Much to the disappointment of the CUPE 3903 Bargaining Team (BT), on Sunday, March 1, state-appointed mediator Peter Simpson called bargaining to a close, leaving the Union to take a paltry offer to its members the following day. At a General Membership Meeting on March 2, the offer was discussed, debated, and ultimately rejected. The next day CUPE 3903 members were on the picket line.
On Thursday, March 5, the BT again sat with Peter Simpson and discussed possible steps forward. In the end, the BT decided to make significant movement on its demands as a way to induce the Employer to put their “best offer” on the table. The following day, the BT, observed by over two dozen rank-and-file members, met at the Ministry of Labour in downtown Toronto to work out a deal with the Employer. After a full day’s negotiations, an offer was put on the table.
This offer was taken to the membership for a ratification vote, a vote in which the majority of Unit 2 members (Contract Faculty) accepted the deal. Because neither tuition indexation, funding for Master’s students, nor the inclusion of LGTBQ as an employment-equity category were adequately addressed in the offer, Units 1 and 3 (graduate students who are teaching assistants, graduate assistants and research) voted to reject the deal. The strike continued.
On Monday, March 16, the Executive Committee of York’s Senate decided to resume classes in several departments. This resulted in many more people trying to cross the Union’s pickets. Many, however, continued to respect the Union’s decision to strike: thousands of undergraduates signed a petition asserting their determination to refuse to cross the lines. As a consequence, the integrity of the classes offered at York and the safety of those who work and study here are being jeopardized. The York University Faculty Association (YUFA) filed a grievance against the Employer on these grounds on March 11, demanding that classes be suspended until the end of York’s dispute with CUPE 3903. As of today (March 19), CUPE has filed a similar grievance and asked for similar remedies to the problem.
A much easier solution is possible, however. Today the BT tabled proposals that, if accepted by the Employer, would immediately end the strike. They are three in total, and in the context of the University’s $1,000,000,000 budget, cost the Employer almost nothing. They are:
- Strengthen tuition indexation language that would see any increases in tuition fees that have occurred since 2005 rebated to CUPE 3903 members who are full-time students. This is a provision that the Union has had in its collective agreements since the year 2000, but which the University decided to unilaterally modify in 2013. This is not a new proposal, and as such would add no new expenses to the University’s expenditures.
- Include LGBTQ as an employment-equity category to be used when making hiring decisions at the University. The Union is proposing that York accept this category immediately, and within six months complete its implementation. This would be a significant step towards ensuring that the diversity of our workforce matches the diversity of our communities. This would cost the University nothing.
- Guarantee full-time Masters students $12,500 as a minimum amount of funding per year. Many Masters students already make this much or more. This proposal would simply guarantee that all Masters students have at least a modest level of funding. For the over 800 members of Unit 3, the total annual cost of this proposal is about the same as the cost of President Shoukri’s salary of $500,000.
The Bargaining Team let the President know that CUPE 3903 is ready to meet as soon as Friday morning to discuss their response, and hopes that classes can resume on Monday, with all members of CUPE 3903 returning to their jobs and studies.