First Day of Arbitration Results in Delays and Anger

Some of the members present during the December 17 tuition indexation arbitration.

Some of the members present during the December 17 tuition indexation arbitration.

The first date of our arbitration over tuition indexation occurred on December 17. The results of this day-long process was yet more rage at the employer for dragging its feet, refusing to produce the necessary documents, and trying to make the problem disappear with a one-time payment that is a fraction of what is owed. The entire process amounted to a huge insult to the union as a whole.

Approximately 25 members attended the arbitration hearing, showing the employer that we mean business when it comes to tuition indexation. The day began with our lawyer introducing himself to the members present. Spokespeople were then selected to explain our case to the arbitrator. Every member who spoke – including some impassioned personal accounts from international members impacted by tuition increases – did an amazing job of outlining the facts of the case, as well as the ways in which the continuing refusal to pay members what they are owed is harming their finances, physical and mental health, and even possibly their immigration status.

Prior to the arbitration date, the union had received news through several channels that the employer intended to table some sort of deal that could settle the matter. It took the employer three hours to produce a so-called offer, delivered orally to our lawyer, rather than tabling an actual document. It was not a settlement on the interpretation of the offset language going forward, but rather a simple promise that the university is going to present a “radically different” approach to graduate student funding in the New Year. In anticipation of the new approach, York offered around $600,000 to settle the matter for the offset for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 cohorts. Not only is it not compatible with the very idea of a collective agreement to negotiate partial patches while leaving the contested language there for future exploitation, but the sum offered consists of less than one-third of what we expect is owed for those two cohorts.

Despite York’s stalling tactics, we secured an order to force them to produce the documents we have requested by January 30 in order to go forward with the arbitration. Both the employer and the union have been arguing back and forth about the interpretation of the offset language since May, and York was given ample time to prepare. This failure to produce the documents reveals the depth of the employer’s contempt for our members.

Due to scheduling limitations, the next date for the arbitration will be April 5. While this delay means that this process must take even longer, it also means that we have more time to mobilize and inform our members and the broader public, and fight back. Want to help out? We have tons of ways for people to get involved:

  • Follow us on Twitter (@cupe3903comms) and retweet us – or tweet your own thoughts using the hashtag #YorkLies.
  • Come by the office for some posters to put up in your department.
  • Get involved with Stewards’ Council. Email for more information.
  • Actions big and small have been taking place. For example, several members went to sing union-themed carols outside a Board of Governors meeting. There will be more such events in the coming months.
  • Mark your calendars for a big rally on January 13 – more information will be forthcoming soon.