After nine months, a labour pact at York

Strike-weary York University can look forward to at least two years of labour peace if teaching assistants and contract faculty approve a tentative deal reached this week, wrote the Toronto Star April 9.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3903, which shut down the sprawling campus this winter for three months in a strike largely over the growing use of part-time instructors, has reached a tentative three-year settlement with York with the help of a mediator appointed two months ago by Queen’s Park.

The union representing 3,400 contract professors, teaching assistants and graduate assistants announced yesterday on its Web site it was "pleased" to have reached a settlement with York after nine months of negotiations.

The contract would apply until September 2011.

The Ontario government legislated the union back to work in February after the longest university strike in English-speaking Canada, and handed the dispute to a mediator.

But for students facing another two months of school because of the extended school year, news of the agreement seemed anti-climactic.

"I hope both sides are happy but now that I’m back in class, they can take as long as they want to get a deal," said kinesiology student Catherine Divaris, who helped launch a Web site during the 85-day strike urging an end to the disruption.

"Because of the strike I’m in midterms in April instead of finals," said the fourth-year student, who has applied to law schools across the province, including York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. "The one good thing is, a three-year deal means there is no danger of another strike until at least 2011."  

  •  News of the negotiated settlement was unexpected, with most believing arbitration would be required, given the animosity that developed during the dispute, wrote The Globe and Mail April 9. Now it is up to union leaders to persuade members the deal is better than they would get in arbitration.

The strike, one of the longest on a Canadian campus, was brought to an end in February with back-to-work legislation, but the fallout is far from over. York undergraduates will be at school until June and York’s reputation has been battered, with applications from high-school students down 15 per cent.

Beyond York, the proposed three-year deal also represents a setback for plans by CUPE Ontario to gain more clout on campuses with coordinating bargaining in 2010, wrote the Globe. The York local is one of the most powerful on an Ontario campus and is a central player in this strategy. The group’s chief negotiator, Graham Potts, indicated yesterday that he was still behind the strategy. "We’ve achieved as much as is possible in one round of negotiation on a local level," he said in the union statement. "To make lasting positive changes, we’ll need to see a real provincial and federal commitment to postsecondary education."

University’s anniversary celebrated with a look back

York University has published a book on its history as part of the postsecondary institution’s 50th anniversary, wrote the North York Mirror April 8. York University: The Way Must Be Tried, was written and researched by Michiel Horn, professor emeritus of history at York University’s Glendon College. He was approached to pen the book in 2002 by former York president & vice-chancellor Lorna R. Marsden.

Horn did not immediately jump at the opportunity, as he had been a member of the University’s faculty since 1968 and felt there needed to be distance between the author and subject matter to write a history. But Horn was eventually persuaded by Marsden and the 315-page book was published [in time for] March 26, York’s official anniversary date.

"Writing about something when most of the people are still alive is tricky," he said. "But I’m glad I did it. I relied heavily on interviewing people who were there and how they reacted to situations. I had complete access to the University’s records and I was free to write about what I wanted.

"For the first three years of undertaking the book I was still teaching and I had research assistants," Horn said. "In 2005 it became a full-time job. I spoke to over 250 people and I wish I spoke to more.”

HIV legal policy needs debate

The Globe and Mail should support the call for a national dialogue on the criminalization of HIV-nondisclosure, wrote Eric Mykhalovskiy, sociology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, in a letter to The Globe and Mail April 9 responding to an editorial. Criminalizing nondisclosure may create the appearance the state is doing something concrete about sexual transmission of HIV, he wrote. But there are difficult issues at stake, far more complex than those arising out of the Johnson Aziga case.

A few places to start: how to set parameters for a criminal law, given new research showing the possibility of transmitting HIV is dramatically reduced when treatments are used; how to update criminal justice to reflect that HIV is no longer the immediate death sentence it was when the legal obligation to disclose HIV was set; how to make sense of sentences for HIV nondisclosure that have been up to 10 times longer than those for other sexual assault convictions; and, yes, how to consider what the broad and long-term impact of criminalization will be on public-health strategies for HIV prevention.

Hear music without borders

Prevedoros, Golden and Joy is a recently formed trio of veteran musicians whose groundbreaking sound produces the essence of music without borders, wrote BC’s Comox Valley Record April 7 in a story about an upcoming concert titled Music Without Borders. Award-winning guitarist Brad Prevedoros, percussion master Niel Golden (BA ’77) and acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Greg Joy create an exotic, unique synthesis including eastern, Latin jazz, African, pan-Asian and Celtic folk influences. Together, they create music that is grounded in many traditions and yet brand new.

Golden has been a world music pioneer since graduating from York University’s Faculty of Fine Arst in ethnomusicology and tabla studies with Bob Becker of the renowned percussion ensemble, Nexus. Golden later became a disciple of tabla master Pandit Sharda Sahai.

Golden’s tabla playing has grounded numerous world music ensembles, including Juno-nominated Djole. This year he released his debut solo CD, It’s a Journey, to critical praise for its brilliant marriage of Brazilian, Celtic, blues and classical Indian influences. It has been nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award.

Are these Chrysler’s last days in Canada?

Are these the last days of Chrysler manufacturing operations in Canada? asked the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal April 9. Other elements of this drama are that Germany’s Daimler AG still owns a 20 per cent stake in Chrysler and has a say in what goes down, and Fiat, whose CEO Sergio Marchionne (LLB ’83), like Tom LaSorda, is an alumnus of the University of Windsor (as well as the U of T and York’s Osgoode Hall Law School), and holds dual Canadian and Italian citizenship, has reportedly made deep labour concessions a condition of entering a merger partnership with Chrysler.

Still images released in TTC assault case

Police have now released still images of two suspects in a March 14 assault on a TTC bus driver at York University’s Keele campus, wrote the North York Mirror April 8. Police had previously released security video.

The 53-year-old bus driver required stitches after being assaulted at the campus’s bus loop. The assault stemmed from a fare dispute. The suspects are black, in their late teens or early 20s, five-foot nine-inches tall. One is 180 pounds with a medium build. He wore a brown coat with brown leather sleeves, a grey shirt with a hood, blue jeans, white shoes and a dark toque with "NY" on the front. The other is 170 pounds with a thin build. He wore a white shirt, black shoes, a grey coat, blue jeans and a Blue Jays cap. Anyone with information is asked to call police at 416-808-3104 or Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS (8477).