On May 7, 2018, Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn proposed back-to-work legislation in the form of Bill 70, An Act to resolve labour disputes between York University and Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 3903. We consider this to be a highly undemocratic move by the Liberal government that will block progress on improving working conditions for graduate students and contract faculty at York University, and for all workers in Ontario.
CUPE 3903 went on strike on March 5, 2018, because York University refused the union’s fair and reasonable proposals to restore cuts to over 700 Graduate Assistantship positions (GAships), 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 protecting access to employment and promotion for Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, racialized peoples and women who remain underrepresented in hiring processes.
If accepted, these proposals would have resulted in fairer working conditions and higher quality education for students at York. Contract faculty deserve greater job security after years and years of teaching at York. Teaching Assistants deserve to have stable and predictable funding that will not be unilaterally changed without consultation or clawed back when they win scholarships. Graduate students deserve the opportunity to work in GAships in unionized positions with health benefits and other protections.
Instead of bargaining in good faith, York University has avoided meaningful engagement in collective bargaining with CUPE 3903 and their senior administration has used an aggressive approach to labour relations and university governance. Their offer ultimately represents a concession for CUPE 3903 members, and for those graduate students who are now excluded from the union. York’s last offer before the strike began didn’t protect Teaching Assistants from reductions or arbitrary changes to their funding, offered far less full-time opportunities for contract faculty than the previous contract, and didn’t offer to restore any Graduate Assistant jobs.
YUGSA stands with contract faculty, teaching assistants and graduate assistants in their fight to preserve job security and stable, predictable work opportunities. We will continue to fight systemic issues on post-secondary education, including pushing back against a chronically underfunded system that forces educators to live from contract-to-contract.
As we have said before the strike commenced, we urge York’s administration to stop misrepresenting CUPE 3903’s concerns and to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair deal.
The YUGSA Executive (Acting)