York plans to cancel classes in event of strike to avoid chaos

If York University’s contract faculty, teaching assistants and graduate assistants go on strike, the University will shut down classes immediately to prevent the kind of chaos that reigned on campus during a bitter strike at the start of the decade, the University warned, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 31.

"I hope it will not be nearly as long or disruptive or chaotic, if it occurs, as it was the last time, because we’re suspending classes. That will help a little, but I hope it doesn’t happen," said Robert Drummond, dean of York’s Faculty of Arts.

The contract faculty and assistants, who are represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, will be able to strike legally next Thursday but the two sides are still at the bargaining table, Drummond said.

"If there is not agreement by Tuesday evening, they have a general membership meeting on the Wednesday. We hope we will be giving them something they can take to the general membership meeting and recommend for ratification,” Drummond said.

A strike would come the day after a planned provincewide protest by the Ontario wing of the Canadian Federation of Students to call for lower tuition fees.

The union is seeking a 30 per cent wage increase over two years plus a cost-of-living allowance, which is well above what the University can afford, Drummond said.

The total wage and benefit package sought by the union would cost more than $70 million, which is more than double the current cost to the University for the three categories of employees, York estimated in a statement.

This would be an increase in costs equivalent to 11 per cent of the university’s 2007-2008 operating budget, even though York’s Board of Governors in June approved a three-year budget that calls for decreases of 2 per cent in spending for each of the next three years, it added.

The University, which has 50,000 students, has offered the union binding arbitration on its wage demands but the union, which represents 3,250 part-time staff, has rejected the offer, wrote the Globe.

In the 2000-2001 academic year, York was roiled by a bitter 11-week strike by contract faculty and teaching staff. Diana Lombardi, a mature student who is in a first-year psychology program, said she does not want [a strike] to happen again, because it was difficult for foreign students whose visas were ending and domestic students whose time to earn money during the summer was reduced.

"I don’t think we are going to be getting a discount on our tuition in September, if we go into summer classes…. It’s just a big mess all around. I hope it doesn’t come to a strike," Lombardi said. "But the tone is that it will proceed because I think they are being quite unreasonable," she said.

Union officials did not respond to calls, wrote the Globe.

  • "At this stage in negotiations, both sides should be down to realistic wage and benefits proposals," said Robert Drummond, spokesperson for the University’s negotiating team, wrote the North York Mirror Oct. 30. "With the economy worsening and the University facing budget reductions, the union’s demands are simply unrealistic and unaffordable," he said. "The University has done, and is doing, all it can to avert a strike knowing the harm it will cause its 50,000 students."

A message for CUPE Local 3903 wasn’t returned before the Mirror’s Thursday deadline. But the union’s Web site administrator posted recent updates, accusing the University of "continued hardball anti-labour tactics and bargaining strategy." A letter addressed to York University President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri had already been sent out by the union, urging the administration to offer a fair collective agreement.

In the event of a strike, Drummond said that students will be given advance warning and be informed of "what academic activities will be suspended and what activities will continue."

  • Drummond spoke about CUPE 3903 contract demands on several Toronto radio stations and on CP24-TV Oct. 30.

First Nations chief orchestrated LaForme’s resignation

Why does Chief Phil Fontaine seem so determined to frustrate the process of healing for residential school survivors and keep at bay reconciliation with non-aboriginal Canadians and our government, wrote Susan Martinuk in a column in the Calgary Herald Oct. 31?

It’s a question worth considering, as Fontaine and the organization he leads, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), seem to be emerging as key players in the recent implosion of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Last week, commission chair Justice Harry LaForme (LLB ‘77) abruptly resigned. LaForme was eminently qualified to get the job done (a graduate of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, a former member of two Indian commissions relating to land claims and a native Indian) so his resignation was an immediate red flag that the process had been derailed.

At first, it appeared LaForme resigned because the two other commissioners didn’t share his vision for the commission and refused to acknowledge his authority as its chair. In other words, it was a simple difference of opinion on bureaucratic governance. Ho hum.

But then came the bombshell allegations that the two commissioners were being openly influenced by the AFN and deliberately planned to outvote LaForme to carry out the AFN’s wishes. As such, their "different vision" was actually a plan to change the commission’s agreed-upon mandate of telling the truth and encouraging reconciliation to one that emphasized the telling of survivor stories and ignored attempts at reconciliation.

Diabetes sessions set

The Canadian Diabetes Association will hold two information sessions Nov. 4, presented by Michael Riddell, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, wrote The Sault Star Oct. 31. The first, at 2pm, is for health-care workers, fitness and health specialists and students in these fields.

“The Implications of Stress and Exercise Physiology in Diabetes” will cover such topics as the health benefits and potential risks of regular exercise in diabetes; why different types of exercise cause different patterns of blood glucose levels; and an overview of how stress influences glycemic control.

The second session, at 7pm, is open to the public and will help diabetics learn how exercise can help control and manage the disease; recognize the differences between good and bad stress and their effect on diabetes; and discover the latest research on exercise and diabetes.

The new women in power

The Canadian Press included a brief sketch of new Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt (LLB ’96) in its news items on Oct. 31

Born: 1968 in Sydney, NS.
Education: BSc St. Francis Xavier University; MSc University of Guelph; law degree Osgoode Hall Law School, York University.
Career: Harbourmaster; corporate secretary; general counsel; president and CEO Toronto Port Authority.
Politics: Appointed Conservative candidate for Halton riding in September. Defeated Liberal Garth Turner in Oct. 14 general election.
Family: Husband Dave Raitt is a writer-performer with Toronto’s Second City Theatre. Two children, John Colin, 7, and Billy, 4.
Quote: "I think good leadership is about making responsible decisions in a timely manner, leading to great results. Clear plans, clear direction."

Proposals put transit ahead of repair backlog

Funding for new buses, bike lanes and community centres top the list of projects for the city’s $1.6-billion capital budget released yesterday, but a backlog of repairs to roads and parks will grow for several more years, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 31.

A list of the top 10 projects, which is dominated by public transit, includes ongoing work on a bus rapid-transit link from Downsview to York University: $12.2 million.

On air

  • Ian Roberge, political science professor at York’s Glendon College, spoke about the federal cabinet shuffle on Radio Canada’s “L’Ontario Aujourd’hui” Oct. 30.
  • David McNally, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, took part in a discussion about free markets and food on TVO’s “The Agenda” Oct. 20.