York says latest offer improves benefits, job security

The union representing striking York University workers is not impressed with a new offer made by the administration and does not plan to even bring it to a vote, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 8.

"We thought we had made progress in talks but this offer is a step back," said Tyler Shipley, spokesperson for CUPE 3903. "We are going to keep at (negotiations) till we are happy."

Yesterday afternoon, York officials made public a three-year offer they say provides 10.7 per cent more in overall wages and benefits than previous offers, through improved child care and professional development, for example. The offer also provides more full-time faculty positions and links future benefits to the growing ranks of employees.

"Time is of the essence, so we’re trying to negotiate a settlement by taking leadership and trying to find an expeditious way to solve this dispute," said York spokesperson Alex Bilyk, director of media relations.

Bilyk said York’s newest offer carries a total dollar value that is 10.7 per cent more over three years in wages and benefits – up from 10 per cent – but has the same 9.25 per cent hike in wages as previous offers.

He said York has sweetened the pot through richer benefits and job security, citing the offer of creating 22 new full-time faculty positions, which Bilyk said would help address union concerns over job security for contract faculty. It also includes a 5 per cent increase in funding for graduate teaching assistants and indexing of funds so they grow along with the booming ranks of employees.

Shipley said the offer is better than before but not significantly. He said three contentious issues remain largely unresolved. The union is seeking a five-year teaching contract for its faculty as opposed to the eight-month contracts they have right now. "We are looking for a situation where folks can be teaching for five years. We are nowhere around there right now," he said.

Another demand is for increased funding – pay and scholarships – for graduate students.

CUPE 3903 also wants a two-year deal that will expire in 2010 along with those of CUPE locals at other Ontario universities, which would bolster the union’s bargaining clout across the province.

Talks resume tomorrow between York and the union representing 3,340 teaching assistants, contract faculty and graduate assistants.

The union will table the proposal at a membership meeting today to get feedback. "We’re expecting that members will not be satisfied with the offer," said Shipley, dismissing any chances of a vote on it. "We are disappointed that York has decided to tell (the public) about this offer, which is not substantial."

Meanwhile, a grassroots student group formed to push for an end to the strike welcomed the offer last night and called on CUPE members to give it serious consideration.

"It looks like York has made a serious and comprehensive offer aimed at ending the strike," said business student Lyndon Koopmans, a co-founder of the online group YorkNotHostage.com.

"We are not going to say whether the offer is good or bad for the union. However, we want the union to think very carefully about the strike’s devastating impact on students before they decide how to respond. It would be wrong for the union to turn down this offer just because they think they can get more."

The student group will hold a news conference today to urge an end to the strike.

  • After five days of negotiations, York University offered striking workers a settlement of 10.7 per cent over three years, wrote The Canadian Press Jan. 8.

The University has asked Local 3903 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees to present the offer for a ratification vote among its 3,400 striking graduate assistants, contract faculty and teaching assistants.

The new deal includes a wage increase, enhanced job security for contract faculty through 22 new full-time faculty positions, tuition protection for the full term of the new agreement, and increased in minimum guaranteed funding for graduate teaching assistants.

"I think it’s a little premature," said Tyler Shipley, spokesperson for CUPE 3903. "It’s been encouraging over the past five days, we’ve made some progress on some issues…but there are definitely some areas that we need to hammer out a bit more."

Since Nov. 6, the strike has turned the University into a ghost town and has affected nearly 50,000 students. The workers have been without a contract since Aug. 31.

  • In a bid to end the two-month strike at York University, the school yesterday offered a new package to the union that includes a 10.7 per cent increase in wages and other benefits over three years, wrote The Toronto Sun Jan. 8. The offer also includes "enhanced job security for contract faculty through 22 new full-time faculty positions," the University said in a statement yesterday.
  • Tyler Shipley, CUPE 3903 spokesperson, talked about the University’s latest contract offer on CityTV and CHFI-FM Radio Jan. 7.
  • Mark Santos, York student, and Hamid Osman, president of the York Federation on Students, spoke about the strike by CUPE 3903 on CBC Radio (Ottawa) Jan. 7. Osman also spoke on Global TV Jan. 7.

Axelrod’s question for Sid Ryan

Paul Axelrod, professor in York’s Faculty of Education, in a letter to The Globe and Mail Jan. 8, wrote: A question for Sid Ryan, Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, regarding his call for Canadian universities to boycott academics from Israel who refuse to denounce the policies of the Israeli government: Would this apply to everyone, including Muslims and Christians and the religiously non-affiliated from Israel, or just Jews? If the former, his proposal is xenophobic; if the latter, it is anti-Semitic. In either case, its implementation would poison the academic culture of any university that adopts it.

Duo makes sweet sounds from a sax and an accordion

Erosonic wants to make the "familiar unfamiliar, and the unfamiliar, familiar," wrote The Sudbury Star Jan. 8. That’s the message York music Professor David Mott of the Faculty of Fine Arts – one member of the unlikely duo – left on The Sudbury’s Star‘s answering machine Wednesday after a morning telephone interview from his home in Toronto.

Erosonic is a collaboration between Mott, on baritone saxophone, and Joseph Petric on accordion. "It’s totally unlikely. I don’t think there are any other ensembles like this in the world. There was a Dutch duo, for awhile, with bass clarinet and accordion," Mott said. "But I don’t think there’s ever been one with accordion and baritone saxophone."

The accordion and the baritone saxophone are two seemingly mismatched instruments. Yet Mott argues they are sympathetic instruments. "It’s actually an amazing sound because of the reeds," said Mott. "Of course, the accordion is all metal reeds inside the instrument and the bamboo reed, from the sound of the baritone, really work very, very well together."

Mott, who teaches at York University, is a performer known for his improvisation skills, as well as circular breathing and multiphonics techniques. He’s also a composer who writes for solo performers, ensembles and choral groups.

Law grad defended Jehovah’s Witness clients in Quebec

A criminal lawyer and a Jehovah’s Witness, Glen How successfully argued landmark cases at the Supreme Court of Canada defending civil and religious liberties, wrote The Globe and Mail Dec.31 in an obituary.

Between 1946 and 1953, Jehovah’s Witnesses were involved in more than 1,500 criminal prosecutions ranging from disturbing the peace to sedition in Quebec, where Roman Catholic premier Maurice Duplessis had declared “a war without mercy against the Witnesses of Jehovah". Thirty years before the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, How was the lawyer who challenged many of these charges on the grounds that they violated basic rights to freedom of speech, religion and association.

How was educated at the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School. He became a Jehovah’s Witness in 1941, two years before he was called to the bar in Ontario and began his long practice as general counsel of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Glen How was born March 25, 1919, in Montreal. He died Dec. 30, 2008, of pneumonia in Georgetown, Ont. He was 89, and suffered from prostate cancer.

On air

  • Michael Larsen, researcher at the York Centre for International & Security Studies, spoke about calls for the closure of the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre on CBC Radio (Ottawa) Jan. 7.