York University strike will continue

Union members reject university’s offer, no sign of back-to-work legislation


Students at York University learned late tonight Tuesday that they will not be returning to classes anytime soon, after members of CUPE 3903 rejected the university’s latest contract offer in a vote supervised by the Ontario Ministry of Labour.

Poll: What should York students do about the university’s ongoing strike?

Mediator named in last-ditch effort to end York University strike

Updated: For the latest on the York strike, click here.

The contract offer was rejected by 61.7 per cent of teaching assistants, 59.3 per cent of contract faculty, and 70 per cent of graduate and research assistants. The vote was requested by York University and ballots were cast over the past two days.

Now, students are left waiting as both sides are sticking to their positions and the government says it will not intervene to return students to classes anytime soon.

CUPE 3903 hailed the vote as a victory in a statement posted by the executive on the CUPE 3903 strike website, “The defeat of forced ratification is a victory, but our work as a local is not done.”

“We need to get back to the table so that we can all go back to work with a deal that is fair and equitable.”

York president Mamdouh Shoukri said in a statement tonight that university’s offer was final and the university has “no intention of negotiating for the sake of appearance… it is up to the Union and its members to reconsider their demands and step back from the brink.”

The university says will not offer a two-year contract to allow CUPE 3903 to join in a potential province-wide strike in 2010. Shoukri said the university is not “prepared to subject our students to another strike in 2010.”

Ontario’s official opposition was quick to respond to the news.

“Dalton McGuinty must act now,” said John Tory, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. “He should move to immediately recall the Legislature, introduce back-to-work legislation and save what is left of this school year for York University students.”

“Not doing so would be irresponsible, disrespectful and would further compromise the education these students, their parents and taxpayers have already paid for,” added Tory.

The government rejected the opposition’s call for back-to-work legislation. “We understand the mediator is in touch with both parties, encouraging them to get back to the bargaining table,” Annette Phillips, spokesperson for Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities John Milloy wrote in a email statement. “The Minister’s position from the beginning has been that the bargaining table is the place to resolve this matter. He will continue to urge both parties to come to an agreement in the best interest of students.”

All this comes as the deadline for cancelling York summer session quickly approaches. Once the summer session is cancelled, it will only be a matter of weeks before students face the prospect of losing their current academic year to the strike.


York University strike will continue

  1. At this point it’s time for all students to jump ship. Go to another university and try your luck there. These guys are not worth it.

  2. By the look of things, the vote was 63% against the terms of the offer on the table. I can’t claim I’m surprised. I actually find the results weaker than I expected. Although the 63% is a fair margin of defeat, it’s hardly anything approaching unanimous. I do hope that CUPE 3903 takes some kind of hint from this. If we’re going to see continued bargaining at all, it has got to happen with a renewed sense of urgency – I’d even say desperation – on both sides.

    I find CUPE’s message on their site, in connection with this announcement, to be particularly disheartening. It runs as follows:

    “There are some who have questioned the scope of our demands and the scale of our ambitions. They think we are asking too much. But these criticisms fail to take into account all that this union has already accomplished through years of collective bargaining.”

    I take that, in translation, to suggest that CUPE continues to focus entirely on their hope of bringing the university to its knees and winning their demands by brute force. There is no discussion of what is realistic in context of the changing face of post-secondary education (a reality all around), the current economic climate (ditto), or York’s situation in particular. Responsible bargaining cannot possibly follow the line of reasoning that says “we’ve always got what we want before, so we’ll get it again.”

    I’m trying not to pick sides here. I want to see both York and CUPE utterly desperate to come to some settlement. I believe York is desperate to settle but even more desperately scared of what it would mean if they can never stand up to CUPE. I believe CUPE is not desperate, but rather dangerously confident. I worry that combination of attitudes is going to contribute to a much longer strike, barring some intervening force.

    My best hopes are with the students of York. But right now, I’m not optimistic.

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  4. just call a year off!

  5. The union is being ridiculous, the entire country is in a recession and they want an unreasonable raise? I really hope that the York T.A’s are intelligent to know that while they stand on the picket lines in terrible weather conditions pocketing $40 a day, the Union leaders are still being paid their regular wages. Who’s being played by the Union? Students AND T.A.’s. John Tory is the only hope us students have left, he is trying to encourage the sloth-like McGuinty to force them back to work, this should have been done in December. I can only imagine the hostility towards the TA’s once and if we return to classes. I have no sympathy for T.A.’s, they should be happy that they even have jobs considering the economy at this point and time. Also, students should be compensated with the wages TA’s have lost during the strike, just as Mike Harris had done with elementary schools a while back. Once i get my credits for this year, I am leaving York a long with plenty of my friends and advising people never to attend this horrid university. Thank you York University T.A.’s and CUPE 3903 for being greedy money hungry bastards that do not know when enough is enough.

  6. The statement(s) offered by the spokesperson for Minister Milloy DO NOT suggest that the Government is unwilling to pursue back-to-work legislation “anytime soon”, and anyone with any knowledge of how politicians/governments operate would recognize that fact.

  7. In regard to the following bit of rhetoric:

    “There are some who have questioned the scope of our demands and the scale of our ambitions. They think we are asking too much. But these criticisms fail to take into account all that this union has already accomplished through years of collective bargaining.”

    I think it is a play on the Obama rhetoric that we heard in the inauguration speech yesterday.

  8. Wouldn’t it be nice to just “jump ship… (and) go to another Unviersity”…but it’s not as simple as that.

    As a 4th year student at York, I cannot just drop out and go to another school. And that is the case for many other students. It’s now the 11th week of this strike and clearly neither CUPE nor York U are making us students their top priorities, though they both claim to be doing so.

    So now what? We don’t know when, or if, we go back. If we do go back, we’re not sure how on earth we will be able to complete both first AND second semester. Will the year be extended by 1 month? Or will it run into July? Are we being reimbursed? Probably not, though we should be. What happens to International students? Exchange students? Students who have summer internships, students who were supposed to graduate? Students who have applied, or intended to apply, to grad schools or jobs? Students who can only afford tuition if they work their butts off the entire summer? What about students who are in residence? Students who are hired by York and have had their hours cut? Students who paid for parking passes and metro passes? Students who are unable to work during the strike, because we may be going back “soon”?

    Since november 6th we have been waiting…waiting for an offer, waiting for results, waiting for information…And in the meantime, we’ve had to put our lives on hold and have been unable to make ANY plans for our future.

    Simply unacceptable. Don’t you think?
    Yet nobody is doing anything about it. Though we are students who pay A LOT of money for a service (education) that we are not receiving.

    McGuinty…care to do something?
    York…care to give us some solutions and some information?
    Don’t even get me started on CUPE.

    I’m tired of waiting. And so are the more than 50 000 students at York.

  9. I’m a recent graduate of York University, and I’ve recently taken a position as an employee on campus. I’m a member of a York union as well – just not CUPE 3903.

    I started out quite impartial and read the various releases by York University and CUPE to see where they stand. Over time I’ve gotten more and more disappointed by the whole situation. From an insider’s point of view, York University has had an extremely generous bargaining strategy this year. All the other union contract offers that have come up have been eagerly accepted by the union members. They were expecting to strike, but were surprised and overjoyed to see the University’s offer. They employed the same strategy with CUPE 3903. It’s a very generous offer. York offered some significant additional benefits and a generous percentage increase in wages (the same percentage gladly accepted by the other unions), and it was turned down as if it were insulting! This is from a group of people who are not even doing this as a career! Most of the positions will be turned over in two years!

    I’m actually very sad to see how poorly this is reflecting on the University. I really don’t think it’s their fault. They started with a generous offer to avoid a strike and they really can’t move much further. This is a recession. With the impact of this strike it is guaranteed that their enrollment will dwindle over the next few years and possibly many years to come. I know firsthand that they had budget cuts for all departments BEFORE the strike began. Really, what are they supposed to do?

    I find CUPE 3903 to be deceptive and manipulative to their members (check out their website that compares their plight to REAL injustices around the world as though they are somehow related – quite sickening). I wish this group of ‘leaders’ that are supposed to be free thinkers could open their eyes and realize how much they are hurting the undergraduate student population – of which they were a part of a mere year or two previous. Because of the ever shortening summer available for students to work, many undergraduates are quickly losing the opportunity to work at all this year! Meanwhile, these picketers are getting paid strike wages the whole time (and I suppose creating employment for themselves through the summer too if this continues). Others will suffer far worse.

    I’ve kept up to date on their site, talked to CUPE members and tried my best to see things from their point of view, but I simply can’t understand what they’re thinking. It’s all so selfish and approaching delusional.

    I’ve been really impressed by the way York University has been handling this situation and so disappointed by these TAs and GAs that were my colleges just a few years ago. I have no respect for their strike, and I’m very quickly losing respect for them as individuals. My TAs and teachers acted as wonderful role models throughout my time as a student at York University. I loved being a student here. I just hope these strikers think of the people who are really suffering. With such a generous offer on the table, there is no reason for all of this.

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