Letter from the Bargaining Team: Why We Need a Strong Strike Mandate

Letter from the Bargaining Team: Why We Need a Strong Strike Mandate

By now, you will likely have heard that CUPE 3903 is calling for a Strike Mandate Vote between December 11th and December 18th. As the people who have sat across from the employer trying to negotiate new contracts for Units 1, 2, and 3, we, the Bargaining Team, wanted to explain why we are asking you to vote YES in the strike mandate vote.

Why a Strike Mandate? Why Now?

We have been bargaining since June 2023. In that time, we have presented 109 proposals, but the Employer has not meaningfully engaged with them. You can see all the Union and Employer proposals on the Bargaining Proposals page or read on for highlights. Nothing the Employer has proposed amounts to significant changes that address our current issues, and their wage offer is well below inflation.

None of this is surprising. Unfortunately, this employer has never, in living memory, made significant movement at the bargaining table before the bargaining team received a strike mandate. Without that mandate to act as leverage, the employer has zero incentive to bargain and has essentially told us as much. The Employer has repeatedly stated that we are not yet at the “stage of bargaining” in which they are willing to discuss further our monetary proposals, for example.

We are asking for a strike mandate now to move bargaining forward so we can fight for what you need. The employer has repeatedly booked entire bargaining days only to remain in the room for barely an hour. We waited weeks for their “comprehensive” framework-for-settlement package which, when they finally presented it, amounted to nothing significant. These delaying tactics are intentional and strategic. The Employer knows that the longer bargaining drags on, the less leverage the threat of a strike gives us. If our union’s past experience with strikes has taught us anything, it’s that the threat of a strike carries far more weight earlier (in the fall/winter term), rather than later. We need to act now.

What’s at Stake?

What is it, exactly, that we need leverage to get? Here is an update on where we’re at for four priority areas.

Addressing the Cost of Living Crisis

Winning significant improvements to wages and benefits is a central issue, if not the central issue, in this round of negotiations. Members made that clear in the Bargaining Surveys conducted earlier this year. Inflation over the last three years has sky-rocketed (the Bank of Canada Inflation Calculator uses a change rate of +15% for this period), while our wages have been artificially suppressed at 1% per year due to Bill 124, which has since been found unconstitutional. The cost of everything – food, housing, utilities, medical expenses – has gone up dramatically. This is a reality highlighted in our bargaining surveys, and recently in the National Post. We need the leverage of a YES vote to ensure that increases to our salaries and benefits keep ahead of the rising cost of living so that we can afford the necessities of life.

Protecting Our Rights

The Employer opened this round of bargaining with proposals to make it easier to discipline members and harder to file discrimination and harassment grievances. While we experienced our first bargaining win when they recently withdrew a discipline proposal that would have made it easier to initiate disciplinary procedures against our members, there are still many protections that members need. We need to vote YES to protect all members, especially in light of York University’s recently demonstrated repression of academic freedom and trampling of due process.

Job Stability

Both Unit 2 (contract faculty) and Unit 3 (graduate and research assistants) need to see serious solutions to address job stability. We need a strong YES vote to address job losses due to restructuring and to counter the union-busting tactics the Employer has used to eliminate Unit 3 jobs. The Bargaining Team is now in the process, begun at a town hall meeting on December 8, of consulting with members to develop our counterproposals to the Employer’s job stability proposal of November 30. No matter how we respond at the table, we will need the membership behind us—and working with us—at every step. Let us be clear: without a YES vote, we cannot achieve any gains on job stability for contract faculty.

Working Conditions

Our working conditions are students’ learning conditions! The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we teach. New technologies and pedagogies, along with increasing student needs, have created new workload requirements. We need to vote YES to get the workload protections that will improve our students’ learning conditions.

How to Vote

We will be opening the strike mandate vote at 3:00 PM after the December 11th Special General Membership Meeting, and it will remain open until 5:00 PM December 18th. If you can’t make the December 11th meeting but want to hear from the bargaining team and discuss bargaining before voting, there will be a second Special General Membership Meeting on December 14th.

The vote will take place online, through Simply Voting. The ballots are sent to the email list we receive from the Employer; sometimes this is your York University employee email address. If you are having issues finding your ballot from Simply Voting once the vote opens, please try the following things:

  1. Check your employee email address

  2. Check any other email addresses that York University may have on file.

  3. Check your junk mail on your emails as well

  4. Try searching ‘Simply Voting’ in your inbox (the email comes from vote@simplyvoting.com)

If you STILL can’t find your SMV ballot, please the sectreasurer3903@gmail.com your full name, primary email address, and your employee number.

If you do not have a current contract but have held one within the last 12 months, you are a political member and are eligible to vote. Please email sectreasurer3903@gmail.com with your full name, primary email address, and your former employee number to receive your electronic ballot.

What Happens After a YES Vote

A strike mandate is a necessary legal step that allows us to strike, if necessary. It doesn’t mean we will go on strike. If negotiations continue to go nowhere and the Employer’s proposals remain unacceptable, the Bargaining Team and Executive may, in the next few months, recommend we take strike action. The decision about whether to go out on strike, however, will be made by another vote of the membership.

What Happens If We Do Eventually Strike

It’s reasonable to worry about what a strike could mean.

Taking strike action would mean we collectively withdraw our labour to pressure the Employer to concede ground on our key demands. For members who are also graduate students, striking as an employee of York would affect neither your status as a student at York nor your academic work.

Every member who participates in the strike, whether through traditional picket lines or other approved strike duties, will receive strike pay from CUPE National of $60/day for a four-hour shift.

During a strike, CUPE 3903 would hold weekly General Membership Meetings, at which the membership would direct the Executive, the Bargaining Team, and the Strike Committee about how, and whether, the strike would continue. In sum, strikes are by and for the membership, to achieve the goals we set out together.