CUPE 3903 has announced a strike date of March 5, 2018, should negotiations fail with the University administration. The purpose of this FAQ is to answer some frequently asked questions about how a possible labour disruption would affect the student community.
1. What does it mean to be on strike?
“Being on strike” means that workers withdraw their labour. That means that they don’t perform their employment-related duties.
For union members, it also means fulfilling their strike duties on the picket line. A picket line is a boundary established by workers on strike, usually at the entrance to the place of work, that others are asked not to cross because it defies the interests of the workers on strike. Here is a list of the picket line locations. Please contact CUPE 3903 for full information on picket shifts, strike pay and health benefits for union members.
2. Will classes continue if there is a strike?
In the 2015 strike by CUPE 3903, the Senate Executive Committee decided to suspend all courses for the initial period of the strike (with a limited number of exceptions) and they did so pursuant to their responsibility for safeguarding the principles of academic integrity and fairness to students under the Senate policies related to disruptions: see #70 and #76. We expect that a similar decision will be made soon, but Senate Executive has yet to make any announcement. In 2015, after the initial blanket suspension of classes was lifted, Senate Executive affirmed that individual instructors were responsible for deciding whether their own classes should resume (following the principles of academic integrity). There has been no indication that this principle has changed.
This week, the Interim Provost sent a notice to the York community saying that “all classes that can continue will continue.” This statement has generated controversy in the York community since Senate policy is clear that announcements and decisions about the continuation or cancellation of courses are the responsibility of Senate and Senate Executive, and it appears to conflict with the policy from the 2015 CUPE 3903 strike.
In either case, Senate rules protect students from penalties and guarantee accommodation to us for work we do not complete, or classes we do not attend during the strike.
Here is the crucial segment of the Senate policy that outlines your rights as a student during a strike:
2.2 Fairness to Students
2.2.1 Students who do not participate in academic activities because:
a) they are unable to do so owing to a Disruption, or
b) they choose not to participate in academic activities owing to a strike or lock-out on campus
[Students] are entitled to immunity from penalty, to reasonable alternative access to materials covered in their absence, to reasonable extensions of deadlines and to such other remedy as Senate deems necessary and consistent with the principle of academic integrity.
2.2.2 Such remedies shall not alter the academic standards associated with the missed activity, nor shall it relieve the student of the responsibility for mastering materials covered.
2.2.3 The availability of a remedy under this policy does not guarantee students the same learning experience that they would have received in the absence of a Disruption.
3. Do I have to cross the picket line if a strike is called?
Students do not have to cross the picket line in the event of a strike, and we advise students not to cross picket lines to be in solidarity with striking CUPE 3903 members. We will do our best to defend any student subject to discipline for refusing to cross a picket line. You may want to consider holding meetings with colleagues and committees off-campus to enable others to attend without crossing picket lines.
4. Can I come on campus to do my lab research?
If you have ongoing lab work that needs to be taken care of daily you could attend to this work. Keep in mind, however, that some of your lab work might be employment related work and should be withdrawn in the context of a strike. If, for instance, you do work for your supervisor that doesn’t contribute to the completion of your own thesis work, it is covered by the CUPE 3903 Collective Agreement and you should make arrangements with your supervisor to hold off on this work until any labour action is resolved. If not doing this work will jeopardize the project as a whole, then it is recommended in doing the minimum required to maintain the project’s integrity.
5. Will the strike disrupt my placement or practicum?
6. What has YUGSA been doing in the face of a possible strike?
As part of the York Cross-Campus Alliance (CCA), we have been urging the Employer to negotiate a fair and equitable settlement in its negotiations with CUPE 3903 in order to avoid a strike. We agree with the call to the Senate Executive to suspend classes in the event of a strike due to the impossibility of maintaining academic integrity with so many instructors absent from class. Like other members of the CCA we are concerned that, if the Senate Executive fails to cancel classes, it may compromise the academic integrity of courses and research, could lead to increased workload for faculty members, or potentially present health and safety concerns.
Please see the recent CCA statement here.
7. My tutorial students have been asking me about a possible strike. What should I tell them?
We recommend that TAs inform students of their rights which are clearly spelled out in the Senate policy on labour disruptions. The thrust of the policy is that students cannot be academically or otherwise penalized if they are unwilling or unable to participate in courses owing to the labour disruption. Recent notices by the senior administration about a possible strike have curiously avoided mention of this policy. You can also inform your students that, should academic activities be suspended, all classes, labs, and tutorials will be cancelled. They should watch for announcements. After a strike has ended, the Senate will determine protocols and remediation procedures for the return of students to the classroom and the completion of work.
You may also let your students know that they can contact the York President, Provost, and Vice-President Finance and Administration to urge them to improve the Employer’s offer as the best way to avoid a strike. Throughout the school year YUGSA has fought back against cuts to graduate students’ funding packages, and the cut to nearly 700 graduate assistantships. We believe that we all deserve good funding and working conditions to preserve academic integrity of courses and research.
8. How can I express my support for CUPE 3903 members on strike?
You can support solidarity efforts with CUPE 3903 members in the following ways:
- Join a picket line; we may organize group solidarity pickets in support of CUPE 3903;
- Speak with colleagues and students about why the strike is happening;
- Volunteer donations of time and talent to the strike effort;
- Write to the University administration, urging an end to the strike with decent working conditions for CUPE 3903 members.
YUGSA is a member of the York Cross-Campus Alliance (CCA), a collection of unions and student groups on campus, which is engaged in collective action to improve the working and learning conditions at York. Support for the CCA is another way to express solidarity with 3903 members.
For those of you on Facebook, you can join this Facebook group that is made up of undergraduate and graduate students in support of CUPE 3903.
If you have any other questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org