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Mediator suspends York talks

University tells union to send dispute to arbitration


 

The provincial mediator in the York University strike has suspended talks after days of negotiation proved fruitless.

The two sides have been meeting since Thursday in the hopes of reaching an agreement.

“It’s so disappointing and frustrating for our 50,000 students,” said university spokesperson Alex Bilyk.

“The university entered the negotiations to reach a settlement and get our students back to class. But with the union’s monetary demands still at the 28 per cent mark over two years, the union is clearly not ready to settle.”

CUPE 3903 is planning a rally Wednesday near Queen’s Park to demand the government take action to “the widespread casualization of teaching jobs at York and across colleges and universities in Ontario.”

Regarding the rally, Bilyk said he is worried York students are “being held hostage by a union more interested in planning rallies and promoting confrontation with the province than reaching a settlement here at York University.”

The school’s administration is calling on the union to accept its offer of binding arbitration, saying it is the best way to get students quickly back to class.

Calls placed to the union were not returned.

“I’m not surprised,” said Catherine Divaris of the grassroots student group YorkNotHostage.com. “Both sides continue to show they are unable to reach a negotiated settlement.”

Divaris says the longer the strike continues, the more undergraduate students will suffer because of it. YorkNotHostage is planning their own rally at Queen’s Park for Tuesday.

They say they want the provincial government to end the strike by introducing back to work legislation and sending the dispute to an independent arbitrator.

“December 11th is our deadline, we need back to work legislation before that date,” she says. “This cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.”

The mediator stated that a settlement in the dispute is not close and no further talks are scheduled at the present time.

The strike by teaching assistants, graduate assistants, and contract faculty who are members of CUPE 3903 began Nov. 7.


RELATED LINKS
:

York University news release.

CUPE 3903 website

York grad Sarah Millar’s coverage for the National Post


 

Mediator suspends York talks

  1. I am a member of Unit 2, (contract faculty) at York’s CUPE 3903. The truth is that the majority of our unit as well as most members of the other two units (1 and 3) do not support this strike!!! We beleieve that this union should represent our professional interests, instead of acting 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 some other universities to join them and to expand this strike into a general political strike in this country!!! If that happens, this strike will continue for months. I ask my colleagues from University of Toronto: please, help us! By continuing your negotiations with your administration you can help us isolate the aggressive leadership of York’s CUPE 3903 and get back to our classes and our students as soon as possible!!! Thanks.

    M.T.

  2. I am an undergrad student at York and this strike has made me frustrated and disappointed with cupe 3903! this strike definitely affects our quality of education and I’m serious with my education! I’m coming to school not just playing around, so can you just accept the binding arbitration and let us come back to our classes immediately?!

  3. This article and others are based on one York University press release, which is intentionally misleading.

    The union and the university concluded their meeting today at the scheduled time and both parties apparently agreed to bargain again on Tuesday. But the press release and subsequent articles lead one to believe that bargaining has ended.

    I feel like this press release is another attempt by York to manipulate and distort the bargaining process in an attempt to gain public support by characterizing us unionised students and faculty as irrational. The words used are not lies, but the image York constructs in the mind of readers is far from true. And I find this utterly irresponsible and dangerous of York. Strikes already create spaces of high emotions and conflict. York’s hyperbolies only increases the threat of physical attack by those crossing the picket-lines.

    To twist information like York is doing, increasing harm towards its students and faculty, only for the purpose of attempting to build support for binding arbitration, or worse, back to work legislation, is disgusting. The union is clear that it wants bargaining to continue. York’s continued intransigence must be challenged if students and the public want a fair and prompt resolution. Hiding behind calls for arbitration only creates conditions whereby York does not feel pressure to continue negotiating and meet their students and faculty, it actually prolongs the dispute.

    I think that journalists have the responsibility to interview members of the union (or even the mediator!) prior to publishing. It would avoid perpetuating misinformation.

  4. Attempts were made to reach the union. I clearly state that in the piece.

    Thank you for adding information in your comment.

  5. Here is my own personal comment. There is obviously a discrepancy between what York U and CUPE 3903 say about the breakdown in talks.

    CUPE 3903 now says that negotiations were not “suspended” by the mediator.

    There are numerous news articles that have already been published (e.g., in the Toronto Star and National Post), and CUPE spokespeople were interviewed by the reporters who wrote those articles.

    The whole story is about the negotiations being suspended. If it wasn’t true, being interviewed by a newspaper would be a good time to say, “that’s not true, the talks were not suspended.”

    But we don’t have any such comment in the Toronto Star story or the National Post story.

    CUPE 3903 members/supporters are now going on a PR offensive, posting comments all over the internet saying that negotiations were not suspended, the only source of this information is a York U press release, and we have all be taken in by university spin.

    If CUPE 3903 believed that York U was lying to all of the media, why didn’t they say so when they were interviewed by newspaper reporters?

    Here is the question I want answered, preferably by someone official at CUPE 3903:

    When CUPE 3903 says that the mediator did not “suspend” talks, do they deny that the mediator declined to schedule further talks because of the lack of progress?

    Or, is this simply a technicality, that the mediator never used the word “suspended,” but did effectively suspend negotiations?

  6. Well, JH, I suggest that the union has the responsibility to respond to journalists asking for comment. That, or they shouldn’t complain that their side isn’t being heard. We can’t hear (or read) what isn’t said.

    And I certainly don’t think that the media should sit on their hands until such time as the union deigns to answer their phone calls or emails. If the union doesn’t want to say anything, that’s their prerogative, but clearly the administration doesn’t feel the same way, nor should it.

  7. I sympathize that it may have been difficult to reach union officials late Saturday evening, but there are other sources then talking to the representatives. For example, journalists could have simply used extracts from the CUPE 3903 Negotiations Update which was posted last night.

    http://www.3903strike.ca/

    “CUPE 3903’s bargaining team met with York University representatives on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Some progress was made but the University’s bargaining team continues to stonewall our key demands for job security for contract faculty, reinstatement of benefits and funds to 2005 levels, and a subsistence wage adequate for the cost of living in Toronto.

    Important clarification: Talks have not been “suspended” by the mediator. CUPE 3903 has requested a continuation of talks on Tuesday, December 2nd. In the meantime our bargaining team is using the time to streamline proposals with a view to accelerating progress towards an agreement. Likewise, we look forward to the University making a meaningful shift by substantively addressing the Union’s priorities.”

    As for other articles, this was clearly the PR message from the union on Saturday November 29 and I’m sure the focus of 3903s response during interviews. But it is the prerogative of the media to decide to include the unions voice. I agree that when journalists do not include the union’s perspective in their stories it can create confusion.

  8. Well, I think I have my clarification now. CUPE 3903 seems to object to York U’s use of the word “suspended,” but it is clear that no new talks were scheduled yesterday. Talks were discontinued, halted, on hiatus, or whatever.

    When no new talks are scheduled, that’s usually because, in the mediator’s opinion, nothing would be accomplished by another meeting.

    CUPE 3903 told the Toronto Star (and posted on their web site) that they have requested a new meeting on Tuesday. But this is obviously different from having a meeting scheduled.

    Perhaps there will be another meeting on Tuesday. If the union wants to schedule another meeting, the onus will be on them to show the mediator that there is something to talk about.

  9. Now I’m not going to let anyone off the hook. I firmly believe that both sides could have been a bit more urgent in their need to resolve this issue. Suspended classes is a regrettable situation, focus on resolution immediately. One cannot get every demand in a job action, but it is hoped that enough is achieved to make the job action worthwhile.

    For its part, the University talks like it’s committed to working with CUPE as a partner, but communications rhetoric continues to paint the University as the morally superior underdog fighting for students’ rights. For most of the last two months, York’s idea of bargaining was engaging in an intense PR campaign with intermittent calls for binding arbitration (why didn’t it just negotiate in good faith before the strike?) and it has been doing this pushing abstract numbers. The University says that the Union is asking for a 400% increase in childcare facilities but this just distorts what’s really going on–400% increase on what amount? The President just received a $100,000 raise and in the 2008 budget there was still a 1.7 million dollar cushion to play with (income minus expenses)…this doesn’t include the $150 million York received in its Power to 50 fundraising campaign (I could go on…)

    The Union put forth several proposals that were not taken seriously and this is the reason for the strike. You can’t stonewall the process and expect disenfranchised workers to continue on ignoring their job insecurity. YorkU’s bargaining team got some major wage increases this year, they should have been doing their job right from the get-go to end this strike with a fair and equitable offer.

    Instead, it is the Union that has asked two times for the parties to come back to the negotiating table, to come back Thurs, Friday, Saturday…to meet again on Tuesday after their proposals have been refined. York is ranting that talks have been “suspended”, please explain to me how that is indicated in 4 meetings in 5 days? Rather than taking a depressive/pessimistic view of negotiations, York should talk encouragingly of progress made and how both sides are trying their utmost to find a resolution. This is a responsible course of action to take. I find it promising that the sides are talking and I want to hear that rather than manipulative rhetoric and skewed numbers (that should not be publicized while bargaining is going on anyways).

  10. JH,

    The union had not updated it website at 2140 when I left my computer and resumed my previously scheduled plans.

    We did, as you may noticed, place a link at the bottom of the page to the CUPE 3903 website and to the National Post article to give readers the opportunity to read the union position. (The NP article was the only one at the time with union comment)

    I strongly believe that we did everything we could to give the union an opportunity to respond. We had all hands on deck to get this information out as quickly as possible.

  11. To all the CUPE 3903 members writing paragraph long comments:

    Maybe you should stop spreading your propaganda on public sites and let the truth out. You know as well anybody who has been following this situation that the demands of CUPE are completely unreasonable. The fact that CUPE is using 50000 of York’s students as bargaining chips for the sake of its overall agenda regarding all of its chapters at Ontario universities is disgusting.

    So stop the B.S. and propaganda because its only making the situation worse.

    -York Undergrad

  12. All:

    I posted a version of this on another thread, but this thread seems more current. Sorry for the duplication.

    Some points.

    1. There was a comment made elsewhere 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 will probably 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. Graduate students should keep in mind that the value of their degree is determined primarily by the reputation of the institution that grants it, and that this reputation is in turn determined primarily by the quality of research done by the said institution’s tenured faculty.

    4. Every tenured professor at York has been a TA, and belongs to a union. CUPE’s inability to generate sympathy from us should have them concerned. No one should mistake the pro-solidarity posturing of the YUFA higher-ups for the attitudes of YUFA’s rank and file.

    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.

  13. Posting information quickly is often prioritized over crafting text which is fair and accurate when blogging. I understand the limitations of the medium. A recourse available to alleviate the limitations of blogs is the option of posting addendums, or extra text as other information is available. The union’s report back that some progress was being made on secondary issues, as well as the call for the meeting on Tuesday is pretty relevant information for the readership. It might be a good idea to therefore update the story, as in my humble opinion readers are most likely not going to scroll all the way down here for information.

    In fact, today there is a new press release entitled “UNION REQUESTS CONTINUED TALKS AS YORK UNIVERSITY STONEWALLS”. It also contains all of the cell phone numbers of the spokespeople for future reference. http://www.3903strike.ca/

    @Matthew G
    “in the mediator’s opinion, nothing would be accomplished by another meeting.” This has not been expressed by the mediator. As a student of industrial relations, I suspect that since the union took the lead in presenting a new framework these past few days, the break might signify the employer re-grouping. It takes time to research figures and draft proposals. But that is an optimistic view. Maybe the employer is actually still not interested in moving on key issues of the students and faculty (I hope not!).

    @F.M.P
    What priorities of the students and faculty do you believe to be ‘unreasonable’? I do not share that opinion, but would like to know more specifics to help understand your view and why your frustrations are directed at one-side?

  14. @YorkProf2
    “CUPE has received an offer comparable with the offers accepted recently by other unions on campus (including another chapter of CUPE!).” Can you explain how the offer was ‘comparable’ beyond wages? Because the other unions were not offered a concessionary deal, but the CUPE 3903 contract offer contained cuts and was worse then the previous one.

  15. “Regarding the rally, Bilyk said he is worried York students are ‘being held hostage by a union more interested in planning rallies and promoting confrontation with the province than reaching a settlement here at York University.'”

    Does this mean the 2010 expiry is still a point of contention? The union hasn’t discussed this at all in its most recent press releases.

    For those following the 2010 game at home, Guelph’s TA union just averted a strike by signing a one-year deal — so Guelph is still in play.

  16. @JH

    What are the cuts that the administration has built into their side of things?

  17. @JH

    Those would be the same numbers I called last night right?

    Had they returned my calls during the evening, I would have left what I was doing to update. I carried my laptop and portable modem with me for that purpose.

    I’ll be writing an update story tomorrow when I am planning to visit York.

  18. @ Joey Coleman
    I don’t know who you decided to call. It wasn’t mentioned in the article. I was posting the link to numbers to be helpful, not get anyone defensive. That being said, the article could still be updated to include the union information. As they say, tomorrow is another story.

    @YorkProf2
    The package unionized students receive include funds (the FGS summer bursary, childcare, healthcare, …). These funds play a central role to the well being of students. The offer prior to the strike, offered a reduction in York’s per-member contribution to these funds.

    In terms of comparable contracts, I can not disagree more. Contract faculty are the only unionized employees at York who do not have access to a post-retirement health plan. Contract faculty also can be cut from receiving the pension funds which they contributed over the years. These are just some fundamental differences between CUPE 3903 and other workers at York.

    I hope this information helps. Now can you please list the areas which you said were comparable besides wage increases?

  19. @YorkProf2
    1) Kudos to the lucky professors who have tenure or tenure-track, they have the time and freedom to pursue research they love. Anyone lucky enough to get a sizable grant was also probably lucky enough as a graduate student to obtain a grant, hence the reason you moved through the ranks to tenure rather than being stuck in contract voidlessness for decades. Not everyone is quite so fortunate, despite the merit of their work (much funding allocation could be conceived of as a crap-shoot). As a tenured prof, you work overtime, but are hugely invested in an area of research that you love and working with graduate students means you have access to the innovation and inventiveness of these younger minds, and working with them expands your career portfolio, so I don’t feel sorry for you if you work overtime, who cares anyway when you’re making $100,000+/year anyway.
    2) While science departments may be experiencing a decline in course enrolment, this is no doubt due to York’s apparent focus on arts and humanities over sciences. My department for example has seen increased enrolment in courses, and increased course offerings and therefore teaching hires. But York is not hiring faculty for tenure-track, it is hiring contract workers, people with Ph.D’s (and Ph.D candidates) to work for 1/3 the wage of their tenured colleagues. I can guarantee you that this increased reliance on contract work is not due to the uncertainty of student enrolment (if you see the 2008 financial statement, undergrad and grad enrolment has been increasing every year, the University made 15.7 million more from tuition fees and tuition fee increases between 2007 and 2008). Rather, it is a very well managed and intentional policy to hire casual labor because of the inherent flexibility it offers the University vis-à-vis benefits funding and a lower pay scale. Cutting courses, if that is in the University’s plans, is a deplorable way to save money when the VIPs of the Administration (et al.) are getting wage increases. The faltering economy argument and your 2% budget reductions argument fall short of being convincing…budget allocations involve priorities and it is obvious that budget cuts for course offerings, if they exist, and hiring freezes, etc shows that York simply prefers elite comfort and York’s prestige over student and teacher well-being. York knows moreover that in (the forecasted) hard economic times, more and more people are going to buy the insurance policy of an education and that monetary benefit will follow. It seems a tad cut-throat to suggest, based on unsubstantiated reasoning, that contract faculty should be happy being in a state of casual labor just because the University presumably cannot predict course offerings. Poor planning is one cause of the precarious status of contract faculty: I often see my department scrambling for contract work for courses in August! For those courses that are in a way-ward position, and if cuts had to be made, grad student contract faculty (Ph.D candidates) could be given TA-ships instead of adjunct instructor positions, but then…oh wait…that’s right, graduate enrolment has increased by 28% but funding has not been increased to meet those demands (despite the fact that those extra 28% are paying tuition). Actually since 2005, there’s also 28% more people competing for the grant funding you say to be offering…which is just another way of saying that more people are marginalized. And, the areas that the University cuts are very much in its control (see implications of above comments).
    3) The value of a particular university is not just based on the prominence of tenured faculty, but also on the rigor of the minds that choose York for grad school. This little bait and switch manoeuver that York pulls in baiting the best minds in the country to turn around and devalue them is only going to cause its reputation to decline.
    If you were transported to a position of contract faculty at York, I doubt very much that you would take the particular stance you have espoused. It’s easy to criticize when you sit comfortably in tenure on an NSERC.

  20. @JH

    Do you have information that is more current than pre-strike? And what are the per member amounts for childcare and healthcare (by which I presume that you mean drug/dental/vision) from the last contract versus York’s pre-strike offer? I would need real and current numbers to decide how serious the concessions being demanded by the administration are.

  21. @YorkProf2
    There is no contract proposal from the employer since the strike began. The only offer on the table is binding arbitration. I no longer have access to all of the pre-strike offer’s specific numbers. The crux of the problem is that the employer hired 28 per cent more unionised students and faculty, but the funds did not increase at all. It is a very serious concession to conceede to a 28 per cent loss in funds for childcare and healthcare.

    The employer has yet to agree to increasing its per-member contribution to funds to match that of the last contract. But both sides showed fair and prompt bargaining in beginning to discuss including language around indexing these funds to enrollment in this contract (and future contracts) to avoid this problem in the future.

  22. @JH

    Insinuating that grants and tenure-track posts are largely a matter of luck is as reasonable as saying the same of high performance in athletics. I have stout legs, and no measure of training or luck will ever have me running like Bolt. I am, however, much smarter and better than most other people in my field of study. That said, there will always be people smarter than me, too. Not luckier, smarter. I don’t bear them any ill will. I admire them. It is wonderful to see the achievements of truly great minds.

    I don’t make more than $100,000 per year, and neither do most tenure-track faculty. This information is available publicly through the Government of Ontario’s website. I moreover did not start making this salary until I was 32, giving up a decade’s worth of $60,000+ salary. I’ll never get that back before I retire, even at my now higher salary. You don’t do this job for the money. Before getting this job I had more than one no-benefits low-paying postdoctoral post with a sick wife and baby in tow. I didn’t gripe. I just incurred debt and worked my behind off. I recommend the same for any student.

    I suppose that since neither of us has current information regarding the proposals of both sides in bargaining, we can drop that discussion. As for pre-strike stances, the wage demands of CUPE would certainly counterbalance the administration’s unreasonable stance on benefits.

  23. @ YorkProf2

    I have no idea what you are referring to. I have not made a single comment regarding YUFA members.

    And it is not a matter of not having the employer’s current proposal, it is that the employer has no proposal other then offering binding arbitration. But you are right, by York cowering behind binding arbitration rather then propose a settlement, it leaves members with nothing to discuss or contemplate but to keep working hard at the picketlines and post on blogs.

    The pre-strike wage proposals were only apart by 1.75 per cent, which is actually quite close. Funds and job security for contract faculty are areas prioritized by the students and faculty, and conversely the areas in which the employer did not make movement on in pre-strike offers, or now (because there is no offer).

  24. @ Joey Coleman

    The article contains no information that I have suggested be added in the form of an addendum. Do you have any plans to post some information that will help clear up any confusion for readers?

    Also, did the mediator actually say this “The mediator stated that a settlement in the dispute is not close and no further talks are scheduled at the present time.” Where did you obtain this information?

  25. @JH

    I apologize for the last comment. It should have been directed at ethne leigh.

    The pre-strike wage proposal from CUPE was 4% plus 7% over two years, while the administration’s proposal was for 9.25% over three years. Those numbers are very far apart. Averaged on a nominal per year basis, and applied to a hypothetical three year deal, the difference is 7.25%. Here is how the calculations works:

    CUPE nominal wage demand, on avearage: (4+7)/2=5.5% per year

    Administration nominal wage offer, on average 9.25/3=3.08% per year

    CUPE total nominal demand over three years: 3×5.5=16.5%

    Administration nominal wage offer over three years: 9.25%

    Difference: 16.5%-9.25% = 7.25%

    Of course, we have ignored compounding here, which makes the CUPE demand tougher still. We could also have used a two year time frame, making the difference about 4.84%. The latter number is quite a difference over two years, nearly equal to the total wage raise of other unions on campus (YUFA, YUSA, the other CUPE). (This would be on top of a wage raise already equal to the ones enjoyed by these other unions.)

  26. Pingback: watercooler » York Strike Update: still at an impasse, different truths abound

  27. The point is that the wage proposals were close enough together to bargain. It is not useful to construct an analysis from hypotheticals, but even when using a hypothetical which is the least charitable to the union it is clear that wages are not the issue dividing the two sides.

    Funds and job security are the top issues for the students and faculty. With York unwilling to propose an offer that also highlights the importance of these funds and job security, the impasse will continue.

  28. @ ethne leigh

    You are correct that priorities have something to do with the budget cuts that we are facing in our department. President Shoukri has a couple of major goals for his term: found a medical school, and increase the size of the Faculty of Science and Engineering by 50-100%. (He’s on the record with this.) Both of these projects will take money, and will quite possibly take it away from Arts. There is therefore no guarantee that contract jobs will continue to be in high demand in Arts in three years time. The university cannot be expected to commit to permanent posts for CUPE Unit II members over a 20-30 year term in any Faculty when the question of their having work over that term is clearly and completely fluid.

    If you are unconvinced by economic hard times and the 2% per year budget cuts, then let me introduce you to the elephant in the room: the 200 million dollar shortfall in York’s pension fund, due almost entirely to the recent freefall in the stock market. This shortfall must, by law, be dealt with. It dwarfs both CUPE’s demands and their rosy estimates of the amount of money that York has just laying about.

  29. @JH

    My analysis of the wage demands covered both three and two year situations in order to avoid the appearance of favouring one side or the other. It is not hypothetical. It is both correct and based on the published positions of CUPE and the York administration just before the strike began. Your analysis was not correct. You cannot compare a wage demand over two years to a wage demand over three years. I agree that the two sides are not hugely far apart, but it is deceptive to say that our difference was simply a matter of choosing a convenient point of view. The mathematics of interest is not a malleable subject that can be pushed and pulled.

    Doesn’t it seem reasonable that if CUPE relented on their wage demands, then the administration might soften their position on benefits? I agree that the job security issue is going to be a real problem. The administration is surely against this firmly.

  30. It would be helpful for all involved if there was clarification from the mediator re whether the talks have been suspended or not – this continual conjecture is only fueling the rhetoric & inflaming the situation. The sooner the 2 sides get back together, the more hopeful it is for a settlement.

  31. Pingback: “No further negotiations” scheduled for York strike : Macleans OnCampus

  32. @YorkProf2
    You used introduced the term hypothetical first to describe your own calculations: “applied to a hypothetical three year deal.”

    “Doesn’t it seem reasonable that if CUPE relented on their wage demands, then the administration might soften their position on benefits? I agree that the job security issue is going to be a real problem. The administration is surely against this firmly.”

    Agreed, and CUPE did just that. Students and faculty voted on a new framework to present to the employer that focused the priorities and moved into a middle ground to create space for bargaining. Wages are not a key priority. Unfortunately the York employer did not respond by also moving into middle ground on the issues that the students and faculty made proposals. Having one side refuse to seek middle ground is a major problem and it is needlessly prolonging the strike.

  33. The union has moved substantially, but is firm on job security – as it should be. Wages are not the first priority. The university, it seems, has not budged & the responsibility for 50,000 students being out of class rests on their shoulders. This does not seem to be bargaining in good faith. There has to be some movement here.

  34. Agreed. I am shocked that York is prolonging the strike by not moving at all, not giving the students and faculty an offer, hiding behind binding arbitration and playing PR games.

  35. @ JH

    What is CUPE’s new position on wages?

  36. Pingback: York students demand government action on strike : Macleans OnCampus

  37. My son is York University student! I am paying for his education.At this point he is not only doesn’t get it ,but most likely will not be able to graduate this year due to irresponsible action of CUPE and York University.You’ve taken 50.000 students and placed them into hostage situation.I am unionized worker too and it’s hutspa to ask for 11% raise in 2 years,none of the other unions been asking that!
    I am waiting for the LAW suite against CUPE and York University for their actions against students and paying parents. How do we get compensated?Because of you our children missing time and opportunities of their lives.
    Nataly

  38. Nataly above is exactly how all parents feel. In the current economic situation job security cannot be guaranteed by anyone, and asking more money in a declining market is even more ridiculous. Especially for TA’s; I have no sympathy for CUPE, cause all you are doing is causing more heart ache and just losing respect. Hopefully there is some legal action that can be taken; because if in the future like 2010 they are predicting a province wide strike I will also miss out on my graduation, and lose any jobs that I may have lined up due to the delays. I feel for those students in the York Situation now; if this ridiculous and terribly prolonged strike hurts chances of getting into graduate studies, finding full time employment, or even causes one month of lost summer wages for tuition everyone will be struggling a little bit more come 2009/2010.

  39. @ YorkProf2

    Thank you for your response. Your presence is appreciated as it allows people in favor of an equitable end to the strike (like me and others) to engage in reasoned and intellectualized discussion rather than being bogged down in responding to negative, fruitless, and often ill-informed ranting, which is the more common scenario.

    Re: luck and your high performance athletics analogy:
    At this level of academics, no one has stout legs. If you’ve made it to the Ph.D level and beyond, you are akin to a high performance athlete, everyone in a provincial or national competition is in very good health and has worked extremely hard to get where they are. Like high performance athletics, external funding and ‘success’ in academia is due to undeniable hard work and to luck. First, hard work (or intelligence, as you seem to refer) will not always ensure, especially in sciences, that you’ve picked the right molecule or protein to study or run experiments on, or theorize about, or that the results you do produce will be viable to industry (such that you get into ‘Nature’ or some great publication, or produce the research foundation for some new vaccine, and are set for life). In the arts, good theories are often denied funding because they do not show enough policy relevance, as if policy relevance is the yard stick to measure all intellectual development. Second, most academics that I have spoken to (and the majority among those who have won external funding and who have a measure of humility) have said that funding is often based on the priorities and idiosyncrasies of funding bodies (and sometimes people on those committees have good and bad days)…like the judges of Olympic gymnastics, who are notoriously prone to backstage politics (not a perfect comparison, but you see my point?). I make these qualifications noting the following: there is no doubt that people who have succeeded in gaining tenure-track, or tenure, and outside funding have worked extremely hard and deserve to enjoy their success. I’m unsure however of the tenability of your initial comparison between your experience as tenure-track and that of Unit 2 contract faculty at York. You are where you are because of hard work and undeniable luck. For those not quite so lucky (having failed to convince a funding body or hiring committee with particular priorities of the industry or policy-relevance of their priorities), there is a great deal of plight and difficulty in not only making financial ends meet but also in having the necessary time to advance research and publish in a way that would make them noticeable to York hiring committees. You’ve initiated this comparison, so I will hold you to it. I don’t think you speak for YUFA rank and file, and to say so without any reference to hard evidence (beyond simply your anecdotal remark) is not only irresponsible, but also subversive (creating unsubstantiated divisions in your union is disrespectful to the advances YUFA has made for you) because it suggests moreover that York faculty do not identify with the legitimate grievances of CUPE members (when they were once graduate students carrying undergraduate debt in the tens of thousands, living on mac and cheese, caring for their young children, and hand-holding students through basic math while studying 40+ hours and trying to publish). To say that these people who work contract should just incur more debt (as you may have as a post-doc), or as others have argued, take their job and shut up, is to continually ignore the human in this equation and to ignore the fact that universities like York continue to devalue educators (again the spending priorities) all the while making education a profitable business enterprise that is capable of building towers, and archives, of giving administrators fat salaries (because after all what’s a half a million on $848 million, right?), of holding fundraising campaigns in the hundreds of millions but being unwilling to allocate that to faculty pensions or employee benefits or whatever other low priority area, all in ‘hard economic times’. Again, the University’s stock market losses will be regained through further pushes to increase enrolment (which is the Universities constant objective), by its 2010 projections for tuition increases, and by the tide of people who will see furthering their education as an insurance policy against economic downturns.

    Some advancement has made in recent rounds of bargaining. The University has agreed to a select number of permanent positions, but has shied away from taking responsibility for the full 67 long-term Unit 2 members who are eligible for permanency. I think this step in the right direction should be acknowledged. The University must see current course offerings holding ground to put this proposal on the table.

    As for your discussion with JH on wages, it is reasonable for the Union to demand wages that reflect indexation…this is what the University gives YUFA members (at bare minimum)…3% increases is the minimum as a generality (as it states in the 2008 financial statement), though in reality for most it is more than this. At other universities, I know many faculty get between 4-8% increases which is why tenure-track may start at $60,000/year, but after 12-13 years, most profs are making $100,000/year depending on productivity, publications, teaching record, etc. Many 40-something Unit 2 contract faculty who have been working 12-13 years at York are still commuting between several universities, carrying multiple teaching positions, and making 1/3 what their tenured colleagues make. Hard work should be rewarded with parity and job security that gives peace of mind, no? You have not addressed what you would do if you were 40-something with no pension at all, no long-term contract, and living on $14,000/full course.

  40. @ Nataly and VinnyP

    A productive and constructive course of action to take to mitigate your legitimate frustration is to send a letter to York’s president, administration and bargaining team demanding that they stop treating your teachers and your child’s teachers like casual labor. As the main stakeholders at York University, you deserve the education you pay for. The education you pay for comes out directly in the classroom, disenfranchised and fatigued teachers are good for nobody. It is the teachers moreover, in their one-on-one interactions with students daily, who care more about them than the Administrators who never meet them…to the Admin, you are just a number and source of money (bureaucracies will try to obfuscate this point). We understand what undergrads are losing first hand because our degrees, careers, opportunities are also on hold. We’ve got kids at home too that need to be fed and about whose futures we worry. No one wants to be on strike, but you can either be part of the problem or you can be part of the solution. And the solution is to get York to stop stone-walling the bargaining process by tarnishing the Union’s efforts at every turn and treating the public and students like objects to be manipulated in a simplistic PR campaign (like mentioning always of their efforts after the stike but never about their regressive offer that caused the strike to occur in the first-place). Demand accountability and a fair and equitable end to this dispute so that we can all get back into the classroom and on with our lives sooner.

  41. In regards to the “a member of Unit 2”, the union as a group voted to go on strike, so you can only blame yourselves for giving power to a these “socialists”.

    Tenure is an honor to obtain, and many profs have been given that opportunity. However the university cannot afford to give that to everyone. Not every PhD individual would get stable jobs, just like not every lawyer makes millions a year. We are under a conservative government, and we live in a capitalist nation.

    The university will not, and should not, give the union a two year contract. It would be giving the right for the union to strike again in this same frustrating and embarrassing manner. And TA’s should get a better job if they can’t support themselves! TAs is another honor to obtain, if you don’t like it, give it up to someone else who would love to take it off your hands.

  42. @ ethne leigh

    There are gradations of talent all the way up the scale. We’re all in good shape up here, yes, but there are still differences. The provincial champion is faster than her competitors, and the national champion is faster still, and the world champion faster still. The same is true of intelligence, a word you seem to avoid. It exists. It’s a human trait like any other, present to varying degrees in different people. It’s not the only thing you need for success in academia. Hard work and luck play a role, too. But sufficient intelligence properly applied will trump luck any day.

    As for the YUFA comment, let me be specific. My department has roughly 45 full time faculty. I have spoken with more than 20 of them, and found one supporter of the strike. This is not anecdotal. It is the grim truth. I said 10%-15% to be generous. The real figure is about 5%. Support may vary from department to department, but I doubt it, at least in Science.

    Finally, as for increasing enrollments, these also mean increased operating expenses. I decry the way both sides of this dispute bandy these claims about without ever backing them up with data. How much revenue does York get per student from the combination of provincial funding and tuition? What are the operating expenses per student? What fraction of the total budget will have to be diverted to the pension shortfall in the coming years? Without answers to these questions neither you nor I can make claims about what can and can’t be done, financially.

  43. @ ethne leigh

    One other comment, with regards to YUFA and raises. You imagine that publications and teaching quality and so on affect one’s salary. They don’t. Not here, and not anywhere that I know of with a faculty union. Our contract rewards seniority, and makes no provision for merit. It’s ludicrous. The presence of a faculty union means that York is loaded with people who are well known to be bad teachers, do no research, and little service. Many of them make more than $120,000 per year. It is a scandal, and it is the fault of our union. YUFA has done some good things for us, yes, but their anti-merit seniority-first stance prevents York from being the institution that it could be.

  44. While the prospect of binding arbitration may seem tempting at first, you have to realize that it’s almost impossible to have an unbiased arbitrator deal with each case. There are various accounts of binding arbitration working overwhelmingly in favour of the administration (or company) and screwing the individual (or consumer).

    I fully agree that the students are being held hostage by both sides at the negotiating table. York didn’t absolutely have to cancel all classes, as evidenced by the Osgoode and Schulich students being able to resume school. CUPE also shouldn’t really be saying that this entire fiasco favours the students because they have nothing to gain, and have already lost 3 weeks of classes and will have to make them up elsewhere (ie: no reading week and a shorter summer).

    I’m in CUPE, a Master’s student, and a T.A. I can say that we definitely are given a heftier workload than we’re compensated for. Regardless of my stance on the strike, the fact is that if both sides don’t get a solution finished quickly, it’ll hurt us grad students even more. As it stands now, when classes resume we’ll be paid the remainder of our contracts, however (in my case) if the strike renders the time left too small to finish the labs that I teach, then my income is pro-rated to the lesser amount of labs that were actually taught. Moreover, if they’re canceled altogether then we’ll receive no more contract pay for the fall term. Yes, there are ways to may strike-pay from CUPE national, but it just isn’t very viable for a science student given the time-sensitive nature of our work.

    Anyhow, my point is that binding arbitration is a bad idea. CUPE is fighting for good ideals, and most everyone can agree that Unit 2 shouldn’t have to re-apply for their own jobs year after year. The university makes a ludicrous amount of money .. it’s not really that big of a deal to share the profits with 3,300 staff members.

  45. Pingback: Unless York strike ends soon, classes stop Dec. 15 : Macleans OnCampus

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