CUPE 3903 Units 1, 2 and 3 are on strike at York. That’s graduate teaching assistants (1), contract faculty (2) and graduate assistants (3). (Unit 4, the part-time librarians and archivists, are not on strike. They only recently unionized and settled their first collective agreement, which is out of phase with the others and expires next year.)
The same colleagues were out three years ago, and also in 2008–2009 for the longest academic strike in English-speaking Canada. In that one they got legislated back to work, which I expect is what will happen this time. The Employer says it wants to bargain and end the strike, but they are not meeting with the union. If this goes on for a while—and right now there’s no reason to think it won’t—I predict the the Ontario premier, Kathleen Wynne, will force everyone back and hand negotiations over to binding arbitration, as happened with the province-wide college strike late last year. There is an election in June and this strike looks bad.
Inside York, there’s a lot of confusion over suspending classes. The deans seems to have received instructions to be hard on full-time professors who are exercising their rights to suspend classes for reasons of academic integrity (for example, because they have TAs to lead tutorials or do marking). That’s aside from all the hundreds of courses suspended because they’re taught by contract faculty, of course. All this must be having a bad effect on many students.
One big change from the last strike is the new subway station on campus. Before, all buses (over 2,000 buses a day used to enter the York campus) stopped outside and we all had to walk in. Now everyone can pop into a tunnel and come up in the middle of campus inside the picket lines. People who need to drive are affected, but I think a lot of drivers are going to nearby subway stations, parking there, and travelling one or two stops underground. The strikers have lost a lot of leverage.
I think the York administration is playing this one hard, and they’re playing it unfairly (for example by seemingly trying to set the York University Faculty Association, which I’m in, and CUPE against each other over a particular employee category). I don’t like it.
CUPE 3903 has my full support in this strike and I wish them a speedy, fair and equitable settlement. We all want things back to normal and for the students to be back into the full swing of their studies.
For a good explanation of some of the issues involved, this Reddit thread is very interesting.