A response to York University FAQ for Unit 1 and 3 members

The CUPE 3903 red-star logo

The CUPE 3903 red-star logo

  • Will I receive my regular pay during the strike?

University response: No. Effective March 3, the first day of the labour disruption, pay has been halted for striking employees represented by CUPE 3903 Units 1 and 3 and pay will not resume for employees who remain on strike.

CUPE 3903 response: No. Once the strike was declared, all regular pay was suspended, though the Union continues to pay for your benefits coverage. You can make money during the strike by supporting our picket lines or duties other than picketing. We also have a Strike Hardship Fund for those who need extra help with finances.

  • Am I able to return to work even if the strike has not ended?

University response: Yes, members of Unit 1 and Unit 3 may choose to return to work subject to the following circumstances: 

  1. Employees represented by Unit 1 may choose to return to work as a teaching assistant provided that the course(s) to which they are assigned have resumed and may resume responsibilities as a course director if the Program in which the course is offered has been approved for resumption by the Senate Executive Committee.
  2. Members of Unit 3 may return to work in units whose programs have been approved by the Senate Executive Committee to resume.

You will be paid and will receive benefits based on the expired 2011-2014 collective agreement on the completion of the declaration form (please see below) and resumption of work responsibilities.

Employees who voluntarily choose to return to work and resume their work assignments are required to declare their intent to return by completing an on-line form as explained in FAQ #32 below. Employees are also asked to inform their course director or supervisor, if the work assignment is a lab/tutorial or graduate assistantship, or the Department Chair or Dean’s Office, if the work assignment is a course directorship.

CUPE 3903 response: No. As union members, members should not return to work while their union is on strike. This is called strike-breaking or scabbing.

For York to approve or encourage members to return to work is contrary to their own public announcements, which state that members would not be allowed to work, or paid to work, during a strike. York is flip-flopping, which means you can’t be sure how you’ll be treated or paid if you go back to work.

Also, York has clarified that no work done by a CUPE 3903 Unit 1 or Unit 3 member will be replaced. Instead, course directors are being asked to restructure their courses, if necessary; however, this produces a problem for the unionized members of the York University Faculty Association (YUFA) and our own Unit 2 members who may feel forced to take on extra teaching burdens.

If York is hiring you to do work during the strike, they are doing so under a new contract and without any of the protections offered by our Collective Agreements. This includes: health-and-safety guarantees, overwork protections, anti-discrimination and anti-harassment language, a progressive discipline process, guaranteed pay and benefits, etc. This means that CUPE 3903 would not be able to protect or represent members should they have trouble with these new work assignments. It is a risky move that individualizes our work and makes us extremely vulnerable to exploitation and mistreatment.

As a graduate student you do not have to cross a picket line (see Senate Policy 2).

As a worker, you can refuse to cross a picket line if you have health and safety concerns in doing so.

  • Can I face sanctions or negative repercussions for returning to work during the strike?

University response: The University’s practice has been to negotiate as part of the return to work a “no reprisals” clause. In the current round of bargaining, the University has similarly sought to negotiate a return to work protocol with a “no reprisals” clause. In the meantime, employees who elect to return to work during the strike will receive pay and benefits according to the provisions of the expired 2011-2014 collective agreement as noted above.

CUPE 3903 response: Anyone crossing a picket line to do work that undermines the strike is considered a strike-breaker, more commonly referred to as a “scab.” Scabs can be sanctioned by CUPE and lose their good-standing in the Union, though this is a decision that would be made by the membership as a whole. If you return to work, you are ineligible for strike pay.

A return to work protocol does not come into effect after a strike has ended.

A “no reprisals” clause is actually something the Union pushes for, to ensure that the University does not take punitive action against members for exercising their rights. York is just trying to confuse you with this statement.

The University also does not tell you that you will likely get the vast majority of your pay anyways once the strike is over – last time everyone received 90 per cent of their regular pay, on top of the strike pay you received. It’s unclear from the University response whether or not you would actually gain any additional pay, or whether they would just take it out of the remainder of your pay.

Other FAQs

  • I have marked assignments. Should I return them to the Course Director?

No. We have withdrawn our labour during the strike in order to help emphasize that York works because we work. Returning marked assignments allows the university to go back to “business as usual.” The marked assignments can be returned after the strike is over.

  • I am a Unit 1 Course Director. What should I do?

As a member of Unit 1, you are on legal strike.

  • The research project I was assigned is time-based. Can I complete it?

No, not if it is work done as a CUPE 3903 Unit 1 or Unit 3 member. We have withdrawn our labour during the strike in order to help emphasize that York works because we work. Continuing your Graduate Assistantship/Research Assistantship work allows the university to go back to “business as usual.” The work (though the nature of that work may change slightly) can continue after the strike is over.

  • Can I write to my students?

Yes. Writing to your students to let them know what is happening is a good idea. You should not answer any questions related to the course itself.

Download this FAQ as a Word document: A response to York University FAQ for Unit 1 and 3 members