Strike FAQ for International Students

Strike FAQ for International Students

I’m an international student member. Is it legal for me to participate in a strike?

Yes. Not only is striking entirely legal for international students, it is a protected activity under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You cannot be punished for participating in a strike, performing strike duties, and/or showing support for the Union during contract negotiations. You are allowed to receive strike pay and perform strike duties under your study permit to attend York University.  A strike doesn’t change the fact that York University is both your school and your employer.

Did you know? The International Tuition Offset was won in 2015, when Unit 1 and 3 members stayed on strike for a month to make sure international students wouldn’t have to pay a tuition increase of more than $7000. International students were a big part of that strike, but also all the domestic students who stood firm against this injustice!

Does a strike impact my study permit?

No. Your study permit is tied to your student enrolment, not your employment.

In addition, Ontario’s Labour Relations Act protects all workers’ rights, including international students, to participate in legal strikes and makes it unlawful for employers to intimidate employees into refusing to strike. You cannot lose your visa or work permit by voting in a strike, in a contract ratification vote, or by taking part in a strike. All votes are confidential.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) protects foreign workers’ right to lawfully strike and provides protections to study permits when international students are unable to complete their studies due to circumstances entirely beyond their control, such as a strike. Their website states:

“This situation is beyond your control, and your status as a study permit holder should not be affected. As a result of the strike, you will

  • not face any penalty or enforcement action because you can’t pursue your studies during this time
  • be able to work off campus for up to 20 hours per week if your study permit allows you to work (and also work full-time during regular breaks such as winter holidays and reading week)
  • still be eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program

You must continue to have valid status as a student in Canada to be able to return to class after the labour dispute is resolved. If you need to apply to extend your study permit during the strike, include a letter from the registrar of your designated learning institution that confirms that the strike has stopped you from attending school and pursuing your studies.”

How will CUPE 3903 support me as an international student if there is employer backlash?

As addressed above, it is illegal for the university to punish you for strike participation. In the very unlikely event that the university engages in these illegal actions, CUPE 3903 will fully support you through the relevant legal processes.

What Happens to my Graduate Funding During a Strike? 

All funded grad students get funding from several sources. Some of these sources are directly tied to current employment (wages, Grant-in-Aid (GIA), vacation pay), some depend on the member having a contract at one point in the academic year (Graduate Financial Assistance (GFA), International Tuition Offset (ITO)), and some are received by virtue of being enrolled full-time or due to merit (fellowship, scholarships and grants).

Wages, vacation pay, and GIA stop immediately while we are on strike. If you participate in strike duties, you can receive up to $300/week in strike pay. After the strike ends, you will be paid to complete what is left of your contract through a process called remediation. You will receive wages, GIA, and GFA proportional to the work needed to finish your contract, up to 100% of what you would have received if there was no strike.

You will have already received your GFA and ITO for the winter, and therefore these will not be impacted. In the unlikely event that the strike were to extend into the summer semester, those payments may be delayed, but you would receive them once the strike is over.

Fellowship payments and other amounts not related to your employment (e.g. scholarships, grants) continue uninterrupted.

Can International Students Access the Hardship Fund?

CUPE 3903 will operate a Strike Hardship Fund (SHF) for members who are facing financial crises during the strike. This is a fund for CUPE 3903 members who are participating in the strike to receive money in addition to  strike pay. The hardship fund will prioritize international students.

To be eligible for the SHF, there is an expectation of strike participation: that people either picket, or request alternate duty strike work for those who cannot picket, unless they have exceptional circumstances.

What does a strike look like?

For a more questions related to the logistics of a strike, please visit our STRIKE FAQ 2024

What are we striking for? 

Please read this letter from the bargaining team to see what is at stake this round of bargaining.

Additional Resources for International Students:

Migrant Justice/Labour Organizations MWAC
Migrant Students Union
Naujawan Support Network (NSN)
Lawyers Specializing in Supporting International Students Long Mangalji LLP Immigration law Group
Marku & Lee Immigration & Refugee Lawyers