Action on York strike demanded

They came in the wind. They came in the cold. They came holding signs, wearing garlands of gold. Dozens of York University students dressed in Santa hats held a Grinch-themed demonstration outside Queen’s Park yesterday, demanding government intervention in ending the 28-day strike by teaching assistants and contract faculty, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 3 in a story that featured student comments on the strike.

If we lose our summer (because of this strike) we won’t be able to get jobs and internships. And what really sucks is I was going to apply for a lot of jobs over Christmas, but when you tell them you’re a York student they’re like, "Well, when are you going to finish? When are you going to be able to work?" We can’t even apply for a lot of jobs very easily right now.
Lyndon Koopmans, 18
First year, business

I would have gone to another school had I known they were going to use me in the middle of their dispute. I never agreed to this. I’ll probably end up switching to U of T as a result of this. I come from a family of eight children, so the money I make in the summer is the money I have to rely on throughout the year. Not being able to do that (because of an elongated school year) is ridiculous.
Natalie Ferraro, 20
First year, French Studies

I’ve mostly been watching old Christmas movies and making giant books for rallies. I just want to graduate on time so I can apply to teacher’s college. I even applied to York. I love York, and I’ve wanted to go (there) since day one. The professors are amazing, the teaching assistants are amazing – it’s just the politics that aren’t.
Christina Chewchuk, 22
Fifth year, Science

I’ve been writing an essay that would have been due on Friday, and organizing these rallies has consumed my life. It’s the best stress reliever ever. I’m lucky because I live at home, but a lot of the international students have leases expiring even though their visas are extended. So if they’re going to be in school past May they’re going to have to find somewhere to live.
Catherine Divaris, 22
Fifth year, Kinesiology

I’ve been doing absolutely nothing. Here’s the thing: You can do the assignments, but no one knows what’s going to happen with them. It’s infuriating. I’ve been working on other stuff instead. I’m trying to get a band together. I need a drummer and a bassist, but you don’t have to print that.
Neil Shukla, 21
Fourth year, Public Policy and Management

  • Pressures are building on the Ontario government to bring in back-to-work legislation to end a strike that has idled classes at York University since Nov. 6, wrote the Star in a story that accompanied the students’ comments. Students protested at Queen’s Park yesterday and a Progressive Conservative MPP introduced a private member’s bill to order 3,400 teaching assistants and contract faculty back to the classroom.

"It’s been far too long for York students," said MPP Peter Shurman (Thornhill), whose bill would impose a legislated settlement on members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3903. Shurman slammed the government for "inaction" and called on Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities John Milloy to help students by "salvaging what’s left of their academic year".

Private member’s bills are rarely passed. Shurman said his bill did not specify any settlement details.

Milloy and Minister of Labour Peter Fonseca brushed aside the push for back-to-work legislation, which would lead to an arbitrator settling the contract dispute. "I appreciate the frustration," Milloy said. "We continue to call on both sides to put the interests of students first."

While a labour ministry mediator has been assisting with the talks, negotiations broke off over the weekend because the University and the union were too far apart. The University has said it has offered a 9.25 per cent wage increase over three years plus benefit improvements and increased job security, but can afford no more.

Teaching assistants say that’s not enough. "I can barely pay my rent," said Tyler Shipley, a doctoral student in political science who also works as a teaching assistant. "It’s tough for us."

Fonseca said the ministry prefers to let both sides hammer out a deal. "The best agreement is one that’s struck at the table."

  • Talks have broken off between York University administrators and the union representing 3,300 contract faculty, teaching assistants and graduate assistants after coming back to the bargaining table with a provincial mediator for three days late last week, wrote Dec. 2. Greg Long, the mediator from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, released a statement on Monday saying, "The parties remain far apart on the key issues in this dispute and that a settlement is not close in hand. Therefore, there are no further negotiations scheduled at this time."

Both sides were asked by the mediator to review their respective positions in hopes of returning to the bargaining table when a "reasonable prospect for settlement exists". But the University has questioned whether members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3903 really want to end the strike as they planned for another rally planned for Wednesday while negotiations were underway.

Punam Khosla, a member of CUPE Local 3903, confirmed a rally has been scheduled downtown at 900 Bay St., starting at 1 pm with other union locals, faculty and students expected to attend to give their support.

While some progress was made last week, union representatives maintained the University negotiators haven’t addressed the main issues such as job security for contract faculty and subsistence wages adequate for the cost of living in Toronto. "We are indispensable educators at York and we’re asking for peanuts relative to the University budget," said Rafeef Ziadah, union spokesperson, noting their members do more than half the classroom teaching at York but only represent 7.5 per cent of the University’s annual budget.

The York Federation of Students (YFS) is offering a solution to end the strike by calling upon the University to immediately allocate a portion of the more than $160 million raised in the York to the Power of 50 fundraising campaign. "We understand the need to celebrate the University’s 50th anniversary but during these tough times it’s more important to get 50,000 undergraduate students back into the classroom," said Hamid Osman, YFS president. "The University must prioritize its students over an anniversary party with specially branded York wine bottles and balloons."

  • Bob Hanke doesn’t earn a six-figure salary like many other professors, wrote The Toronto Sun Dec. 3. Last year, the York University professor earned just under $14,000 for one full-year course he taught. It was an all-time low in his 21-years of teaching, eight of which were spent in York’s communications studies program. "I didn’t have enough insurable hours to become eligible for any unemployment benefits for (the summer)," said Hanke. "It’s deplorable. I am getting less and less work, but my experience is expanding more and more."

Hanke, 50, a member of CUPE 3903, is one of the contract faculty striking for job security, wages and benefits. "My benefits only covered one eye lens for my new glasses," he said. "Every semester I have to re-apply for teaching positions and it’s not certain how many courses I will get so I apply to everything," said Hanke.

Competition has increased, he said, because more contract staff were hired to accommodate a surge in enrolment. For one full-year course, contract faculty earn $13,838. A half-year course pays $6,919.

Contract staff can teach as many as five full-year and one half-year courses, compared to tenured faculty who only teach a maximum of two full-year and one half-year courses in a year. Tenured professors earn about $90,000 or more annually, said Hanke. "I have shown my commitment to York and now…I’m waiting for them to commit to me," said Hanke.

York would like to promote more faculty to a full-time status but is under pressure to keep costs down, said Robert Drummond, dean of York’s Faculty of Arts.

  • Catherine Divaris feels Grinched, wrote the Sarnia Observer Dec. 3. Divaris was one of about 50 York University students with coal in hands and Santa hats on their heads at Queen’s Park yesterday asking the province to instate back-to-work legislation after teaching assistants and other staff have been on strike for four weeks.

"We want the premier to know we’re serious – this is so frustrating," said Divaris who helped organize the rally. "It’s our education that’s being toyed with here and we need the province to step in and help the students."

MPP Peter Shurman was at the rally and said he plans to implement a private member’s bill for back-to-work legislation. "If the Grinch is going to steal Christmas he’s not going to do it through you," said Shurman to the students.

"I’m just trying to graduate," said Christina Chewchuk, a 5th-year science and history student. "We just want to get back to class."

Harper shot himself in the foot, York prof says

Prime Minister Stephen Harper only has himself to blame as he watches the opposition parties conspire to topple his new government, according to a York University political science professor, wrote Dec. 2.

The Oct. 14 election saw voters send Harper back to Ottawa with a strengthened minority government that included a message to work with the other parties to make the national political process work, said Robert MacDermid, professor in York’s Faculty of Arts. Instead, he has ruled as if he had a majority, taking just a scant seven weeks in power to try to ram through an extremely partisan agenda, said MacDermid, an expert on Canadian government and politics.

MacDermid said Harper made an "appallingly" poor calculation by thinking the opposition parties would do no more than grumble about the Conservative policies. "Which is surprising because everybody has been saying he is so smart (at strategizing),” said MacDermid. “They (the opposition parties) feel Harper is over the top in terms of partisanship but it is in (Harper’s) character."

While a coalition government made up of the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois would be unusual, MacDermid argues it would be legal and democratic. He argued former Conservative prime minister Robert Borden formed a Union government in 1917 with a cabinet made up of Conservative, Liberal, independent and Labour MPs to address a conscription crisis during the First World War.

Osgoode prof’s site makes US top-100 lawyers’ blog list

Moderated by Simon Fodden, professor emeritus at Osgoode Hall Law School, Slaw was started largely for the legal research and IT community in Canada, but it may soon transcend its tech designation, wrote the American Bar Association Journal Dec. 1 in a notation about a blog Fodden created and which was named among the top 100 blogs written by lawyers for lawyers in 2008.

The name Slaw was chosen in deference to Salon and Slate and “the notion that a cooperative Web log with many contributors is bound to consist of a great many (nutritious) small pieces in rather a jumble.” Despite its Canadian emphasis, Slaw’s topics are technologically universal and insightful. [The Journal named Slaw as a top blog in the category] “Plugged In” – blogs which are tech-savvy and with a high threshold for the pain that comes with change. These pioneers make it both hobby and practice to play with technology and then share their successes and failures, wrote the Journal.

Rogers’ career began while he studied at Osgoode

While still a student at Osgoode Hall Law School, Ted Rogers (LLB ’60) buys all the shares in local radio station (CHFI), a pioneer in use of FM (frequency modulation) at a time when only five per cent of Toronto households had FM receivers, wrote the National Post Dec. 3 in a timeline of Rogers’ career following his death Dec. 1.

  • His business card read, "Ted Rogers, Senior Salesperson," wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 3. It could have easily said, Electronic Visionary, Sleepless CEO or Relentless Entrepreneur, for Rogers, with his trademark determination, became Canada’s most successful businessman, transforming his name into a nationwide brand that signified digital television, high-speed internet, cellular telephones and Major League Baseball. He graduated with a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.

Schulich grad attacks conventional auto industry logic

If you’re going to make a claim to York grad John Cappella (BBA Spec. Hons. ’99, MBA ’04), you’d better have the facts to back it up, wrote Strategy Dec. 1 in a story about the recently named Marketer of the Year. "He never takes an answer for granted," says Joe Lawrence, sales director at BMW Canada. "There’s a lot of conventional thinking in the auto industry, and John tries to attack that and put some logic behind what he’s doing."

Cappella’s thoughtful nature has led him to take an integrated approach and explore uncharted territory in an effort to maintain BMW as the number one luxury automotive brand in Canada – as well as improve sales despite a tough economy and even tougher competition.

Cappella has been working for BMW since he graduated from York’s Schulich School of Business in 1999. Last January, he left the position of brand communications manager to become regional manager, central region, overseeing sales and marketing for Ontario, but not before leaving his mark on the national level.

Schulich team studied listeriosis case in competition

Teams of MBA students from across Canada, including a team from York University, went head to head in a bid to win the national Schulich/Tata Cup Sustainability Case Competition, late last month, wrote The North York Mirror Dec. 2.

This year, the case centred on Maple Leaf Foods, which made headlines when an outbreak of listeriosis was traced back to its North York processing facilities. Teams presented their case analyses of real-life business cases to a panel of judges. Teams were from seven business schools, including the Schulich School of Business at York University.

Suburban arts discussed at Scarborough meeting

Cristina Matei is a graphic design student at York University who lives in Scarborough, wrote the Scarborough Mirror Dec. 2 in a story about a forum and discussion about promoting Scarborough as the next big thing in art. She came to hear what the panel and others thought about the Scarborough art scene. "I’d like to be a part of connecting people," Matei said. She has a lot of artistic friends. "We try to get involved with a lot of activities, but most of them are downtown," she said.