Strike FAQ

A photo of members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union assembling picket signs

A photo of members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union assembling picket signs

Prepared by the Strike Committee, this is a work in progress. If you have any questions, please email

What does ‘being on strike’ actually mean in the context of a university?

“Being on strike” means we withdraw our labour power. That means that we don’t perform our employment-related duties. It also means fulfilling our strike duties (see below).

What happens on Tuesday, March 3? What do I do? Where do I go?

For the first day of the strike, we are asking all CUPE 3903 members and our allies to attend a rally and mass picket on York Boulevard (the main entrance to Keele campus from Keele Street) from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Where is my department’s picket line (starting March 4)? 

Check out our list of departmental picket locations. And remember, the longer the picket line, the shorter the strike! We need to show the admin that we’re united and mobilized. That’s the only way we will get a fair contract.

How long are picket line shifts?

A picket line shift is four hours long. We will start with two shifts per day, a morning shift (7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.) and an afternoon shift (11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.). Please arrive before your scheduled start time and dress appropriately for the weather conditions. For some helpful picketing tips, please click here.

Who is eligible to receive strike pay?

Members who are on York’s payroll as of the start of the strike are eligible to receive strike pay. In other words, members who have contracts that started in September and end in April would be eligible for strike pay as would members who have contracts that started in January and end in April.

Our Strike Committee has recommended that members without a current contract but who had a contract from September to December should also qualify for strike pay during the first 10 days of the strike (while strike pay is paid by our local rather than CUPE National).

How much is strike pay? How many hours of strike duties are required in order to receive strike pay?

Strike pay is $300 per week ($1,200 per month). Most members are expected to engage in strike duties for 20 hours per week (normally a four-hour shift, five days a week) in order to receive strike pay. The Strike Committee is developing a process to pro-rate strike pay for members that cannot do 20 hours of strike duty per week due to specific circumstances such as placements (see below) or other approved reasons.

What strike duties can I perform to receive strike pay?

Members must perform strike duties in order to receive strike pay. In order to maintain picket lines, for most members their strike duty will be joining the picket lines. If this is not possible due to mobility or other significant issues, alternate duties will be arranged (see below). According to CUPE National policy, members cannot receive strike pay (from CUPE National) for attending meetings.

What if I need to perform strike duties other than picketing?

Generally speaking, there are three reasons that you could have the need for alternate duties. You could have a mobility issue, you could have reasons pertaining to physical or mental health, or you are a caregiver/parent and unable to afford or secure adequate and predictable childcare or elder care. Alternate duties tasks, from both strike headquarters or from your home, are being determined as per need. These duties will be crucial to the success of the strike and we need your help. Please email detailing your reasoning and you will be sent a questionnaire to determine what kind of strike duty will enable you to contribute in an important sense to a victorious job action.

What about our health benefits?

Our health benefits coverage will continue during the strike due to the support of CUPE National. Members can submit their claims to Sun Life as usual.

Can I communicate with my students during a strike?

CUPE 3903 members should not be teaching during a strike, but members can provide strike information and updates to students. It may be quite useful to keep those lines of communication open. As a union, we will try to keep students informed via our website, social media and our strike headquarters.

Can I come on campus to do my lab research?

Yes. If you have ongoing lab work that needs to be taken care of daily you should most certainly attend to this work. Keep in mind, however, that some of your lab work might be employment related work and should be withdrawn in the context of a strike. If, for instance, you do work for your supervisor that doesn’t contribute to the completion of your own thesis work, it is covered by the Collective Agreement and you should make arrangements with your supervisor to hold off on this work until any labour action is resolved. If not doing this work will jeopardize the project as a whole, then the Local recommends doing the minimum required to maintain the project’s integrity.

What about my placement or practicum?

If you have a placement or practicum associated with your program (such as Social Work) that is not related to your employment at York, you can continue with this work. If your placement makes it difficult for you to complete 20 hours of strike duty per week, then (if approved) you will qualify for prorated strike pay for the strike duty you can complete.

Can I use the library?

In the event of a strike, the Local would encourage members to use University facilities as little as possible. If members absolutely must access the library, however, they should feel free to do so, as refusing to use the library has no impact on York’s finances.

Will I be charged library fines?

No. While overdue notices will continue to be issued by email during the strike, no fines will accrue on any material.

Can I access YFS services?

Yes. The York Federation of Students (YFS) provides a range of services that its 53,000 members rely on. During the strike, the unionized staff members of the YFS (represented by CUPE 1281) are not crossing picket lines. Only three basic services are being provided by a skeletal staff led by management: the YFS Food Bank, the YFS Members’ Services Office (which distributes TTC tokens and passes), and the YFS Printing Resource Centre. YFS members should feel free to access these services.