If York strike ends next week, the year is not lost

York says if union accepts its offer, the 2008-09 academic year will resume. But if strike goes on longer…


If striking teaching assistants and contract faculty accept York University’s contract offer in a vote next week, the 2008-09 academic year will be quickly restarted, according to a senior York official. By immediately returning to work and holding classes without a break until May, the university says it can end the 2008-09 academic year on time.

Bob Drummond, Dean of York University’s Faculty of Arts, tells Maclean’s the university “will not cancel the Fall or Winter terms” unless absolutely necessary and only after it has cancelled summer classes first. He says that is not something the university is close to doing at this point.

However, a look at the calendar shows that if the strike continues for several more weeks, it may only be possible to complete the regular fall/winter, 2008-09 academic year by extending it into June or even July. That could mean the cancellation of the summer term.

The ongoing strike threatens to damage summer employment opportunities and interfere with professional certification exams for the university’s 50,000 students. The 10-week-old labour dispute is on the verge of breaking the York record for longest work stoppage, set when CUPE 3903 hit the picket lines for 11 weeks in 2001.

Striking TAs and contract faculty will cast their ballots next Monday and Tuesday on a contract offer from the university in a vote requested by the university and supervised by the Ministry of Labour.

Depending on the results of that vote, classes at the suburban Toronto campus could resume “as early as Thursday or the following Monday, depending on the decision of the [York] Senate Executive Committee,” says Drummond.

If classes resume, “there will be 13 teaching days to finish the first term and 10 days of exams prior to the beginning of the second term.”

He said the winter term will begin immediately following first term exams, without any break. The term will be 11 weeks long, followed by 10 to 12-day exam period. The university will begin summer courses “as soon as possible” following the completion of the regular academic year, according to Drummond.


If York strike ends next week, the year is not lost

  1. Well, all I have to say is this is getting awfully real. This is officially the first headline I’ve read that acknowledges the possibility that the year could be lost – and I don’t think it’s an overblown concern at this point.

    Both the union and the university are playing a very dangerous game of chicken. The union knows this is more or less where it won last time. It believes if it can push York to this point then York will have to cave. And York knows that too. And probably hates the idea that this might happen again and again until someone finally pushes past this point.

    I don’t want to assign blame here. But I think both sides are getting desperate and that scares me. This isn’t only about the one strike. This is about a balance of power and a continuing pattern. Neither can afford to back down easily, and I can actually see them pushing this beyond the point of no return. I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

  2. @Ryback: “This isn’t only about the one strike. This is about a balance of power and a continuing pattern. Neither can afford to back down easily, and I can actually see them pushing this beyond the point of no return.”

    I think you’re right on the mark.

    Labour relations at York in general have been rocky for twenty years. I’ve been at York since 1996 as an undergraduate. I’m at the end of my PhD and this is the third protracted strike I’ve endured. Each one was record-breaking!

    CUPE 3903, alone, as been at odds with York — very much so since 2006 when the Admin cancelled a negotiated wage increase for one of the three units, resulting in a work-to-rule campaign; again in 2007, when the growth in the number of TAs, GAs and RAs outgrew the benefit funds, resulting in claim denials, culminating in another work-to-rule campaign. The current strike was virtually inevitable.

  3. the current strike was inevitable only in the sense that one side was determined to make it happen. CUPE’s idea seems to have been to start as far out as possible (c. 200% increase over two years) so they could then accuse the university of not bargaining seriously. now that the union is down to a mere 16% over two years they accuse the university of not moving to meet them.

    CUPE seems to think the strike is a big joke alternating between inane antics and ruthless criticism of dissenting voices inside and outside the union. CUPE’s leadership seems to genuinely enjoy striking.

    But one thing they cannot seem to do is bargain competently because their GMM’s are so messed up the bargaining team doesn’t know whether they are coming or going. If someone puts a plate of cookies down they want to add it to their list of demands.

    If the union membership thinks this dysfunctional and inept leadership can take them to the promised land they are insane. And if they vote with the leadership on monday/tuesday they will confirm that this is no longer a trade union but a suicide cult.

  4. And by the way Jeff Rybak seems to have missed the point of the headline – what it’s saying is that the year will not be lost. which of course makes perfect sense. the summer term will go before anything else does as there won’t be time for it. QED.

  5. Thanks Trinity, but I’m pretty sure I follow the point. The exposition (including the headline) is all just commentary. The real story is in the quotation. And you’re right, the quotation directly says the year won’t be lost until after the summer term is sacrificed.

    But if you read between the lines, it’s still the first official statement I’ve seen that begins to hint at the conditions that would result in losing the year. As soon as someone starts telling you when something won’t happen, they are implicitly hinting at when it will. The very fact that York officials are beginning to talk about the loss of the year at all, even in negative terms, is a very bad sign.

    If you don’t believe me, please consider how many people you’ve heard lately tell you that the economy is fundamentally sound. Believe me, it was much better news when no one felt a need to talk about it at all.