employer.

    This strike is a lost cause. The union leadership has gone in with one goal, and their stubborness in pursuit of a 2010 strike has resulted in them losing the battle of public opinion.

    The fact they failed to maintain the support of the most left-wing mainstream paper in the country speaks to this lost.

    If the union wished to paint this as a matter of exploited contract faculty, and were pushing for a standard three year agreement, they would likely have won the battle of public opinion.

    The fact remains that the union has lost. The union will eventually be ordered back to work by the provincial government and the dispute sent to arbitration. The arbitrator will impose a three year agreement.

    If the union put aside its two year demand and started working for a three year agreement, I have no doubt they could regain public support and get a better agreement than what will eventually be imposed.

  9. Mr. Stanley should know that the Holy Alliance was formed 5 months after the Battle of Waterloo – and did not include Great Britain.

    Also, people generally consider Wellington and Blucher the “good guys” at Waterloo.

    “Joey shold also know that we represent contract faculty who work harder and more hours than most tenured faculty.”

    And this an objective statement… how? There are lazy TAs and hardworking TAs. There are lazy professors and hard working professors. There are both graduate students and professors who work until the wee hours of the night on a daily basis, and there are both graduate students and professors who leave at 2 PM every day. Unless you have concrete evidence (polling, a study, something), you shouldn’t make a claim like that.

    “I don’t think Joey understands that morally, no one deserves to be poor.”

    Now, CUPE is a union of hardworking, diligent, and bright individuals, so what I am about to say in no means applies to them, and should 100% not be taken as an insult against the Union. I’m just concerned about this blanket statement from a general perspective. What about the lazy? The irresponsible? The criminal? The people who take advantage of the system and leech off other people’s hard work?

    Although it’s odd how people in the media keep tossing around the same numbers. Especially that $63 per hour figure when the actual wage for TAs is $34 per hour. It’s also interesting how they keep quoting the Administration’s 41% instead of using the much lower numbers 11% over 2 years vs. 9.25% over three years.

  10. As another rank and filer, this anti-union (specifically anti-CUPE 3903) backlash was aggravating at first, then it came across as pathetic, and now when it isn’t outright comical, it’s mostly boring. I have to congratulate Joey though, you’ve hit a new low with this “report”.

    All these diatribes think that they have the “big scoop” or secret exposé on CUPE 3903 – there is no secret, everything is on the table – literally. If you wouldn’t also stand-up and fight for job security, basic health benefits or child care provisions, then good luck in the future, my self-hating fellow labourers.

  11. Joey,

    you are actually misunderstanding the issues. Neither the two year deal nor the wage demand are the only sticking points and the union is made up of far more than TAs.

    Over 25% of our members are contract faculty, many of whom do more than twice the required teaching load of full time faculty (and our compensated far less than full time faculty for that work). They also have to reapply for the same work each semester. Many have worked this way for 15 years and sometimes much more. So one of our demands is job security for those long service members. This is something that we had to a limited degree before, but lost 6 years ago. Ensuring that these members have an adequate pension when they retire is also crucial.

    In past rounds, we have won a number of funds that help our members with professional development, and health needs among other things. These funds are capped, (the money available to individual members is determined by the number who apply), but the membership has grown by over 25%. These funds have not.

    The two year deal is not a problem for York. In fact it would benefit them as we could then bargain with the govt for more funding for universities and because our own demands will be constrained by where the sector is at as a whole. The only reason they are holding back is so that when they give it to us, we feel like we won something. And this is an issue that the membership widely support. Partly this is out of principle and to support workers at other universities who we expect to bargain with in 2010, but also because many of us have to work at multiple universities to make ends meet. In fact your title was somewhat ironic for me since I do work at York and in Waterloo (at Laurier) so that I can make ends meet.

    Our wage demands are important too. We want cola (a guarantee that future wage increases will at least match increases in the cost of living, and we want our lowest paid members total funding package to be brought up to the poverty line.

    But the issue is not just our demands. We recognize that we will not get everything we want. If the employer moves on a number of these other issues, we will too. The problem is their offer. When you look at the whole package and not just wages, this was the worst offer we have received in a long time. They have to give us something more for us to be able to settle.

  12. My mistake.

    The gist of my point stands, and I’m glad Joey is proud not to be a member of a union.

  13. And no one makes 63 dollars an hour. York puts out that BS number by factoring in funding packages that have nothing to do with our wages. I’m an MA student and a GA. I make less than 10,000 a year, including much of which I have to pay tuition. In the summer I pay 1800 for access to a library.

    Even in Sarkozy’s France, education is free up to the post-doc level. Why in Canada, where we have an ingrained idea of the commons, should we be paying for education?

  14. And just to make things a bit more concrete.

    I am working contract while I finish my ph.d. In total, I will be making 27000 before taxes and deductions this year. To do that, I am responsible for just over 300 students this term and about a 140 next term. Folks who have been in a university setting can imagine how pedagogically problematic this is since the classes I run are tutorials which are meant to allow for significant student participation. This works out to more than 40 hours a week this term and about 20 next term. Because I do this at two universities in two different cities, I can also add about 12 hours of commuting a week (and that assumes that there are no greyhound delays). I have to work this way. York initially offered me a single tutorial each term, which works out to less than 600 a month. So I had to look for other work.

    Unlike my colleagues who are full time graduate students I do not get the benefit of other funding (although having been there before I know how paltry that is too). Nor is there a limit on the number of hours that I am required to work for this (although I know how hard it is to keep to that limit given the commitment that unit 1 TAs have to their students). I was lucky to find additional work at York later in the term (which brought me up from less than 20000 to about 27000) and allowed me to go above the poverty line, but many members have not been so lucky. This is how they treat us, and this is an experience that is common to those doing about half the teaching at this university.

    Part of the reason I am doing this and not looking for full time work is so that I have time to finish my ph.d. I was hoping that by taking on ‘part time’ work, I will be able to finish my Ph.D. But so far I haven’t been able to do anything except grade. This is how universities try to run on the cheap. And while I am on strike in solidarity with all my other colleagues (whose issues may be different from my own) I am also on strike for these specific issues.

  15. There is a serious untruth being perpetrated by the York Administration and media. While it is true that the York Admin are offering the union a 9.25% increase over 3 years, this increase applies only to wages, not to health benefits, funds and other parts of the contract. Once you look at the TOTAL contract, the York admin’s offer represents a 2.3%, BUT OTHER UNION GROUPS RECEIVED 4%!

    The strike was caused because the leadership of the administration tried to get away with giving CUPE 3903 less than other union groups on campus. Shameful!

  16. The thing that keeps getting ignored here is that this is NOT a TA strike – this is a strike by contract professors, TAs, Graduate & Research Assistants as well and it’s about a lot of things.

    It is NOT JUST about TA wages, or 2010 bargaining, it’s about an across-the-board erosion of working conditions, lack of any kind of job security at the university (less even than the most casual work outside of the institution) at a time when the same institution that claims it cannot adequately fund benefits for, or pay, its workers (who do at least half, if not more of the teaching) throws money left and right for their pet research projects and, ironically, the administrations own salaries.

    There’s too much to explain in detail here – BUT if you want to talk wages, let’s talk wages:

    Contract professors (with PhDs, publicatons, and significant teaching experience etc.), for example, who manage to win enough contracts to teach the SAME LOAD as tenured profs make almost $8,000 LESS for the same work…AND they have to re-apply for their own jobs every 4-8 months. Even in the less-than-secure minimum wage jobs I’ve done over the years I’ve known that if I did my job and didn’t screw up I would be able to work for more than 4 months in a row without having to beg for my job back.

    Graduate and Research assistants earn $5216 in wages (plus a $3000 grant for full-time students) and pay half of it back to the university as tuition 12 months a year…, yup, even in the summer and EVEN in terms they in which they don’t actually take classes.

    As for TAs let’s be clear – they are NOT paid by the hour. The actual pay for a TA according to the last contract is nowhere near the numbers put out in the media. The actual pay for WORK is around $9300/full year course. The university offers a $3000 grant each year **contingent on being a full-time student and paying full-time tuition 12 months a year whether you take classes or not**. Part time graduate students don’t get this money.

    Also, for TAs and GAs the 10/hr week thing was initially brought in as a PROTECTION – before that they could be asked to do an unlimited number of hours for the flat rate of pay. THe 10hr cap does not even apply to TAs who are not full time students, nor does it apply to contract professors.

    As a side note – the same barganing team that tells CUPE 3903 that a 3% increase is “standard” were awarded a LOT more themselves last year on MUCH much higher salaries:

    Robert Drummond – increase of $24,452.26 that’s 15.6%
    Harvey Skinner – increase of $147,671.85 that’s 112.7%
    Asia Weiss - increase of $21,224.64 that’s 20.2%
    Barry Miller - increase of $10,252.58 that’s 7.3%

    compare that to what they’re offering CUPE 3903:
    3% – around $414 for the school year for professor’s contract
    3% – around $295 for the school year for a TA’s contract
    3% – around $156 for the school year for a GA’s contract

    That’s LESS than the legal rent increase alone.

    Before rushing to judgment based on bad information and misleading press releases by the university it might be good to check the facts from the source (i.e. the contracts).

  17. Joey – When did three year contracts become “standard”? What evidence are you using to back up this claim?

  18. The position of a TA is not meant to be full time job nor are the hours, in any university. Nor should York have recognized them as a union or offered full time positioning. TAs do less work than an employee at McDonalds, how do you justify the wage then? With 10 hours a week, get another job. I wouldn’t justify a wage increase without more responsibility for them, neither has or would anyone with business sense.

    York is in control and that’s how it will stay. I’m glad the media doesn’t support this cause.

  19. Ever wonder if the star took an anti-union stance as a token issue to appear not to be too lefty?

    I mean, I’m a long term star reader. Sometimes it seems in the past that they take certain issues as their token non-lefty submission. So they can point to it and say that they are balanced. I get a feeling that this is what it is, since there is little fact checking, no quotes or talk from the union, and mostly admin-side supply of ideas.

  20. From the article:

    “[W]ill the NDP delay its passing based on principal[?]”

    You mean as opposed to interest? or “principle”?

  21. As a graduate student and member of an academic union at an Ontario university (but not York), who has personal acquaintance with a number of graduate students at York involved in this strike and somewhat detailed knowledge of the issues involved, and all the while someone of a relatively libertarian political persuasion, I have two important general comments to make:

    ISSUE 1
    First, I think that the rank and file TAs at York need a little bit of defending. I say this despite the fact that the overall orientation of the union is at the present is perhaps questionable.

    One must understand the fact that the union at york is divided into a number of different units, each with their own unit specific concerns. At York graduate students (so TA’s and graduate course instructors too, i think) Fall into what is called ‘Unit 1′, whereas contract faculty fall into ‘Unit 2′. Why is this division relevant at present? Well, in a nutshell because the Unit that is comprised of contract faculty has basically hijacked the union: They make up the bulk of the bargaining team, and the bulk of the membership who actually comes out to the meetings to vote. They are the ones who are primarily controlling the bargaining agenda, the unions public relations, and most importantly the picture that the general membership of this union has of the issues that they are fighting for.

    This is problematic because, other than possibly the three year contract issue, the specifically job security related demands of Unit 2 are surely the important points from the administration’s perspective, and thus the issues on which they are least willing to budge. And some might say, rightly so: The job security related demands for Unit 2 would, to a great extent, bind the administration’s hands in terms of hiring. The truly insidious part of this all is that the interests of Unit 1 and the interest of Unit 2 are in direct conflict over this crucial issue: More courses for contract faculty means less courses available for graduate students to teach, where teaching courses as a graduate students is, believe me, crucial to acquiring an academic job after graduation. And for the most part, the graduate students DON’T REALIZE this, thanks largely to the efforts made by members of unit 2 to steer debate away from this issue.

    So, Joey, you’re absolutely right: “The real question is what will the rank and file TA do?” (Or more specifically, how can they be made to understand what is really in their interests.

    ISSUE 2 – Back to work legislation / binding arbitration:
    I must say that I’m somewhat skeptical about 3903 being able to make any gains in the binding arbitration process – If, as you say, they already have the best deal, and the deal that the Arbitration would produce for them would depend upon the other deals that other academic unions in Ontario CURRENTLY have, it seems at least prima facie likely that 3903 would stand to either keep the deal that they currently have, or perhaps even lose some of what they already have so as to bring them more into line with the provincial average.

    But those doubts aside, there is a more important issue here. Back to work legislation in the case of an academic union is much more dangerous than it is in the case of most unions. this is because the quality of the wok that TA’s do is crucially dependent on their good will.

    In the first place, TAs quite often work more hours than they are paid for, and don’t usually complain about this overwork unless it is severe. For example: I am paid for one hour a week for tutorial preparation, but it actually takes closer to 2 hours (and I’m efficient, believe me: some TAs end up doing 3 to 4 times the preparation that they are paid for); also, when it comes to grading time, I usually spend 10 to 15 percent more time grading than I’m paid for (and I’ve been lucky in this respect. I personally consider this to be just part of the job, and so do most TAs. However, if I were legislated back to work, I would be much less inclined to do any more work than I was paid for, and I can guarantee you that many TAs would simply refuse to do any more work than they were paid for.

    This is one significant respect in which the quality of a TA’s output depends upon their good will. But there is another one that is even more significant: If the TA is not dedicated to doing their work (i.e. if they don’t want to be doing their work), then they are very unlikely to do a good job during those hours that they do work. I don’t mean to point to the fact here that TAs in a bad mood are likely to purposely do a bad job (although some certainly would be); What I’m getting at is the fact that the work that TAs do demands a high degree of intellectual ability and effort, and that a unhappy/depressed TA is simply psychologically unable to operate at the high degree of intellectual effort required to carry out their job accurately. As a TA, a a positive mental orientation towards my job is a psychological prerequisite of being able to do it well. (By the way, I don’t mean to imply that this isn’t true for other professions).

    In any case the basic gist of what I’m saying is as follows: Legislating the TAs back to work will greatly anger them, which in turn will cause them to be much less likely to do the extra unpaid work (which isn’t an insignificant part of their job), and will cause the quality of the work that they’re actually paid for to decrease significantly.

  22. Perhaps TorStar is a bit miffed that the thousands of their papers distributed on campus for free aren’t being read? Who pays for these papers? The university or the Star? Either way, someone is in somebody else’s back pocket.

  23. Pingback: A couple of stories « Living in interesting times

  24. A few things that I should add to my comments from earlier:

    Regarding the conflicts between CUPE 3903′s Unit 1 and Unit 2 – First, I’d like to make it clear that I’m not aiming to paint a negative picture of ALL the contract faculty at York: I went to York for my undergraduate degree and can personally say that there were and still are good, reasonable, fair, and balanced people among the ranks of the contract faculty.

    Second, I think that the most reasonable solution in this regard is for the units to split up into separate unions. Their interests, for reasons cited above, are just too far apart. Let me just restate my main line of reasoning:
    1)Teaching a course as a graduate student (i.e. having a what they call a ‘Sole Responsibility Instructorship’) is absolutely crucial to getting a good (or any) academic job once you’re done your PhD.
    2) As I know for a fact, PhD students at York do not get enough chances to teach courses on their own; generally, they can consider themselves lucky if they get to teach one course. Compare this to the situation of graduate students at my university, who already have a significant advantage due to the much greater reputation of my university over York: Graduate students here almost always teach at least one course on their own, many teach two, and a not insignificant amount teach three or more.
    3) Were the job security related demands of the contract faculty at York to be acceded to even somewhat substantially be the administration, there would be EVEN FEWER courses available for the graduate students to teach.

    Finally, I’d just like to add my own personal perspective on the whole ‘bargaining for 2010′ issue, as I know that my own TA/Contract Faculty/Etc Academic union is maneuvering themselves to be in such a position. I am personally against this move and would much rather that my union looked to the PRESENT interests of its own members FIRST; I would rather that my union looked upon the 2010 issue as a bonus, rather than as an issue which could make or break a deal. And I’m sure that a fair number of the graduate students at York have a similar viewpoint – they don’t like being made to suffer now for something that isn’t of immediate importance to them and are angry that one of the key things that the executive of the union is making them go on strike for now (in the very least by manipulating the union’s overall public agenda) is effectively the ability to go on strike in another two years.

    In short, I would urge the CUPE 3903 executive and bargaining team to attend to the present needs of their members and aim at getting the deal that is of most benefit to them NOW, and would hope that my union does the same.

  25. I believe in the Ronald Reagan method of resolving a strike when the striking party is already the top wage earners in their field. Dismiss the whole lot and start over. Short term pain for long term gain.

  26. Is there any history in Ontario of the government using back to work legislation for a strike on a University campus?

  27. Shame on York, CUPE, and the York Federation of Students (who supported the union for no apparent reason)! You’re all responsible, so fix it! NOW!

  28. Regrets for getting back to this sooner.

    @Doug

    The last two CUPE 3093 contracts with York University have been three years in length. All other unions at York have three year contracts.

    The contract signed this fall by the University of Windsor Faculty Association is three years. Three years is the standard agreement length at Canadian Universities.

    @Wynn Stanley

    I’m a proud member of LIUNA 183 and wear my union jacket with pride.

    @Chelsea

    The Star wears its left-wing credentials with pride. They would not throw CUPE 3093 to the wolves for the sake of claiming balance.

    @Jessica

    The Toronto Star “pays” for the papers distributed on campus. It helps their audit numbers which they use to market the paper to advertisers.

    @Question

    I cannot find any handy examples of back-to-work orders for universities in Ontario.

    In 1984, a three and a half week college strike was ended by legislation.

    New Brunswick recalled its legislature and passed back-to-work legislation to end a public service strike that included college custodians after the union refused to be a contract offer to a membership vote.

    During a CUPE strike at the University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan late last fall, the government stated it would introduce legislation. The parties quickly reached an agreement and the legislation was not tabled.

  29. Josh, I’m a full-time faculty member at York. I think your analysis of the situation is interesting.

    The stated goal of the two-year contract is for the union to negotiate directly with the government. Whether intended or not, this provision will usurp the university’s governance structures and hand the province significant leverage in the university’s day-to-day administration. This provision is a serious attack on the university’s independence from government; York’s administration must not grant it and is right to oppose it.

    There are better ways to advance the cause of students at the provincial level. Not to mention the high likelihood that forcing the province to the negotiating table would require another bruising strike in 2010.

  30. First, im a 3rd year student, doing both an Honours major in International Development Studies and honors minor in Biology.
    Now, people keep talkng about the wage increase and how TAs shouldnt ask for it due to a number of reasons… but quite frankly, from what ive read thus far those students who feel that way dont know enough about what theyre saying. And on top of that, wage increase IS NOT, repeat: IS NOT, the only issue the Union has been pushing for. They also want job security and benefits, something the media and York dont focus on NEARLY enough. People who work in such important jobs that affect the future of countless students should NOT have to reapply for their jobs every 4 or 8 months, that’s just rediculous.
    For those students that have the audacity to say “if TAs dont like the pay then they shouldnt be TAs”, i have two things to say: grow up, that’s a childish comment; and we all NEED TAs, profs cant do the job on their own, so someone has to do it, and they deserve higher recognition and benefit for what they do.
    There are some poor TAs, and i agree that the evaluation criteria should for TAs should be much stricter,.. but there are countless others that make incredible, longlasting positive impacts on their students and we should thank them and support them fighting for their rights.
    and one more thing.. York is holding students hostage just as much as some people say the Union is. Binding arbitration is not negotiation. York should go back to the table and negotiate with the Union on ALL the issues they have, not just wages.

  31. It’s reasonable (and rational) for the union to want to centralize the bargaining process across Ontario universities. Unions tend to perform better when bargaining occurs over the industry rather than at the firm level and I would expect to see the same for universities (there may also be efficiency gains from centralized bargaining). However, there’s no reason to think that they are planning some massive strike in 2010. Rather, their hand would simply be strengthened because of the coordination; if there were to be a strike it would likely be “initiated” by the employer to test the union.

  32. Rob,

    Of course it’s rational for the union to want to increase its power as much as possible. My argument is that the resulting long-term damage to the university is unacceptable.

    You say that:

    “… their hand would simply be strengthened because of the coordination; if there were to be a strike it would likely be ‘initiated’ by the employer to test the union.”

    First, the core of this argument is that there will be no strike in 2010 as long as the universities give in to the unions’ demands. That is not reassuring.

    Second, the university-union dynamic is not what I’m concerned about. The union has stated that its goal is to bring the province to the negotiating table, but the province has said that they’re not interested in taking a direct role — so what’s the union’s plan (short of a strike) to pressure the government to negotiate? And if they actually get to the table — what will they talk about? If they’re expected to put a large chunk of extra money into graduate education, they may also demand a role to “develop efficiencies and save resources,” in the words of the CUPE treasurer, taking a hand in the day-to-day operations of the university. But I’m not a civil servant, and higher education should be insulated from the whim of the government of the day.

    For an organization that loudly criticizes the university’s cozy relationship with corporations, it is hypocritical for CUPE to demand that the university throw away its independence from government.

  33. I just want to add something:
    All those students who are panicking about their grades need to stop, relax, and think. My sister was a full time student at York during the last strike and she told me what Profs THIS year have told me: students’ grades didnt suffer then and wont suffer now, in fact they improved with so much extra time to study AND because TAs and Profs dont punish the students for the lost time. Assignments get dropped if not delayed.
    I know this isnt exactly fun, some of us are keeners that woud rather be in class, but RELAX! do you honestly think that the TAs that have gone on strike will punish you and make yo lose your mind working like fiends later because of a strike that THEY were a part of? No. They all know it isnt our fault, and they will be FAIR with us for it.

  34. It feels here as though everyone has an opinion and they are firmly on one side or the other and willing to say almost anything to defend their sometimes pointless point.
    I am a 3rd year student (wanting to get back to class). I think all contract teachers should have to re-apply each year. That is why we have those little blue review sheet at the end of the year. So that I have an opportunity to say what I liked and what I hated about my TA. And as for that, I have seen absolutely horrible TA’s teaching again. That is, my entire class hated her and said so on our review and she was still hired back. Who is whose back pocket here. And this has been a part of the tenured process for years and years.
    As far as the wages and benefits are concerned: York faculty should rank in the top five. This is Toronto for godsakes, they’re raising the TTC fair to $3. They need more money. What they don’t need is a two-year contract. So if this is really the sticky issue, then get the hell back to work. If it is about money then agree to the 3 year deal and then revisit the table with $$ concerns.
    I think we are lacking a bit of honesty and perspective here. Unions were started to defend the rights of women and other maltreated workers. They just don’t stand for the same thing anymore. It’s all about money and that is very sad.

  35. Some clarifications are in order.

    CUPE wants 11% wage increase over two years simply so their poverty-level wages are unchanged after inflation.

    Contract faculty in other universities are able to sign multi-year contracts — and York also had this arrangement until 2000. York contract faculty simply want this reinstated.

    As full-time grad students, York TA’s are only allowed to work 10 hours per week — both INSIDE and OUTSIDE the university. If they’re caught earning more, York penalizes them financially.

    York’s current offer to the union actually includes a massive rollback of benefit, and they steadfastly refuse to even discuss it at the bargaining table.

    York’s claims of high union demands are misleading. Poor graduate students running a striking union 18 hours a day for free are no match for an expensive legal force and a sophisticated PR team.

    It seems to me that TAs and Contract Faculty had no other avenue than to go on strike.

    As for the notion of a big national CUPE conspiracy, well, that smacks of tin-hat stuff. The union is in cahoots with the United Nations and the Aliens!

  36. Yes, Joey, but that is quite different than saying that a co-ordinated negotiation is the actual reason for this job action.

    Now that your tin-foil hat is off, why not become a professional journalist?

  37. What issue are the two sides furthest apart on?

    It’s not wages or benefits. Both sides can compromise on those matters.

    There is no ability to compromise on the length of contract. It’s an all or nothing proposition.

    Of course, that doesn’t make a good talking point.

  38. Haha it’s all about the personal attacks on Joey rather than the issues surrounding the strike.

    Kudos to those of you who are actually inputting valuable information. As for those who just want to see Joey “become a professional journalist” =P is all I have to say.

  39. @Andrei MR

    What compromise do you propose?

    The union wants to join the strike in 2010.

    The university wants to conduct teaching without labour disruption in 2010.

    A 2.5 year contract serves the purpose of neither side. CUPE 3903 isn’t able to join the large fall 2010 strike. The university faces the potential of a March strike.

    More importantly, students face the possibility of being unemployed for the summer of 2011 due to a strike pushing classes into June.

  40. As I said in the message Joey deleted, it’s reasonable to challenge Joey’s professionalism in this matter.

    I’ve pointed out already what the union’s position is. It’s about the current offer on the table. While — yes — the length of the contract is also on the table — that’s not what the union is rallying around. It’s easy to give that one up.

    Okay?

    Got it?

    Do your research, Joey. This is a national magazine you’re writing for.

  41. (You don’t seem to have allowed my last two messages to be posted. You really do lack professionalism)

  42. Joey, that was quite informative. A quick skim revealed the following tidbit. Quoting (page 21):

    Top 3 Priorities
    - Plan: Coordinated Strike Position
    – …
    – File no boards on common date;

    A “no-board” is a mandatory first step towards a strike. So it looks like CUPE fully intends — as one of their top three priorities — to provoke an Ontario-wide university general strike in 2010. Right from the horse’s mouth!

  43. … my mistake. It must be a server error. Sorry for my last comment.

    I assure you that what I discussed earlier is precisely what’s important to the union. This contract length issue is less important; we’ve conceded it many times before.

    Anyway, I don’t want to re-send my responses, so perhaps I’ll just let this one rest.

  44. How come you won’t even mention the issue of contract faculty Joey? This is infact the key issue and potential scoop that you can’t seem to see even when it is right in front of your face. why is that?

  45. All:

    I’ve been reading all the comments on the York University 2008 CUPE 3903 strike. Thus far, there are many interesting options that have been posted. However, few address the true essence of what working at a university (full-time faculty, contract faculty, or TAs/Gas) is about: education and knowledge. The word university is derived from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium, roughly meaning “community of teachers and scholars”. Universities are about discovering, learning, and mentoring.

    Before I explain my arguments in further details, let me first give you a bit a background about myself. I’m a former York University undergraduate student in Computer Science and Psychology. After York, I attended the University of Waterloo to obtain a Master of Applied Science in Systems Design Engineering and the University of Toronto to obtain a PhD in Industrial Engineering. While I was a graduate student, I was lucky enough to obtain NSERC funding for 6 years, which put me at an annual salary of about $34,000 before taxes (minus tuition). Of course I realize not everyone has the privilege of obtaining NSERC or SSHRC funding (nonetheless, my comment goes beyond the arguments around wages). Today, I work for an international information technology company in Toronto (for 2 years now) and I am an adjunct professor at York University (unpaid position). I also teach 6 courses a year at York University (2 courses per semester) as a contract faculty affiliated with CUPE 3903 (so yes, I’m on strike).

    I will not discuss inhere whether I’m for or against the strike. Instead, I will come back to the essence of what a graduate university experience is supposed to mean. I have read in many of the comments that graduate students are spending many hours outside TAs/GAs duties for which they are not getting paid. I have also read that TAs and GAs are often marking/tutoring for more hours than what they are actually getting paid. Moreover, some also argue about the complexity of being a graduate student in an academic system and that most outsiders would not appreciate the fragile situation of TA/GAs. While I sympathize with these arguments, my response is: universitas magistrorum et scholarium. In other words, for the common English speaker, this is exactly what you are expected to do if you chose to be part of a community of teachers and scholars. I have TAed over 10 courses in my graduate career. I have also spent many, many hours reading, researching, learning, experimenting, etc. I still spend many unpaid hours (ontop of my full-time job) educating, teaching, and mentoring my current York University undergraduate students. Must I add; I LOVE IT. Why so? Because this is what I love to do with my life: learning, researching, teaching, and mentoring. This is what people who go to graduate school ought to love to do with their lives. They should never count hours. How can you count hours when you are doing something you love to do (and as a bonus are learning something as well)? Do you count the hours when you go play your favourite sport? Do you tell yourself “45 minutes, I better stop playing now, even though I’m enjoying it”. A graduate degree is not about a chance for getting a better job, or a better pay, it’s about being part of a community of knowledgeable people who want to share their knowledge and mentor others.

    Unfortunately, these days, a graduate degree is often seen as a necessary step following an undergraduate degree to get a better job, a better pay. But it should NOT. Yes, you will make a little bit more money, but it’s not worth the time you invested in your graduate education (at least for the PhD degree). You will be loosing 6 years of potential undergraduate level income earnings, there’s no way you’ll ever make this (i.e., around 240,000$ plus interests) up with any TA/GAs jobs. However, as graduate students, that should not even bother you. Why? Again: universitas magistrorum et scholarium. You have made the choice of going to a learning and mentoring environment because that’s what you love. Not because it is going to pay more. I think it’s time for us (academics) to go back to the roots of what universities were about. I know I’m being a little idealistic, but I truly believe in what I’m writing. Otherwise, I would not be spending 20 hours a week, 12 months years on top of my full-time job going to York University to teach and mentor students at a rate much lower than my industry rate (as a side note, undergraduates who started working where I work 8 years ago make more money than me with 6 years a graduate school and 2 years of work experience).

    In conclusion, I say get your priorities straight: universitas magistrorum et scholarium first, money and benefits second. Your greatest pay and benefits should be to have the privilege of working with such highly skilled workers who are all over university campuses… You know what bothers me the most with the strike, not being able to interact with my students who were working on such amazing class projects before the strike started… let’s hope they can resume their learning experience soon.

  46. FYI, the poll on this article will close at 8pm Eastern Time tonight. There will be a new poll on the main page at that time asking if student unions should be allowed to ban pro-life groups.

  47. First of all, CUPE 3903 is a highly member-driven local. Membership was consulted on the decision to strike, and was overwhelmingly behind this decision. Suggesting that there is a rift between membership and our executive shows a lack of knowledge about our structure.

    Why would the government pursue back-to-work legislation? Is Macleans now arguing that Universities too are an essential service? If our work is so essential, then we should be treated accordingly. York should get back to the bargaining table.

  48. Good point ProCUPE3903!
    If TA work is so essential that it has to be legistlated back to work by the government, then they should be treated accordingly and compensated better.

  49. I really appreciate YorkProf’s comments. I’ve precisely the same love as he for universitas magistrorum et scholarium.

    However, when your financial support is 30% below the poverty line and deflating but you’re paying tuition and renting a place in a Toronto roach motel, your ability to concentrate on what you love is limited by economics. The fewer hours you TA, the faster you graduate and the sooner you get out of this trap.

    You might think PhD students are whiny bolshie bastards, but you have to go through it yourself to really get it. That’s the same thing as saying you have to live in Jane-Finch to really understand why nobody there co-operates with police investigations.

    Graduate students wouldn’t bother organizing were this not the case, I assure you. (This is not my situation, but is for most members.)

    Speaking of economics, I personally believe organized labour is reasonable in a free market system, despite its socialist roots. There’s nothing wrong with colluding to increase everyone’s wages. The employer doesn’t have to participate: they can hire scabs.

  50. As someone who teaches Labour Studies (not at York), I’d like to add something about two issues related to the CUPE 3903 strike.

    While three-year-long contracts are common for unions on university campuses in Canada today, this is not some official standard from which CUPE 3903 wishes to deviate, as has been implied.

    Contract length is always political. Unions and employers both seek contracts of a length that’s most favorable to them, in light of how they assess their respective situations.

    In this case, CUPE 3903 wants a two year deal to line their next round of negotiations up with many other CUPE locals on Ontario campuses. This is entirely reasonable. Many other public sector workers (for example, teachers) have at least some form of province-wide bargaining — why not university workers?

    The more Ontario CUPE university locals bargain in 2010, the more it will help university workers across the province to act together to improve their wages and working conditions. CUPE academic workers’ working conditions have a very real impact on students’ learning conditions (for example, the size of tutorials and classes taught by CUPE members).

    Also, the more CUPE university locals bargain in 2010, the easier it will be to bring into the open what is often hidden in these negotiations: the many problems in the provincial government’s post-secondary education policies (and federal government policy too, since the feds set transfer payments to the provinces).

    Finally, on back to work legislation. Let’s hope the government doesn’t resort to it. Such legislation is an attack on the right to free collective bargaining — the fundamental right of working people to withdraw their labour to try to defend or improve their pay and conditions.

  51. As a law student, I would like to think that I understand some of the issues at hand, and I would like to think that I respect each side’s interest in the matter. However, as a York student for the past 6 ½ years, I am ashamed of the faculty, the administration, and to a certain extent the Unions. I should preface my comments with the statement that I am not anti-union. I think that Union’s are important. However, my support is clearly wearing thin, as I believe are many others. I have had to endure a strike at every opportunity that it has arisen at York. This is frustrating, and it’s out of control. It has become an on-going joke.

    At this point, I think that it is clear that many students and individuals outside of the educational institution are upset with the strike and the Union. This is due in part to the way that issues are presented. I think that more transparency is required. I do not have a suggestion as how to achieve this, but I do think it is a goal – this would enable people to make informed decisions, and avoid a negotiation looking like a political debate with mudslinging in tow. It has been reduced to a he-said, she-said battle.

    As for the claim that this is all in preparation for a big strike in 2010, it does sound a bit like a conspiracy – but I am not putting it past the Union. From my personal experience (and yes, I was a part of the extremely long strike that took place at York a few years ago), and the information that I have read, the Union appears to be unreasonable party in this particular instance. I understand the long hours that TA’s put in, but as someone else has commented – the job is a sacrifice. That is one of the sacrifices. I pay Osgoode the same amount in tuition that you earn, and still put in a lot of time into my studies. As for benefits, and wage – I do think that those are important issues. But negotiations are a give and take – that’s what makes them negotiations. Finally: the length of the contract. Why is a 3 year contract worse than a two year contract? The only reason that I can think of is that the party wanting the shorter contract wants to go thru this wonderful song and dance all over again in 2 years, while students sit idly by and have their education toyed with as if it were a pawn in a chess game. I happen to think that it is a bit selfish to plan a large disruption two years in advance. A little bad faith anyone?

    With respect to a previous comment that was posted regarding the fact that students should RELAX and enjoy the break…try to think about individuals other than yourself. As a law student, our studies, and professional opportunities are extremely regulated by the Law Society. A strike lasting anything over a week may result in serious disruption to our employment opportunities and our professional accreditation. So pardon me if I do not take a moment out to RELAX while the Union and York administration do a little dance that they have practiced so many times before.

    Anyone that has been a student at York probably has a justifiable disdain for the administration. I am one of those students, but I have had enough. I am not claiming that York is an innocent party to this by any stretch, but I do think they are making an effort – whether it is an effort for their students or to simply spare any more disparagement to their reputation. As for the TA’s…you have a right to stand up for yourselves, but at what cost? Students, your support system at the universities, are tired of having to sacrifice for your demands. I don’t anticipate a warm welcome when classes resume.

    Finally:
    To the Unions: you can only cry wolf so many times before people stop listening
    To York: Really?! Again?!
    To both parties: Enough is enough, think of the students for once. Maybe arbitration is the only way to resolve the issues in play. It’s not the ideal situation, but neither is a strike that lasts 3 weeks when students are 5 weeks away from finals.

  52. To the CUPE members who want “fairness”. Can you please tell me what constitutes a “fair” price on your services, how you derived it, and why should this be the definition of fairness?

    Also can someone please explain why we allow unions in our society?
    The last time i checked, cartels, unrestricted monopolies, and other anti competitive behaviour by businesses are illegal. So… why are unions allowed to exist since they are essentially cartels and create an extremely hostile environment to competitive pricing?

    Anyone who responds to this, i’d appreciate it if you could be objective and not respond with an emotional rant because it really just makes you look very stupid.

  53. To 61/2 year York Student, sorry you didnt give your name so i cant address you better…
    i didnt say relax and enjoy, i know this is serious. i stated that people need to relax because i keep hearing students literally FREAKING out over this as if we’re already in January and the school year is already delayed by weeks. It’s not! relax, i say because we havent even gotten to one week yet where deadlines MAY have to be delayed. And rather than just losing their cool, students should take this time to get ahead in their studies, or catch up on work, again…better than just freaking.
    And personally, i have taken the time to go and speak with my TAs, both before the strike and even now during, and all of them have told me that they are not going to punish us for lost time. they understand. and profs, many profs, have also told me that they will do their best to ease the effect of this on students once the strike is over. but maybe that just in my classes, which i guess is possible. But still!…
    Take a step back, collect your marbles, … we are in day 5, not day 21!
    But then again, i guess some people would rather just freak and lose their s#!t rather than keep cool and make the best of the time we now have. Study, meditate, do your assignments… so that when we go back, you’ll be ahead, stress free, and the smartest happiest student around.

  54. I find it glorious that Asiin unwittingly explained the rudiments of the labour theory of value, and endorsed the commodification of human life. He and I have no quarrel, except I think that this alienation needs to be superseded, and he is happy with his life being bought and sold like manure or gold.

  55. Michelle,
    The point is, as an undergrad student at York I’ve dropped 5000+ dollars just in tuition. ANY missed class means I’m not getting what I’ve paid for. You’re correct in the fact that the TA’s will not ‘punish’ students. But assignments dropped, lecture material skipped, etc, is a punishment.
    Should York ratify a 2 year contract you can be sure I will not be enrolled in 2010. The current environment at York is toxic.
    I’d like to also note that it would be interesting to see the figures at the end of this strike. ex: savings made by York in unpaid wages, amount CUPE 3903 paid out in strike pay, etc.

    Just as a fun little tidbit, read as a misguided CUPE 3903 blog writer exploits Remembrance Day reiterate their position! Sickening. I proceeded to mail this post to my brother who is in basic training for the Canadian Forces. He promised to take reaction pictures.

    http://3903blog.blogspot.com/2008/11/3903-remembers-with-solidarity-and.html

  56. Where did DC that posted in the other article go?
    I’m wondering how this person had 2-3 jobs, when York TAs are not allowed, by contract, to have any other jobs…

  57. Kristen i totally understand your point, and agree on most of what youre saying. Dont get me wrong, im not saying that missing classes is good, im just trying to show that you can look at any bad situation with a ‘on-the-bright-side’ perspective.
    And i would like to get back in classes, im a keener most of the time and last year was an average A student. Im not some slacker.
    BUT one thing i think we differ on is where to place the ownership of our lost investment. I am of the idea that we are clients of the school… SCHOOL, because yes we payed them over $5,000 this year with the understandgin of being in school this year. And as the Universities client, i am upset that the University has been diggin their heels in the grond and not bdging on the binding arbitration deal. The University should be more concerned with gettings back in classes, and thus getting back to the bargaining table as the TAs have asked. Many people may not agree with me on this and feel that it is the TAs job to think of us first. bt the fact is: we are not clients of the TAs first, we are clients of the school first. Our conrtact is with the school, we dont have a contract with TAs. and TAs have their own contract with the school. And so the school should not be playing this game of “dont blink first, dont budge, dig in heels” when they KNOW that that kind of attitude is likely to prolong the strike.
    So really i think we as clients should be demanding our money back for every day the school and the union continue this dance.
    And i’ll be asking for my money back from the school as my contract is with them.

  58. There are a couple of issues at hand here, one is the fact that contract employees some who have been around for years have to reapply for there jobs every 6-12 months. You can’t live that way you need stability and the University is aware they need the jobs each and every year.

    The length of the contract is also an issue here but not for all of the reasons cited. Yes to be able to negotiate all your contracts at the same time makes sense from a Union point of view, but there is also another part that happens if the contract is three years or longer an open period which in turn allows other unions to court the members to move to their union.

    These members deserve the same rights afforded them by the Ontario Governement in the Labour relations act (1995)
    17. The parties shall meet within 15 days from the giving of the notice or within such further period as the parties agree upon and they shall bargain in good faith and make every reasonable effort to make a collective agreement. 1995, c. 1, Sched. A, s. 17.

    The Key word is bargain in good faith. Binding arbitration is not bargaining, and one offer (listed as final) is not considered to be bargaining in good faith.

    SO before the government steps in with legislation maybe they should ensure all the parties have participated fully, and if not then they should be taken to task and be required to respond to there actions and or be fined for not doing so.

    Now for those that are on the line I provide the following:

    “I am on the line for the men
    and women who fought for
    the right to organize.
    I am on the line for the men
    and women who had the
    courage to organize and obtain
    their first contract.
    I am on the line for all those
    who died doing a job that was
    dangerous and they had no
    rights.
    I am on the line for the those
    who have fought to get sick
    leave benefits.
    I am on the line for the people
    who spent many a cold
    night on the line to get antiscab
    legislation.
    I am on the line for all those
    who provided me with the
    contracts that were written
    years before.
    But most of all I am on the
    line to obtain a fair and respectful
    contract that meets
    the goals and objectives of all
    those that came before me
    and for all to come, for all the
    children and brothers and sisters
    that stand on the line beside
    me.
    ♦ Ron Palmer is the Tri-Local Action
    Coordinator, Telecommunications
    Workers Union in Edmonton”
    With thanks to the SteelWorker’s and the approval of Mr Palmer to reprint this.

  59. They should be ordered back to work asap, as a parent paying these astronomical fees for a child to attend university, I am very angry with this kind of behaviour in this time of recession. Get back to work.

  60. ON BINDING ARBITRATION

    In his article, the author writes that “the lack of willingness to accept arbitration by CUPE 3903 strengthens my argument” that “the strike comes down to the length of the contract”.

    York’s sophisticated PR engine has been working with the “why won’t CUPE agree to binding arbitration?!” message for a week, now.

    So, why won’t CUPE agree to binding arbitration?

    In the strike of 1997, York’s sophisticated PR engine argued against binding arbitration, as follows:

    “Binding arbitration risks handing over the future of the institution to a third party who cannot possibly appreciate the subtleties and complexities of a university such as York … [Arbitration] effectively acknowledges the incapacity of the parties to reach what is needed … Arbitration, in effect, places the academic future of York in the hands of an individual who has no continuing interest in, or commitment to, the University.”

    Finally: “The administration does not consider this to be a responsible way of resolving the dispute”

    CUPE could not agree more!

    [Source: archives.org]

  61. Re: Wynn Stanely

    I simply asked a series of questions.
    The only statement I made was that cartels/unrestricted monopolies etc. are banned
    I did not endorse anything.
    Learn to read and think critically please.

    As I said, I asked for an objective answer. You unwittingly provided a subjective, baseless opinion about your own personal values. If you can’t say anything objective about this matter, you should stay silent and let the big boys talk.

  62. "Over 25% of our members are contract faculty, many of whom do more than twice the required teaching load of full time faculty (and our compensated far less than full time faculty for that work). They also have to reapply for the same work each semester…". That's because teaching is easy, and full-time faculty performs research.

  63. You are not forced to only do this type of work… find a normal job like everyone else who has to support themselves in the real world, or like other students do. You don't work at a McDonald's restaurant and expect a pension package… or look at the people working in hire positions there and say it's not fair that you're not compensated the same way because you think do way more work flipping burgers.

    Full-time faculty have the education, have put in years of hard work, paid their dues (so to speak) and have earned the right to earn what they do, and receive the benefits they do. If you don't like the way that works, perhaps you should get your heads out of your butts and look around at the rest of the world… you are not some special group of people that deserve to be treated differently. Find a job elsewhere if you're not happy, but don't make ridiculous demands that affect everyone else! You are only looking out for yourselves and it is affecting many people around you in the process. Industries and people who earn a living based on students and faculty actually being able to conduct business as usual are being affected… students are being put out of time (vacation time between terms will probably now be lost) and money (if the school year is extended, students will either miss out on getting jobs because students from other universities will take those jobs because they are still stuck in classes, or if they do find a job, will lose the income for the number of weeks the year is extended). Plus, where do you think the university is going to make it's money back up from if CUPE 3903's ludicrous demands are actually to be met? From the other students of course!! It will most likely mean higher tuition or other fees to make up the difference!

    So stop trying to get a free ride, and acting like spoiled children. Open your eyes and ask yourselves why you are not getting public support from anybody if your cause makes as much sense as you think it does. I'm a "mature" student at york (age 30), and have had to go back to school to make a better living for myself. This strike is very unnecessary and , and you need to learn the true meaning of "paying your dues" and where the phrase comes from!!! It does not mean paying money to a union so you can get things you think you deserve, when you don't…. it means working hard, being a productive member of society, and then being rewarded for that hard work. You don't just show up wet behind the ears, and expect the world to be handed to you. Everyone on the outside looking in can see that you're expecting the world when you don't deserve it, but unfortunately when you look at yourselves, you can't even comprehend that you're actually being this way.

    P.S. Why would you drive back and forth between Waterloo and Toronto to "make ends meet"?? FIND ANOTHER JOB THAT IS CLOSER!! Why would you waste so much time driving, and waste all the money you've then earned on gas or other means of transport for such a long commute?!?!? Sorry, but I can't feel sorry for you on that one… makes me laugh. If you actually knew what trying to make ends meet meant, then you would probably be taking the bus or walking to multiple part time jobs close to where you live. Again, sounds like you're very spoiled, but don't even have a clue.

  64. Bottom line is, why students and their families (who might be providing financial support) have to suffer? Why does cupe have to bring everyone down? This is ridiculous and only greedy and lazy want everyone else to suffer with them. Have you considered consequences of your actions on students especially international students? I Cupe going to compensate these students?

  65. Really…as a TA at York, I have never heard of this stipulation about not being able to work more than 10 hours a week inside or outside of the university. In fact, I really doubt that its true. Most TA's that I know work outside the University a little bit, and none of us have ever considered it a problem (unless you have a SSHRC grant).
    I've asked other TA's about this and they said there might be a 10 hour restriction on work outside the university. Anyway.. if there was any problem with working outside the university I'm sure my Grad. programme director would have told me…since I mentioned my outside job to her.

    I'm still not sure what the truth is, but I do wonder why those making the decisions for the union and those marketing the strike to undergrads have no qualms about telling half truths. (Another misleading "fact" that they've been handing out is that we make $1,000 a month. Well, no really we make $1,500 a month. $500 or $450 or something goes to tuition each month. When most people state their monthly income they don't subtract their expenses!! No one, who makes, say 1,500 a month (working 40 hours a week at the very common low wage of $8-$9 an hour) is going to claim that they only make $800 because the other $700 goes to rent.

    I'm disappointed by the lack of perspective and integrity coming from some of those in CUPE. It makes it hard to want to support you if you think that manipulation is necessary to get your point across. Also- can people who are not poor please stop calling themselves poor??? We live in an expensive city, and like many people, perhaps the majority, we struggle to get by. But we are not poor.
    And pretending to be so is truly truly contemptible.

  66. I can definitely understand your frustration and the desire to vent it. You are experiencing many inconveniences (to put it lightly) and face the prospect of possible loss of opportunities in the summer.

    But, again, with all due respect, I think you have been informed by York University's disingenuous skewing of the issues. The Canada that I know and love, the one that instituted universal healthcare, for the common good of all is not a Canada of neoliberal economics that pits individuals workers against large corporate bodies and says "here's your job, now take it and shut up." If I were an McDonald's employee and I worked as long as some contract faculty at York have worked (say upwards of 25 years), I would most definitely want a pension. You have to remember that CUPE represents different workers, some that work as graduate student TAs and others that have finished their Ph.Ds and are working as contract faculty for comparatively little given they have the same level of education as their full-time faculty peers (and don't just tell me that they got the 'short end of the stick' so just deal with it).

  67. Regrettably, so many issues are clouded in your response. Actually, contrary to popular belief, as attested to much blog output, university teaching positions (whether contract or faculty-level) are extremely hard to come by, if you manage to secure one, you want to keep it…even if that means commuting between Waterloo and Toronto. Commuting for contract faculty is not a choice, it is matter of survival…but this is a side issue.

    York's unappreciated teaching staff know full well about, as you put it, "working hard, being a productive member of society", but they are unfortunately not "rewarded for that hard work". Incidentally, I am a 29 year old working mother of a toddler, I TA at YorkU and commute between Waterloo and Toronto. In addition to the full-time care of my son, I manage to find 25+ hours to study and 15+ hours to do my TA work. I get compensated a princely sum of approximately $1200 for this, $400/month goes to tuition. I only stay afloat because my partner has a stable job, but many of my peers are not so fortunate.

  68. I have tried to put my son on a waiting list at York's childcare center but was told not to bother because it's already too long. I pay a babysitter a significant amount to babysit while I teach. I do this all, not because it's easy or because I like to coast as a 'professional student' but instead because I have embraced this career path (despite its trappings): I love my job, I love my students, and I am very good at what I do. And I want to be valued not only because one day your kids are going to come home and tell you that I am a kick-ass prof, that I care for them as human beings and want to see them succeed, but because valuing teachers is the only decent thing to do.

  69. … and for many other courses, profs take all the bulk of the course off the TAs because they are incompetent, so they get paid to do nothing. I have seen this in a bunch of my courses.

  70. That's great and all. But news flash: if you choose to forego looking a full-time job anywhere near your home, and instead sign up to be a full-time student at a school an hour away — yeah, that choice has consequences. Two of my older siblings went to grad school after working a bunch of years to save up for it. I'm planning the same. Why do you think you're entitled to a free ride?

  71. With all due respect, teaching university level courses (I mean teaching because, at least for TAs, many profs put the bulk of course maintenance on our shoulders) is not easy. As for contract faculty, I know several who juggle multiple courses at multiple institutions, and do it with an intense amount of professionalism and organization. Let's not cloud the issues with simplistic representations of reality based on dubious knowledge.

  72. Hela, sadly you have missed my points. I wish you well. Please avoid obliterating the details with the unfounded point that we all want a ‘free ride’.

  73. Like many other articles on this strike, this one takes a very narrow perspective on it, due, no doubt to journalistic laziness.

    1) It is not just TAs that are on strike, it is also the full- and part-time contract faculty.
    2) The union is not on strike solely for wage or contract length issues. There are a whole host of other matters at stake, a modicum of journalistic integrity and ability would suggest you actually research them. Here’s a novel thought: read the strike FAQ on the CUPE 3903 website.

    I would add more, but really it’s not my job to do your research, why don’t you try it out? Granted, this is a blog, and some bloggers (you?) see that as an opportunity to forego research altogether, but hey, why not rise above?

    And BTW, I am not a CUPE member but am an (informed) york student.

  74. I am a memebr of Unit 2, contract faculty at York. The majority of our union and the other two unions (1 and 3)do not support this strike!!! We beleieve that this union should represent our proffesional interests, instead of ating as a political party! Unfortunately, a small group of socialists at York took over the union and it is hard for us to stop them. They care more about their own political agenda, than about us and our students. They rely on U of T and other universities to join them and to expand this strike into a general political strike in this country!!! I ask my coleagues at University of Toronto: please, do not let that happen! Help us by contining your negotiations with the administration to isolate that aggressive leadership of CUPE 3903 and get back to our classes and our students!!! Thanks.

    M.T.

  75. All:

    A few points.

    1. There was a comment made about tenured professors not working nearly so hard as contract professors, likely based on the typically higher courseload of the latter. A tenured professor who is pulling his or her weight expects that teaching courses constitutes only about a third of their obligations in terms of time. The other two thirds of their time is spent on research (this is what gets us hired, tenured, promoted, and gives us access to grants with which we support graduate students), service (this includes curriculum committees, running the undergraduate and graduate programs, outreach), and supervision of graduate students. If you think that this would require far more than 40 hours per week, you’re absolutely right. And no, we don’t get overtime.

    2. The existence of a pool of contract labour is crucial to the running of a university. The school cannot predict from one year to the next what enrollments will be like in various courses. (Enrollments in Computer Science generally, for instance, have plummeted over the past decade.)
    If the university is forced to offer job security to contract faculty, then there is the possibility that it will be stuck paying them even when it cannot offer them work.

    Contract faculty already have as much security as could be hoped for. They have seniority points through CUPE, and so those who have long service records are at the top of the list for the courses available each year. I have heard the argument that many such faculty have been employed in these positions for 15-20 years, so surely there will always be work for them. This is not at all the case. York University is currently facing an across-the-board budget cut of 2% per year for the next three years. My department has only one place in its budget where it can cut costs: number of courses taught by contract faculty. We could very well halve that number by next year, and cut further in the following years. This action is beyond the control of the administration.

    3. The present strike and the possibility of another wider one in 2010 has many talented faculty looking for the exit, me included. I have had several interviews this fall, and will leave Ontario if I can. If I leave, I will be taking $45,000 per year in grants with me, $30,000 per year of which I spend on student and postdoctoral fellow support. I know that I am not alone in my feelings, and any serious exodus will gut the university’s ability to support students. In the sciences, at least a third of each student’s support comes from grants.

    CUPE has received an offer comparable with the offers accepted recently by other unions on campus (including another chapter of CUPE!). In my department, I would say that only 10-15% of the tenured faculty support CUPE, despite the faculty union’s expressions of solidarity. Undergraduates are overwhelmingly against the strike. It is time CUPE settled.

  76. This strike is so unfair to the students. I know so many students who are very worried about their year. These CUPE members should look at what some of the rest of the city is dealing with. Many people have NO benefits, work for poverty wages, cannot get reasonably priced daycare, and must use a food bank to eat. These are tough times for everyone and people who have a job and have the opportunity to get an education at the same time so count their blessings.

  77. I not only agree with your thoughts on the 2 year contract, but also want to point out that the Union is hell bent on this whole job security for unit 2 – the contract faculty. Basically, contract faculty want to be treated like tenure track faculty, without the research requirements. They claim this is because of the issue of job security. HELLO?? Since when do contract positions have job security? Basically, I think Unit 2 needs to get their heads out of the clouds and start thinking about research and becoming full time faculty the correct way – the way it’s been done for years.

  78. It should be obvious by now how the Toronto Star and Mclean’s writers have been wrong about the outcome of the strike. Actually this strike has been the Waterloo of the neo-conservative thinking and tactics of the university administrators who view education not as a public service but as a business. CUPE 3903 will get all the benefits they demand and York admin will just have to swallow it as we shall all see soon…

  79. I am a parent forking out $ 17,000 (tuition, accomodation, meals etc.)of my hard earned cash for what was supposed to be my daughter’s final year. Not only am I disappointed about the strike, I am extremely angry that it has persisted so long without an end in site. As far as I am concerned, the blame lies on all parties…administration,union,government and student supporters. I should probably include myself for not being vocal enough about this debacle and for failing to enrol my daughter in another school with more stability. It now appears that she is wasting a year of her schooling and I am out of pocket.

    My message to other parents and sponsors of future students:

    Look for a university with a strong administration team to properly control costs and contract policies while providing students with an enriched program of learning. Take the time to investigate what is available at several other schools. The investment (from savings or loans) you and your child will be undertaking is significant and you have to consider the risks,especially in this time of recession.

    While I realize York University has greater socialistic values or permissive tendencies than most other institutions, the prolonged strike has taken this outside of what may be considered a learning or engaging experience for students.

  80. Yesterday, my daughter was a first year student at York. Today, she is a first year student at Windsor. Enough is enough.

    She marvelled at how friendly and personal the service was for her at Windsor, as she registered. She has found her smile once again.

    The support mechanisms at York have not been a good experience for my daughter. A hard as she would try, and she tried often, she found it very difficult to receive (any) support.

    Leadership in Universities hire those that are responsible to support the students. Why is York failing in this regard? Why was the support for students (the TA’s) on strike a few years ago? Why are they on strike again?

    The answer lies with the University.

  81. I am a fourth year student at York, and was supposed to graduate and move on to grad school this year…while I’m not sure if York will actually allow 50 000 students to lose their year, it is extremely stressful to sit in this limbo that has been created for us students. I am unsure if other universities will even consider me for grad school because of this strike.

    To G. Murray above this post, your daughter made a smart decision. If I was not so far into my degree I would leave York, but to leave would mean losing a lot of credits that I worked hard to earn. Throughout my years at York I have had numerous issues. I had academic advisement give me wrong advise about courses which ended up not being able to count to my major. When I showed written documentation of this bad advice in order to get the credits counted to my major, the DEAN of ATKINSON basically told me that it wasn’t his problem that they gave me the wrong advise. I have spent many hours fighting with the administration to get into courses that I was fully qualified to be in and instead the left me high and dry and said (again) that is wasn’t their problem. Honestly, I have been told at least three separate times by three separate people that my issues WEREN’T THEIR PROBLEM (in those exact words) which is unacceptable when I am paying this BUSINESS thousands of dollars to give me there services.

    Lets hope that BOTH sides take their heads out of their asses and realize that they are only able to function because of their students and it’s time to start treating us better!!

  82. Kelly: your position as 4th year student is indeed a most difficult one. I wish you (and all students at York) the very best. Your account (above)of your bad experiences at York and, in particular, the responses you received from the Dean were identical to those that my daughter endured … ie “It’s not my problem”.

    If it’s not the University’s problem, then there are underlying issues much greater than those presented with the labour unrest.

  83. As someone who has been in the university system in Canada and Japan for (I hate to admit it) over 30 years now as a student and professor, I can sympathize with the frustration felt by all concerned. The unfortunate reality is that corporatism has crept into the university system these past 25 years or more as it has everywhere. We have been told constantly about the greatness of the market and that all must hail Wall Street and trickle down economics. And where did that get us? The result has been a ballooning of part time faculty, shrinking full time positions and passing the workload on to the graduate student TAs. The TAs typically do much, if not most, of the teaching while full professors ignore them and the undergraduates and concentrate on their research. While there are many professors who are student-centred, a lot are self-centred and disconnected from their students. The graduate students are carrying the load. Unions must have the power to strike to be effective and without unions the steady race to the bottom of wages for all but those at the very top will steam roll even faster. Union action should be supported and students should realize that their future in the cubicle will not be a prosperous one without more collective action to take back years of lost ground. The corporate ideology needs to be critiqued much more rigorously. The reality is that after years of graduate school, most of our PhDs here in Japan and in Canada who would like to enter the university as a career can expect one-year contracts, no job security, heavy teaching and marking loads, pressure to publish and fewer full time job prospects. It is not a pretty picture and that is why many Canadian PhDs move abroad for work. It is unfortunate that people are hurt by this labour action but there is an awful lot of hurt flowing from the financial sector and not much protest. Maybe that should change. The decision-makers at York and other universities have basically accepted this situation that was brought on by years of underfunding and mismanagement. Somehow they have to be pressured to get the needed funding from the government. If an educated population is important, then fund it. Trying to have a ‘world class’ higher education sector on the cheap is what has caused this mess. Students and parents should direct their frustration at levels much higher than the lowly graduate students.

  84. ** Deans’s letter **
    See also,

    http://lawiscool.com/2009/01/04/could-osgoode-law-students-sue-over-strike/

    http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/571978

    January 15, 2009

    Message from the Deans to the York community

    When CUPE 3903 went on strike in November, we all undertook to seek the
    suspension, with limited exceptions, of academic activities in our
    Faculties. In so doing, we acknowledged our reliance on the work of our
    CUPE colleagues in helping to carry out the academic mission of the
    University. In addition, we continue to recognize the importance to our
    graduate students of financial support for the successful completion of
    their “apprenticeship” in our profession. At the same time, we have had to
    recognize the unusually severe budgetary constraints that currently
    characterize all universities in the country in the midst of a worsening
    economic crisis. And we have had to consider the significant negative
    impact of a continuing labour disruption on all of our students, as well as
    on the reputation and academic development of the University. Having all
    these considerations in mind, we have reviewed the offer for settlement
    tabled by the University administration (and indeed have been consulted as
    negotiations were underway). We believe that the offer is a responsible
    effort to meet the needs of contract faculty and graduate students in an
    extremely difficult economic climate. Familiar as we are with
    the budget situation in our own Faculties, we do not believe that more can
    be responsibly provided. We hope CUPE members will recognize the gains they
    have made, and put an end to this debilitating strike by accepting the
    settlement offer.

    Cynthia Archer
    Nick Cercone
    Robert Drummond
    Dezsö Horváth
    Rhonda Lenton
    Kenneth McRoberts
    Patrick Monahan
    Doug Peers
    Alice Pitt
    Barbara Rahder
    Barbara Sellers-Young
    Harvey Skinner

    *****
    My thought:

    York University strike is CUPE’s Waterloo
    This link and many other links like it stated it, months ago.
    This link was written Nov 8, the day CUPE strike started.

    http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2008/11/08/2008-york-university-strike-is-cupes-waterloo/

    My prof says her YUFA union executive is about tyranny of the minority and
    self-interests group. YUFA union exec even forbade her to speak on a University matterin an urgent memo.

    The president of YUFA Union, what is his/her name anyone, should have known better.

    Can the University do more? –probably yes.

    President of YUFA union set his CUPE followers up to fail.

    Time for Ontario Judges or independent minds to step in to examine YUFA Exec action and union money trail.

  85. There is another article today in the Toronto Star,

    http://www.parentcentral.ca/parent/article/573050

    It gets even more bizarre….

    Globe and Mail printed a short article on Friday this week (Page 6) in which YUFA President Arthur Hilliker was quoted in an official press release written by a few members of YUFA executives. The short article claimed that the press release was voted on an approved by YUFA members at a meeting this week. This is fiction. There was no YUFA meeting this week. In fact there was none since Dec 4th, 2008.

  86. Sorry Joey … you’re wrong on ALL your points. It’s now Jan 20 and the strike is still ongoing… the government nowhere in sight.

    WTF???????????

  87. I did misjudge the government’s thinking. I didn’t misjudge what the issue was, specifically it all comes down to the power struggle between CUPE and the universities.

    Basically, we’re looking at a three-way game of chicken between CUPE, the universities, and the McGuinty government. Meanwhile, the students in the middle keep getting hit by passing cars.

    That’s the best way I can explain what’s happening.

    I really surprised at how strongly the government wants to not be involved so it has cover during a potential 2010 strike.

  88. I grew up in a union town, Sarnia, Ontario. I watched as union demands slowly drove up the cost of living, (it was always the cart before the horse with all the unions in Sarnia), and the attitude of the unions was “who cares about the non union workers, they should approach us to represent them”. I believe that unions were there to protect the workers from greedy owners who wanted maximun work for minimum pay. That day has gone the way of the dodo. Now unions have become not only blindly greedy, but they have become political institutions themselves who not only hold the public sector hostage with stikes, with selfprotecting clauses they demand, but they have become owners of media as well as sports teams. How does having ownership of media, how do sports teams help the ordinary unionized worker who cannot afford to take the family to a hockey game, let alone the people who do not have “the very dubious protection” of a union. A good example of unions running amok, is the U.A.W. south of the border, this “union stole the pension fund and invested it into organized crime ventures. Unions have become a power unto themselves who do not give a damn about thier workers, the unions just want to protect thier own power. I worked in the laborers union in Sarnia for 6 years , we went on strike once, it lasted two and a half months. Our menbership set up picket lines in front of all the petro-chemical plants (at that time 11 plants from dow chemical to union carbide as well as the major refineries) and I among others walked the line, recieving 75.00 dollars a week from the strike fund. Now our “leadership” were still driving the leased Cadillacs, lincoln cars, and going to the Drawbridge inn to “fight and negotiate for us”. My ex girlfriend worked at the Drawbridge Inn as a waitress who was serving this “negotiation”, and all they managed to do was to suck up lobster tails and prime rib and of course slop down the finest scotch. When I brought this fact up in the next meeting of our union the upper echelon took great umbrage at this and practically ordered me “shut my lying mouth!” Well, being sickened by the blatant fraud these “leaders” were perpetrating at our expense I quit the sorry mess this had become, and vowed to never believe anything coming out of any union “spokesperson. I was a member of a union and all I got to see was favoritism, blatant disregard for the views of its own membership. I do empathize with this writers wife and the other teachers who are also being held hostage by the very people who are supposed to work for them. My greatest hope is that the teachers can actually unite and speak for themselves. The teachers themselves are being used as political pawns by a union who is totally useless, only interested in preserving its own power, nevermind the teachers students or parents who paid hard earned money to see it wasted on a political fight.
    My personal opinion is to abolish all unions and set up a system where the workers actaully can speak for themselves, not be spoken for by greedy union representatives. In the economy we are facing, the demands for job security are insane. I believe that teachers assistants are not neccesary for a university proffesor to do their job. Teaching used to be considered an honorable profession which was held in high esteem, but because of the machinations of unions has become less than honorable.

  89. So Joey, looks like you are working on a no-hitter with your analysis!!

  90. To all the TA’s.

    Here’s the deal. So, you can’t live on 16k. i understand that, and it’s true. what you fail to understand is that getting that 16k, is actually sort of a gift. You are not first and foremost a worker, you are a student. You’re not really supposed to be getting paid in the first place. You are the one who is supposed to be paying. You are at York to get a degree, not a wage. The TA position is set up to give you some training in teaching and some extra money to help you pay tuition and rent. The rest of your living expenses though are your responsibility to provide, through the usual sources, i.e., student loans, your parents, or whatever savings you have. Is this not something that anyone but myself understands? Do you not realize that you should be grateful to be getting subsidized at all?
    Furthermore, this TA business is obviously a transient situation. you will only be a TA so long as you are a student. then you will go out and perhaps be a prof, or you might do something else, but obviously then you will get a salary that reflects your value. Right now you are not really entitled to a salary- you are a student, and a student teacher at that. Tell me, following your logic, should actual teaching students, in teacher’s college, get paid when they do their practicums? They are working after all….
    As for the contract workers, well let’s face it as well, it’s very hard to get any sort of post secondary teaching position, much less a tenured one, and the reality is that many PHD’s will never even teach at all at that level. So, these contract workers, should a) be happy to be working at all and b) maybe, if after 14 years of not getting tenure, face the music and think about another career, cos it looks like the tenure ain’t going to come.

    lastly I say- fuck off if you think you are not doing any damage to the students, or worse, that you are doing this for the students. the reality is, this is just another bs marxist unionist move with not logic but destruction.

    the only irony is that York, the most lefty place in canada, should allow itself to be ruined by lefty’s. or rather, one should say that this is the logical fruit of allowing so much marxist bs to flourish.

    Frankly, I feel sorry for the students there .i.e. the undergrads… but if york suffers as a whole cos of this , that would be great. fuck York u… and its idiot TAs.

    cheers! sorry for the foul language…you pussies.

  91. RE Mike Fairney

    Very intelligent. You should be teaching at a University (hint…this is sarcasm!).

    Have you not thought that maybe the administration is to blame for this mess. They are the ones that cancelled classes, they have the benefited from relying on the work of contract faculty. They don’t mind giving themselves raises, extended travel benefits and other job perks. Why are the least powerful (T.A.s & Contract staff) villified by the media and the bloggers. This is shameful. Lastly, the main point in the strike was job security for contract staff. The majority of which are highly educated and highly qualified. Unfortunately, they have little access to tenure track positions because the University system realizes that hiring on a contract basis is cheaper. The union at york tried to fight this battle, but I believe that it will emerge again, unless the government steps in and forces universities to hire a certain percentage of tenure track positions. For example, the university where I work, only 33% of classes can be taught be contract faculty. Of course, the admin wants that number to much higher!

  92. Now that we’ve come this far, and everybody knows now that York was never negotiating seriously, and everybody knows that wages were not at issue, and everybody knows that the “2010 thing” never figures into the debate (even York admin was tacitly agreeing to a two-year deal by always making two-year counteroffers on all benefits — never three-year counteroffers), and we all know finally know that the sticking point in this strike was conversions — yes, that’s what faculty members complained about, that’s what Admin negotiators demanded concessions on, that’s where the ‘deadlock’ occurred — will you eat your hat, finally, Joey Coleman?

    Geez!

  93. @Andreimr

    No, cause the 2010 issue is the main issue. Both sides were guilty at one point of not negotiating seriously. 3903 only lowered its demands when it became clear that back-to-work legislation was a real possibility. I will agree that the university sat on its hands this last week.

    President Shoukri was very clear that he would not under any circumstances sign a two year contract.

    Tip-o-my-hat to you for trying.

  94. Joey, university press releases did not reflect what was happening at the bargaining table. In the end, the hold up was primarily over conversions, something 3903 considers to be the jewel in its CA crown and that the Administration could not afford to implement. (i.e. it froze tenure track hiring for this year) This is what Drummond told CBC journalist McIntyre on The Current (jan 28).

    Truth is, 2010 is low on the priority list for most locals. If a local wins a CA that expires in 2010, that’s great; if not, it’s no big deal.

    That’s the real truth of the matter.

  95. And I know what CUPE’s priorities were because, like many people in the union, I played a part in defining them.

  96. In your face Andreimr!
    Enjoy the contract that is identical to the one that the union already rejected!

  97. Gary,

    Thanks, but the contract is in fact not identical at all. It is in fact better than the one we rejected, which is why CUPE agreed to SETTLE with the Administration.

    We have lower wage increases than the previous contract but better extended health benefits — which is consistent with what CUPE was always saying.

    But, most importantly, it preserves the conversions programme, which — as I tried explaining ad nauseum to Coleman — was what the whole strike was about. And, we have a better teaching stream agreement than in the CA we rejected.

    What’s more, despite the fact a mediator-arbitrator was appointed as a result of the legislation, we didn’t actually need the interest arbitration to get the deal.

    Why? Because the university finally agreed to bother negotiating, which they could’ve done way back in the beginning, and avoided this whole mess — just like we were always saying.

    So, in YOUR face. Ha HA!

  98. Sure thing Andrei, pretend that CUPE 3903 somehow won this negotiation. Your strike introduced BTW legislation to the university sector, enrolments are down 40% to the liberal arts (goodbye job security) and there is no possible way for York to join the 2010 strike- thus ensuring that contract faculty, TAs & RAs will not be bargaining with the province anytime in the next decade. CUPE 3903 manages to screw themselves and all other CUPE locals!

    You’re not fooling anyone! The teaching stream only affects the contract faculty. This contract is the exact same for TAs & RAs! The teaching stream was a small grievance on a very large list.

    CUPE 3903- you lose!

  99. Steve, my friend, not only was job security for contract faculty the local’s #1 priority, but the TAs and RAs both won the gains they sought: fund restoration and protection going-forward.

    But the strike was really all about the contract faculty. They retained conversions (which was never by seniority, by the way) as well as gained the new teaching stream, with better terms than the previous offer. It was much better than the Forced Ratification offer, and it was much, much better than if 3903 didn’t go on strike at all.

    Plus, nobody cared about the stupid 2010 thing, except for a few CUPE Ontario sycophants. Really. Pretty much EVERYBODY was planning on ratifying a three-year deal.

    But, 3903 indeed did lose out — in the sense that all concerned lost out. York is a terribly-managed institution. This strike is merely a symptom of this. Other symptoms include past failures to secure engineering accreditation, misplacing/losing money frequently, serious problems with security, mismanagement of student information, inability to secure alumni support, etc., etc.,. These things sour York staff’s attitude towards York.

    Just think: the 3903 executive was ostensibly so radical and out-of-step with reality, and yet 3400 people remained at least apathetic, if not supportive, right until the end.

    While — you’re right — there is to be no strike in 2010, if Shoukri doesn’t pull of a dramatic turn-around of the institution in the next couple of years, you can expect one in 2011.

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