Mediator suspends talks in CUPE 3903 strike

York University issued the following media release on Saturday. It also issued a new Negotiations Update with further details.

TORONTO, Nov. 29, 2008 – As the mediator suspended talks on the evening of Saturday, Nov. 29, York University officials expressed deep disappointment that the union representing its teaching assistants, graduate assistants and contract faculty is content to let the strike drag on indefinitely.

“The University entered the negotiations to reach a settlement and get our students back to class. But with the union’s monetary demands still at the 28 per cent mark over two years, the union is clearly not ready to settle at this time. It’s so disappointing and frustrating for our 50,000 students,” said Alex Bilyk, spokesperson for the University.

Even as talks continued, CUPE 3903 was asking its members to attend a strike rally on Wednesday, Dec. 3 at Queen’s Park to demand an end to the “casualization of education workers".

“I fear our 50,000 students are being held hostage by a union more interested in planning rallies and promoting confrontation with the province than reaching a settlement  here at York University that will end this strike and get our students back to class,” said Bilyk.

“We understood that CUPE 3903 had a new framework to reach a settlement, but in the end their monetary demands were 28 per cent over two years with more than 120 proposals still on the table. Their demands are not realistic and they are not affordable, especially in a worsening economy,“ Bilyk said.

The University entered the latest round of talks in order to reach a settlement and get its 50,000 students back to the classroom. On top of a 9.25 per cent wage increase over three years, the University proposed:

  • fund increases and indexation to future membership growth
  • long-term full-time teaching appointments
  • benefits and post-retirement benefit improvements

University officials pointed to several settlement trends:

  • Provincial teacher and support staff unions (including CUPE unions) that have settled for three per cent annual salary increases in multi-year contracts
  • York University’s CUPE 1356 which settled in early November for a 9.25 per cent salary increase over three years
  • Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) settled last week for a 6.5 per cent increase over four years.

“Clearly the University is being fair and realistic with a total offer of 10 per cent over three years “ Bilyk said.

When talks were suspended, CUPE 3903 was demanding monetary increases totalling 28 per cent as part of a shopping list of over 120 outstanding demands including:

  • significant increases in levels of minimum guaranteed funding and graduate financial assistance
  • substantial increases in collective agreement funds of over $800,000 annually including a 400+ per cent increase in childcare subsidies
  • appointment of all members of a specified pool of long-service contract faculty to full-time faculty Special Renewable Contracts (SRCs)
  • the right not to use electronic formats for student evaluations and grade submissions.

York officials said there are very few choices left.

“The union either brings some realistic and affordable proposals back to the table, or they agree to independent binding arbitration. One way or the other, the primary goal must be to get our 50,000 students back to the classroom, as soon as possible,” Bilyk said.

For further details, see York’s latest Negotiations Update.