No end in sight to York U. strike

A ten-week long strike by York University’s academic workers will continue after the government failed in its legislative efforts to force members of Local 3903 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 3903) to go back to work.

“We are certainly disappointed, but not surprised that the Provincial Government would be willing partners in our Employer’s efforts to strip our members of their constitutionally-protected right to engage in collective bargaining,” said CUPE 3903 Chairperson Devin Lefebvre.

“York had a choice ten weeks ago—they could have done the right thing and bargained a collective agreement everyone could live with. York chose differently. The government also had a choice. They too could have chosen to do the right thing and told an institution that is the beneficiary of substantial sums of public funds to live up to its obligations to bargain in good faith. Instead, the government chose to try and sacrifice our members’ Charter rights to the altar of political expediency,” he added.

Following the release of a report by Commissioner William Kaplan that urged the parties to agree to arbitration, the Government attempted to table back-to-work legislation on May 7, but were unable to get unanimous consent from both opposition parties.

“At no point in this dispute has the employer made any meaningful effort to reach a negotiated settlement. Calling for arbitration without even attempting to negotiate is a shameful abdication of York’s responsibility to collectively bargain with its employees,” said Lefebvre.

“We cannot and will not reward York University’s behaviour by suspending our members’ constitutionally-protected right to free collective bargaining,” he added.

Units 1, 2 and 3 of CUPE 3903, representing teaching assistants, contract faculty and graduate assistants who collectively are responsible for delivering more than 50 per cent of the instruction at York University began strike action on March 5, in an effort to push back York’s concessionary demands and secure a contract that reduces the level of precarious employment that has become endemic in the post-secondary education sector.

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