On July 25, 2018, the Ontario PCs used their large majority in Parliament to pass back-to-work legislation that orders teaching and graduate assistants (TAs and GAs), who are members of CUPE 3903, back on the job. We consider this to be a highly undemocratic move by Premier Doug Ford that will block progress on improving working conditions at York University, and for all workers in Ontario.
CUPE 3903 went on strike on March 5, 2018, because York University rejected the union’s fair and reasonable proposals to restore cuts to over 700 GA positions, fight for job security for contract faculty (via additional conversions), and enforce equity-based proposals that include improving accessibility, guaranteeing access to childcare and breastfeeding rooms, and employment protections for people who remain underrepresented in hiring processes. The issues that provoked the strike in the first place have still not been resolved.
Back-to-work legislation violates workers’ constitutional rights to free and collective bargaining that are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure dignity and fairness for workers. NDP MPPs were the only ones who rejected the attempts by the Liberals and PCs to pass back-to-work legislation against CUPE 3903.
Back-to-work legislation is not only a violation of workers’ constitutional rights, but it is an attack on our quality of education. Protecting students means investing in education, not stripping away the rights of the workers. Chronic underfunding of Ontario’s colleges and universities has led to a significant increase in the use of precarious labour. 60% of the teaching at York is now done by teaching assistants, graduate students and contract faculty – all members of CUPE 3903.
Clearly, workers’ rights and quality of education are not priorities for the new PC government, nor the senior administration of York University. The administration refused to bargain in good faith, and they rejected attempts by us and other Senators to discuss labour relations in the Senate. Indeed, the senior administration has shown throughout the strike that they do not care to “strengthen the quality of our teaching, research and campus experience for all”, as Lenton wrote yesterday. If they did, they would have bargained to support the needs of CUPE 3903 members.
York University cannot be a leader in the post-secondary sector until they respect the constitutional rights of workers. As YUGSA, we will continue to advocate for the rights of education workers and for high quality education.
The YUGSA Executive (Acting)