In an unanimous decision the Superior Court of Ontario rules York does not have jurisdiction to arbitrarily punish workers as students thereby circumventing the Collective Agreement. In a chilling move that endangered the rights of all student-workers, York University used its Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities to circumvent worker protections and punish CUPE 3903 members for participating in lawful conduct during the 2018 strike.
In a blatant attempt to punish members for exercising their democratic rights, a senior York administrator filed Student Code complaints against five union members shortly after the end of the 2018 strike. York insisted that the five members charged under the Code were not acting as employees when taking part in actions in support of their strike. This claim was laughable and circumvented the dispute resolution processes laid out in the Collective Agreement, the Back to Class Act (which legislated the end of strike), and the Labour Relations Act. The Superior Court agreed!
“York cannot require its employees to engage in its own process so as to enforce discipline on them for acts that fall under the Back to Class Act and within the purview of the arbitrator under the collective agreement and the Labour Relations Act.” Ball et al. v. Audette et a!. and York University, 2019 par. 54
A flawed Tribunal process, that at times went so far as to deny the members legal representation, decided the outcome of the complaint. Four of the five members faced draconian penalties, including suspension of student status. For one of the members this suspension would lead to the loss of immigration status, a circumstance the courts found compelling despite York’s callous disregard. The court agreed with our claim that York’s process lacked procedural fairness.
This ruling quashes the decisions of York’s Tribunal and serves as a precedent to protect student-workers in their right to strike and engage in legal protest. We would like to congratulate our members for their courage and perseverance!