BY PAUL MANTELLA
York University contract faculty have gone on strike after the breakdown of negotiations.
Also on strike are teaching assistants, graduate assistants and research assistants.
This is York’s third strike in 10 years, coming three years after its last one, and less than four months after the massive Ontario Colleges strike.
Similar to the recent college strike, CUPE 3903 primarily is seeking better job security for contract faculty, a higher ratio of full-time hires compared to contract, and year-round funding for teaching assistants.
The university has offered a slightly higher conversion of contract to full-time positions, better pay and more money for childcare subsidies and benefit plans.
York administration says that they already offer the best compensation and benefits of any Ontario University, and their offer advances that even further.
Offers by the university, however, have been unpopular with the union. “The administration never took bargaining seriously, they didn’t want to be in bargaining, they’ve never actually bargained properly,” said executive committee spokesperson Julian Arend.
York, however, said that the union demands are unrealistic and it is open to negotiating reasonable proposals.
Going into the third week, York administration has agreed to return to the bargaining table after repeated calls for arbitration were rejected by the union.
While classes unaffected by the strike are continuing, the union says 60 per cent of all teaching at York is done by teaching assistants and contract faculty.
“There’s not much we can do to minimize the impact on students,” said Arend, “We don’t control whether the classes are run, how assignments are delegated et cetera.”
Students are apprehensive about the strike, some of them having been affected by the last one in 2015. Many voiced their opinions on the York University Students Facebook page
“I beg they come to a final agreement!! They are wasting everyone’s precious time! It’s a life!!! I hope all goes positive,” said York student Aditya Pvn.
“Don’t let the strike carry on as long as it did 2 yrs ago,” and “About time” read two other comments by York students.
However, students are protected by rules saying they can’t be penalized for missing class during the strike.
While students are protected, there is concern in the union that there are larger problems with post-secondary education as a whole.
“The crisis is sector-wide… the sector is underfunded, the sector is poorly run, it’s administered by people who run the organizations like for-profit businesses rather than the not-for-profit public institutions they are,” said Arend.