York initiates supervised vote on settlement offers in strike

York University issued the following media release on Friday, Jan. 9. It also issued a comprehensive set of FAQs backgrounding the decision.

In light of the refusal by the CUPE 3903 bargaining team to take the University’s last offer to their membership for a vote as requested two days ago, York University has requested that the minister of labour direct a supervised vote on the comprehensive offers for settlement made by the University on Jan. 7 to its employees represented by CUPE Local 3903.

At a meeting between the two parties today, CUPE 3903 did not bring forward any modifications to its existing positions, nor did it bring forward a counter-offer.

A separate vote will be required for each of the three bargaining units of CUPE 3903 which represent approximately 950 contract faculty, 1,850 teaching assistants and 550 graduate assistants. The votes will be conducted as soon as they can be arranged by the Ministry of Labour. A simple majority vote in favour of each contract offer would mean the end of the strike and have students back in class as quickly as possible.

“After five months of unsuccessful negotiations, we see this as a necessary step because it will give employees in each bargaining unit a chance to vote on our settlement offers, end this strike and get our students back to class,” said Alex Bilyk, spokesperson for the University.

Talks between the University and CUPE 3903 resumed on Jan. 3 and after five days of renewed bargaining the University tabled enhanced settlement offers for all three units. The total value of the University’s offer now stands at 10.7 per cent over three years. 

Bilyk said there are few options left to end the strike: “The union still has some 75 outstanding demands totalling 15.8 per cent over two years that would cost the University $9.9 million annually.” 

The union has previously refused to take all outstanding contract issues to binding arbitration, which would also end the strike.

The University has recently successfully negotiated three-year contracts with other campus unions, including CUPE 1356, which overwhelmingly ratified a three-year contract with a 9.25 per cent wage increase plus other contract improvements.

Under Ontario’s labour relations laws, employers can ask for a secret-ballot vote of union members on a contract offer. The vote is conducted and supervised by the Ministry of Labour, with the voting location and days allocated for voting to be decided by the Ministry of Labour, after input from both the employer and the union.

Full details of the University’s comprehensive offers for settlement can be found here or at the Negotiations Update page.

The University’s background FAQs describe the supervised vote process and summarize the offers for settlement.