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York student president ‘doing everything he can’… from Ottawa

YFS executives lobby for CFS referendum; students outraged


 

The strike by teaching assistants, graduate assistants, and contract faulty at York University is going into its third week, yet there is still no end in sight as 50,000 students are left wondering if anyone is representing their interests.

See also: Full Maclean’s OnCampus coverage of the York University strike

On Monday, students held a rally to demand action from the government, university administration, CUPE and the York Federation of Students to end the strike.

Many of them expressed disappointment when their student body president Hamid Osman did not appear at the rally to speak to his constituents. Many of them tried to find answers, but with the York Federation of Students office closed in solidarity with CUPE, they were unable to find Osman.

Osman told students Sunday, in a posting on the YFS website, he was “doing everything possible to bring York University and CUPE 3903 back to the table in order to end the strike.”

Early Wednesday morning, students found out Osman had not been in Toronto. Osman, and members of his staff and executive, are taking advantage of the closure to work for the Canadian Federation of Students in Ottawa.

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The YFS executive joined dozens of student union executives in taking time away from their duties and flew to Ottawa.

Students were not informed of Osman’s absence and nothing in his letter indicated he was leaving Toronto.

The CFS is currently engaged in a referendum to gain the membership of the undergraduate student body at the University of Ottawa. The CFS will receive about $378,000 per year in membership fees from students at UOttawa if they win the referendum. Voting is underway and ends Thursday.

“They are going to have to explain to many angry students why they promised to support us and do everything they could to end this strike and instead went off on a side project in Ottawa,” says Lyndon Koopmans of the group YorkNotHostage.com, which organized Monday’s rally. “It’s like firefighters rescuing a cat from a tree instead of taking care of a blazing fire across town.”


Students learned of the YFS’ absence overnight after questions starting circulating about why the YFS was not seen this week.

On Monday, Stephanie Chan, asked on a YFS Facebook group if any of the executive were in Ottawa working for the CFS. She received no response.

Late Tuesday night, Chan asked the same question on a University of Ottawa Facebook group and linked to photos of the YFS Executive. She quickly received confirmation from students at the University of Ottawa that the YFS executive were indeed campaigning there.

An hour later, Jeremy Salter, executive director of the York Federation of Students wrote on Facebook, “Some of the YFS Executive are in Ottawa working with the SFUO during theit [sic] vote to join the Canadian Federaion of students.”

“We have been doing all that we can to nMet [sic] with the Administration but they are unwilling to meet with us despite our numerous attempts and we have been communication with CUPE as well,” he continued. Salter justified their absence, “The YFS office is currently closed and our executive are no longer on the picket line so folks came here to volunteer.”

These answers do not satisfy Koopmans. He says this is yet another example of the YFS letting students down.

The YFS is planning a town hall for Nov. 25. Koopmans says his group will be there, demanding accountability from the YFS and pushing the union to work harder to bring about an end to the strike.

Multiple e-mails, phone messages and cell phone calls from Maclean’s OnCampus to the York Federation of Students regarding this story weren’t returned.


 

York student president ‘doing everything he can’… from Ottawa

  1. @Joey:

    This report makes the baby Jesus cry.

    Did you interview Osman? Or did you only interview the YorkNotHostage group?

    In fact, do you only get your news about York’s strike from the YorkNotHostage group?

    “Many of them expressed disappointment when their student body president Hamid Osman did not appear at the rally to speak to his constituents”

    It was not as though he was expected to be there. He already indicated YFS’s support for the striking workers.

    “Students were not informed of Osman’s absence and nothing in his letter indicated he was leaving Toronto.”

    Of course he left for Ottawa on student government business without announcing it to everyone. Student government has all sorts of business to attend to. Is Canada’s prime minister expected to remain in Ottawa for the duration of our current economic downturn, and focus only on that? Of course not.

    I know you don’t like CUPE ‘n’ all. But, when writing for Maclean’s readers, please try harder.

  2. “Multiple e-mails, phone messages and cell phone calls from Maclean’s OnCampus to the York Federation of Students regarding this story weren’t returned.”

    Oh. Sorry. You did try. My bad.

  3. @Dray,

    No worries, I understand where you are coming from. I would have preferred to get their side of the story.

  4. I fail to see how pushing other universities to join the CFS is YFS student government business, ESPECIALLY, when there is a crisis on their own campus.

    Then again I haven’t had any KoolAid.

    As a student, I would expect the STUDENT government to deal with pressing issues on MY campus not go flying off to Ottawa when they don’t have to be in office at York. I can understand why the students at York are upset over this.

    Oh and I just talked to Jesus, He says hi and was in good spirits. Didn’t look like He was crying at all.

  5. Exactly what do you expect the President of the YSF to do on campus everyday during the strike?

    He is not on the bargaining team – nor is he part of the administration.

    Big deal he went to Ottawa on YSF business. It might be different if he was at home on an early Xmas break.

  6. not to worry, the referendum at uOttawa will be over tomorrow ‘eve, and YFS can go back to worrying about their own students once they have celebrated the four hundred thousand dollar bonus from Ottawa for CFS

  7. Just one little question: Why is the student government of York University involved in the referendum of Ottawa U? Let Ottawa U students decide of the future of Ottawa U in the CFS.

  8. Their strike is not meaningless. I find it hard to believe that people would be willing to lose three weeks of work just out of greed. I understand that the students are angry that they have to suffer over this, but they have to realize that this is between the union and York. Its unfortunate. However, we cant say that the university would function to its fullest potential if the staff are unhappy because they dont have enough money to live in the most expensive city in Canada. We can’t tell them to just “suck it up” because their problems are real and I think it would be rather arrogant for people to think that they would be different if they were in any of the two positions – CUPE and York I mean.

  9. I am especially interested in the Salter’s comment “Some of the YFS Executive are in Ottawa working with the SFUO during theit [sic] vote to join the Canadian Federaion of students” Working with the SFUO? The SFUO is neutral. The student body is voting. He should be working with the CFS.

    Proves how neutral our SFUO is supposed to be and just how CROOKED the referendum is.

    One more day.

  10. Danny V – you hit it on the head.

    Let’s hope UofO realizes the wolf in sheeps clothing and votes NO.

    When an organization with a budget of $3,000,000 only spends $300,000 on federal lobbying – something is not right.

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  12. Wow! Surprise surprise that the CFS has once again “contracted” out other students unions to do their dirty work! Furthermore, it is no surprise that Osman and he band of traveling clowns shut down the office during the strike … what about being there to represent the students and help them out during this difficult time. I’m sure he is doing a lot of good work in Ottawa to help send them back to the table. When will Executives learn that the CFS has an uncanny ability of hampering the real work that can be done on campuses across Canada

  13. It’s ridiculous that the Canadian Federation of Students, which claims to be engaged in a sustainable campuses initiative, would fly-in students from Toronto to Ottawa. Not to mention their disregard for the fair democratic process, as already pointed out. CFS is all talk and no game when it comes to environmental and social sustainability.

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  15. Not to mention he didn’t seem to know much about the CFS – told our class that they were responsible for a 30 year tuition freeze in [I think] Quebec….The CFS has only existed for 27 years…

  16. As a U of O student, this story is frustrating on several levels. First that York’s student union is locked in a strike that is being mishandled, and because the CFS is flying in people to tell us how to vote who know nothing about our school. The yes campaign should be made up of students from here. And the SFUO ain’t neutral. When most of the executive campaigns for one side, it’s fair to say the organization isn’t neutral.

  17. He was problem one of those countless annoying people giving out papers no less than 5 meters from the polling stations. I swear I should have wore one of those horse blinker hoods to weave my way through the uni centre.

  18. I don’t understand who you think “the CFS” is. When you write that the CFS shouldn’t be bringing in other student unions, who exactly do you think composes the membership base of the federation? The leaders in CFS are the presidents and other executives at the various member campuses.

    There are about a half dozen staff in Ottawa and a half dozen staff in Toronto, but some of them do things like accounting, or graphic design or research and they can’t all be expected to go to the University of Ottawa. But actually having another big university in Ontario involved in the collective lobby and advocacy work of the CFS is in the interest of students at York. Going to Ottawa U to say I am the president at YFS and we would like to work with you, formally, for our common interests is totally legitimate.

    Now that this happened in the middle of a strike is a separate issue, but I’d like to know what, if anything, was lost in the strike resolution process by having the YFS president out of the city. I don’t think he is a labour arbitrator or mediator who was in some final stage negotiations!

    Finally, I doubt people were all flown in. It’s a 4-5 hour drive (I’ve done it in 3.5 hours once!) and it’s an exaggeration to assume countless resources were wasted on travel.

    I wish this blog was less sensationalist.

  19. I think it is very important to note the fact that the YFS executive was in Ottawa during the strike. It shows that executive involved in the CFS put the CFS before doing anything that could effectively help students on their campus.

    I am not sure how effective it is to have carpetbaggers trying to convince students to join the CFS. If there is an actual interest students at the University will get involved.

  20. Hold on, really Joey, they flew to Ottawa from Toronto?

    Is this fact, or are you inserting your opinion into your blog? I know that you like to use hyperbole to get your point across. That’s not real journalism, but whatever I guess, you do it a lot.

    Them flying to Ottawa from Toronto would be a story. It’s only a 5 hour drive. But I still dont get it, didn’t they have some executive and staff members still at York? Plus all the board and commissioners I imagine, and the other student union, the GSA, were they in Ottawa too? Or were they at York? With the strike shutting down the campus, i bet that any work that needed to be done was done.

    I’m surprised that people have such a problem with this. You should all support the strike. They’re trying to get job security, something that everyone at an institution of higher learning should have. Or, you should name your biases before you comment, that way everyone can know that you dont support unions, and that influences your comments.

  21. Ashley wrote: “you should name your biases before you comment, that way everyone can know that you dont support unions, and that influences your comments.”

    This makes no sense. What, being supportive of unions means you automatically support a decision to strike?

    I understand that there are people, Ashley appears to be one of them, who won’t express an opinion unless it is in line with the stringent doctrines of whatever cause or organization they support, but it is possible to be generally supportive of unions without supporting a particular strike.

  22. “This makes no sense. What, being supportive of unions means you automatically support a decision to strike?”

    But you have to admit, being UNsupportive of unions (which is what Ashley is saying about Joey) makes it extremely UNlikely that you will support a given strike.

  23. Yes, I hate unions of course. That’s why I supported unionization at my part-time job and why I’m a proud member of LIUNA 183.

    I’ve walked picket lines in my life to show support.

    Unions are an important check and balance in society. Sadly, there are unions which believe in more pay for less work instead of fair pay for fair work. One only needs to look at the auto industry to see what happens when union contracts get too thick and unproductive workers (not those sick, I mean those that are unproductive by choice) are protected at all costs.

    CUPE 3903 went too far in its demands and is rightfully being questioned for their decisions.

    In terms of the flight comment, it is a toss-up between flying and driving to Ottawa. Hence the large number of flights between the two cities.

    The YFS president should have been honest and transparent. He should have told York students he was not going to be working at York. If he felt it was the right decision, he should have been prepared to say so in advance of leaving Toronto.

  24. Hey, *I* didn’t say you don’t support unions… :P

  25. I know Sean.

    What I find interesting is the lack of acknowledgement of errors in CUPE’s strategy. When you lose the Toronto Star, that should shake things up.

    As for me, I look at each individual strike before passing judgement. I’ve supported a few recent strikes by the SEIU for example.

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  27. @Joey:

    “What I find interesting is the lack of acknowledgement of errors in CUPE’s strategy.”

    CUPE 3903 does not have a strategy as such — and there is no media strategy whatsoever. There is no rigid chain of command with the means to hire professional PR people who know how to talk to the media. York Admin, on the other hand, has a really strong PR team and have even retained a top-flight labour law firm. That’s why CUPE looks so bad.

    If you asked them — really ASKED them — to explain in full detail what their position is and how they arrived at it, you’ll see what I mean.

    In fact, I challenge you to sit down with them and find out exactly what their position really is.

  28. @Danny V:

    This talk of Osman being on Ottawa is silly.

    “I fail to see how pushing other universities to join the CFS is YFS student government business, ESPECIALLY, when there is a crisis on their own campus.”

    It’s YFS business precisely because it’s CFS business, as the YFS is a component of the CFS.

    I don’t know what else to say to somebody who claims he talks to Jesus.

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