The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the parent local of CUPE 3903, has filed an Unfair Labour Practices complaint against York University. This means that CUPE has made submissions to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, alleging that York has violated the Labour Relations Act.
In September 2016, York University rolled out a new funding model for its graduate students. While the university claims that this move was solely for the purposes of improving the graduate student experience, it was clearly designed as a form of union-busting. York eliminated 691 jobs unionized by CUPE 3903, cutting Unit 3 (graduate assistants) by roughly 90%. This occurred right on the heels of victories both in the 2015 strike and in the 2015-16 arbitration case that secured tuition indexation once and for all.
The loss of these jobs have resulted in hundreds of graduate students being denied the best health benefits package on campus. They have also lost access to funds for childcare, extended health care costs, emergencies, support for sexual assault survivors, professional development, and more. Our collective agreements also guarantee extensions for students with disabilities and protection from discrimination and harassment. Furthermore, we must consider the lost opportunities for professional development caused by the loss of good jobs on campus. All of these losses together paint a very clear picture of a graduate student experience which, rather than being improved, is dramatically worsened. York is making graduate education even less accessible for those most vulnerable, and trying to package it as an improvement.
Since this new funding model is not at all an improvement of the graduate student experience, York’s motivations appear clear: the decimation of CUPE 3903’s Unit 3 and correspondingly, our bargaining power. A change of this magnitude should have been discussed in bargaining, not forced through after two “consultation” meetings in which the union made it very clear that it categorically refused to accept this plan. To make matters worse, the roll-out of the new funding model was a disaster of epic proportions. York put off meeting with CUPE 3903 between August and November, and resisted answering emails as much as possible, showing yet more hostility towards the union representing their workers.
A mediation meeting concerning the Unfair Labour Practices complaint is scheduled for April 11, 10:30 am, at 505 University Avenue, 2nd floor. Come show York that you support the right to good, unionized jobs on campus.