York says it has increased wage offer and contract improvements to avert strike

York University yesterday issued the following media release. It also posted a new Collective Bargaining Update, again renewing its call for binding arbitration.

TORONTO, November 4, 2008 – York University has increased its wage offer to 9.25 per cent over three years as part of a contract package to avert a strike by the University’s contract faculty, graduate students and teaching assistants. The union, CUPE Local 3903, will be in a legal strike position as of 12:01am on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008.

The wage offer to the CUPE Local 3903 is the same wage offer contained in a new, three-year contract recently ratified by the York University Staff Association.

“We are treating all employees fairly and evenly at York University,” said Dean Robert Drummond, spokesperson for the University’s negotiating team. “This offer should form the basis of contract settlement with CUPE Local 3903.”

The University also offered contract improvements relating to:

  • tuition protection for graduate students for term of the new collective agreement
  • improvements in dental and vision care benefits
  • improvements in paid leaves
  • increases in various supplementary funds.

The University also raised the possibility of long-service teaching agreements for contract faculty, which it believes would address Unit 2 job security concerns.

“The University is doing all it can to avert a strike knowing the harm it will cause its 50,000 students. We are prepared and willing to negotiate a fair and reasonable contract. We have offered binding arbitration. We have never considered locking these employees out, ” Drummond said.

The University also renewed its offer to the union to agree to binding arbitration on outstanding contract items in order to avoid disrupting students’ education. So far, the union has rejected this offer.

“We all need to put the educational needs of our students first,” Drummond said.

The deans of all Faculties have, in conjunction with the chair of Senate, agreed that academic activities (with certain specified exceptions) will be suspended in their Faculties in the event of a strike by CUPE Local 3903. The University’s academic leadership is of the view that most academic activities cannot continue without contract faculty and TAs.

“While we hope it will not come to a strike, the University needs to provide students with advance warning so they can make preparations for the suspension of classes in the event of a strike. We will need to communicate to all students and our institutional partners what academic activities will be suspended and what activities will continue,” Drummond said.


CUPE 3903 represents approximately 950 contract faculty, 1,850 TAs and 550 GAs.

Settlement trends at York University and in other teaching sectors

  • York University Staff Association: 9.25 per cent in three-year contract
  • Ministry of Education Provincial Framework Agreements (education sector) for CUPE and OECTA: four-year agreements with salary increases of 3 per cent in each year (12 per cent over four years)
  • Wage adjustments in the Canadian public sector in 2008 averaged 3.3 per cent (HRDC)

York University’s contract faculty, TAs and GAs are among the highest paid at Ontario universities with highly competitive hourly rates

GAs and TAs are full-time students, not full-time employees. They work an average of 10 hours per week. Claims by the union that its members are paid below the “poverty line” are misleading, because these are part-time positions. Most Unit Teaching Assistants (TAs) are currently guaranteed a minimum level of funding at a rate of $63.29 per hour, which would equate to full-time annualized earnings of around $115,000 per year.

University’s operating budget

The University’s three-year operating budget approved by the Board of Governors in June, 2008 calls for 2 per cent budget cuts in each year of the three-year budget plan.

Since the budget plan was approved, the impact of the global financial crisis and associated impact on financial markets has significantly worsened our financial situation. Preliminary year-to-date results as of the end of September for the pension plan and endowment funds show losses of about 10 per cent. This represents losses of approximately $30 million to our endowment funds and $130 million to our pension funds. The October results are not available though we anticipate them to be worse.

Employer’s current salary increase offer to CUPE Local 3903

  • Offering three-year contract
  • 9.25 per cnet increase over three years
  • Tuition protection for graduate students for term of the new collective agreement
  • Improvements in dental and vision care benefits
  • Improvements in paid leaves
  • Increases in various supplementary funds

Binding arbitration: an alternative to a strike if a settlement cannot be achieved

To eliminate any risk of a strike and the disruption it would cause for the University’s 50,000 students, the University continues to propose that the parties agree to binding arbitration by a neutral third party arbitrator to resolve all outstanding issues should the parties be unable to achieve a settlement prior to the strike deadline.

Under the Ontario Labour Relations Act, the parties may agree to refer all matters remaining in dispute between them to an impartial and independent arbitrator for final and binding determination and thereby avoid or end a strike. The union continues to reject the offer to use binding arbitration.