An 11-week strike at York University could come to an end as early as Sunday and send some 50,000 students back to class the next day if back-to-work legislation gets the support of all parties, the premier said Saturday.
Dalton McGuinty appointed the province’s top labour mediator just days ago to help bring an end to the labour dispute, but Reg Pearson told the premier Saturday morning there was no “reasonable prospect” of a negotiated settlement.
After previously rejecting Opposition calls to table back-to-work legislation, McGuinty announced he would recall the legislature for a special sitting at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“I am now absolutely convinced that the two sides are in deadlock,” McGuinty said.
“There is no…reasonable prospect or resolution through the traditional bargaining process, so time’s up.”
McGuinty said if the legislation receives the support of both the Conservatives and the New Democrats, it could pass first, second and third reading on Sunday. If not, the process could take up to two more weeks.
Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory had already been pressing the province to take such action.
York University students woke up Saturday to the news they could be back in class sooner than expected.
“I just think that if they had of really been on the ball and they had really been paying attention, then they would have known that back-to-work legislation was necessary a month ago,” said Scott McLean, 20, a third-year film production student.
“It’s really disappointing that (McGuinty) continued to still drag it for this long. So it’s nice, but it’s a little late.”
Stacey Russell, 21, a fourth-year sociology student, said she’s feeling divided.
“I’m excited to go back, just because this is my final year and I’ll be graduating,” she said.
“However, I am not looking forward to going back at all because if we have to cram, it’s going to be ridiculously stressful.”
As faculty and teaching assistants may be forced back to the classroom rather than reaching an agreement, Russell said she’s concerned about the mood on campus.
“It’s going to be very chaotic going back. I think there’s going to be many students and professors arguing,” she said.
McGuinty had previously been hesitant to introduce back-to-work legislation, saying Wednesday they would “give this one more shot” with Pearson at the bargaining table.
The strike by about 3,300 workers began on Nov. 6 and has cancelled classes for about 50,000 students at the country’s third largest university.
York University rejected a counter offer made by the union on Friday. Spokesman Tyler Shipley had said their offer included “significantly” reduced demands.
The union’s four key demands are job security for contract professors, funding levels for graduate students, indexing of benefits, and the length of the contract.
– The Canadian Press