York union blasts "charade" ratification vote - Macleans.ca

York union blasts “charade” ratification vote

University says few options left in ending two-month-long strike


The York University union that represents striking contract faculty and teaching assistants says it is frustrated and disappointed with the university for calling on the Minister of Labour to hold a supervised ratification vote on its most recent offer.

“It’s insulting,” says CUPE 3903 spokesperson Tyler Shipley. “We finally start making some progress, both sides start showing some movement, and as soon as it starts to look like we’re on the verge of settling on a few key issues, York walks away from the table.”

According to a press release issued by York University administration Friday, the school has asked Ontario’s Minister of Labour to direct a supervised vote on the Jan. 7 settlement offer from the university to striking employees.

Joey Coleman’s thoughts on a York strike supervised vote

See also: York students demand one-week deadline for strike deal

York offers striking workers new “enhanced” deal

Photo slideshow: Rallies at York University

The university is citing the refusal by the union’s bargaining team to take York’s last settlement offer to their membership for a vote as their primary cause for their request to the provincial government. At a meeting between the two parties today, York administration says the union did not bring forward any modifications to its positions or present a counter-offer.

Shipley says they have already put the university’s latest offer to a membership vote, which was held Thursday evening.

“We put their offer out there and asked our members what they thought. About 90 percent of the people there, at a meeting of over 500 people, said that this offer was totally inadequate,” he says.

“And now we’re going to go through this charade with the Ministry of Labour on the supervised vote on an offer that doesn’t address the needs of our members.”

According to spokesperson Alex Bilyk, a separate ministry-supervised vote would be required for each of the three bargaining units of the union, which represent approximately 950 contract faculty, 1,850 teaching assistants and 550 graduate assistants. He says the votes could be conducted as soon as they can be arranged by the Ministry of Labour, and a simple majority vote in favour of each offer would mean a quick end to the strike.

“After five months of unsuccessful negotiations, we see this as a necessary step because it will give employees in each bargaining unit a chance to vote on our settlement offers, end this strike and get our students back to class,” says Bilyk.

Talks between the University and CUPE 3903 resumed Jan. 3, and after five days of bargaining the university put forward what it said were “enhanced settlement offers” for all three units. The new offers included a 9.25 percent increase in wages plus “significant benefits and other improvements over the term of the new three-year collective agreements.”

In response to this new request by York administration, the student group YorkNotHostage.com says they are urging the Minister of Labour to not waste any time organizing and to organize the vote as quickly as possible.

“YorkNotHostage is neutral regarding the substance of the bargaining…however, we are not neutral on the strike,” says spokesperson Lyndon Koopmans, in a subsequent press release today. “Not only does it have devastating consequences for students, but at this point it threatens the school year. Students need the strike to end soon.”

He says the group has two messages for CUPE 3903 members: The first is to get out and vote, and encourage friends and colleagues to vote, as a high turnout will ensure the vote is “decisive and legitimate.” The second is to “vote your conscience” and not listen to union literature that suggests members should vote “no” in order to eventually get a better deal out of the university.

Bilyk said there are few other options left to end the strike.

“The union still has some 75 outstanding demands totalling 15.8 percent over two years that would cost the university $9.9 million annually,” he says.

York says the union has previously refused to take all outstanding contract issues to binding arbitration, which would also end the strike. It says the school has recently successfully negotiated three-year contracts with other campus unions, including CUPE 1356, which “overwhelmingly ratified” a three-year contract with a 9.25 percent wage increase plus other contract improvements.

According to Bilyk, under Ontario’s labour relations laws, employers can ask for a secret-ballot vote of union members on a contract offer. The vote would be conducted and supervised by the Ministry of Labour, with the voting location and days allocated for voting to be decided by the Ministry of Labour after input from both the employer and the union.


York union blasts “charade” ratification vote

  1. Pingback: Update: York offer rejected by striking workers : Macleans OnCampus

  2. Enough is enough! It’s time for everyone to get real and get back to work. This strike is holding 50,000 students hostage and it is time for the government (who say they care about education) to prove their worth and get York students back in the classrooms.

  3. This article, as with many articles here, fails to explain what the issues are.

    So a pay increase below what the union is seeking was offered, but what exactly are the other 75 demands. It’s clear that this dispute is about much more than wages, so it would be helpful to know what they are.

    I would argue, for example, that if a union is fighting for lesser workloads, that it’s a worthy endeavor because it improves the quality of education. Similarly disincentives for the university to rely more heavily on contract faculty means that students have access to consistent, tenured faculty, another improvement on quality of education. Is one of those demands adequate office space so that students have access to their instructors?

    The coverage here of the strike seems to be intentionally vague.

    As well, I don’t understand the logic in demanding binding arbitration – essentially, this just delays problem issues until the next contract is complete, and undermines the negotiation process, as well as often creating artificial industry standards and exacerbating hostility.

    I also still find it hard to swallow when universities cry poor, but their administrators don’t see pay cuts, their PR or fundraising departments get higher flows of cash, and we see more and more corporate sponsorship and exclusivity on campus. Budgets are about priorities, and I would think that the priority of any university would be to have high quality faculty and staff who have access to a safe and resourced workplace to deliver a high quality education to students. It seems like universities more and more are focusing thier priorities on attractive PR campaigns, top-heavy administration, and attracting large commercial sponsors. Maybe York wouldn’t have such financial woes if it didn’t spend so much money blanketing the subway with its advertisements.

  4. Only 20% of members of the CUPE voted to strike or not to strike in November. How will this ratification vote work? I at least hope that more than 20% of the members vote because it is ridiculous that the T.A’s are putting students through this when 80% of them don’t even care.

    Does anybody know how the voting will take place? How many of the 3,200 T.A’s need to vote “YES” for this ridiculous strike to finish? What does it matter when only 1/5 of them will vote?

  5. I wouldn’t read it as 80% don’t care. A successful strike vote was pretty much a foregone conclusion, so those who supported the possibility of going on strike probably didn’t feel they needed to make the effort. Why vote if it won’t make a difference?

    Like any vote, what matters is the majority of those who actually show up to cast their votes. When it comes to forced ratification votes in a union with multiple units like CUPE 3903, the strike only ends if all three units (Unit 1 = TAs; Unit 2 = contract faculty; Unit 3 = GAs) vote in a majority — that is, a majority of those from each unit who show up to vote — to accept the offer. Those who don’t show up to cast any vote whatsoever don’t count one way or the other. If one unit votes against the offer, then that unit continues bargaining (and the strike continues), but the other units are stuck with what they’ve ratified.

    I maintain York has misplayed this. There’s not enough that’s different in the new offer to to make it a remotely safe bet that the forced ratification will succeed.

  6. Pingback: If York strike ends next week, the year is not lost : Macleans OnCampus