Labour update: York University requests a supervised vote

Vari Hall at night
Vari Hall at night

The following labour update was sent to the York University community on March 27.

Since negotiations began in September 2017, the University has been consistent about the principles that guide our decisions. We have made every effort to reach a fair and equitable agreement with CUPE 3903 while preserving and protecting:

  • academic excellence;
  • student success; and
  • the vitally important role of open searches for full-time tenure stream faculty.

We understand the pressures members of our community are facing

We value the people who are members of CUPE 3903, who are our students and colleagues. We have heard from many of them who wish to get back to their work and learning environment.

Our 50,000 undergraduate students want to get back to finish the school year so they can keep their plans – graduation, summer jobs, family responsibilities and travel for those going home or abroad.

Many have expressed concern about tensions and divisions among community members, both on and off the picket line. The University has a responsibility to support all members of our community in spite of competing interests and areas of disagreement.

Why are we asking for a supervised vote?

CUPE 3903’s strike has entered its fourth week. Unfortunately, we remain far apart on wages as well as the non-monetary issues that are fundamental to the academic success of our students, researchers and educators, today and in the future. The significant distance separating us was reinforced by another communication from CUPE 3903 on Monday, March 26 urging continued negotiations. We were disappointed that it offered no new ideas or proposals to bridge the gap between us on the key outstanding issues.

For the benefit of all members of our community, the University needs to pursue all avenues to end the strike. It is unacceptable to allow more time to pass without trying every available option to end the strike.

So, on March 27, we requested a supervised vote to allow all 3,100 members of CUPE 3903 to have a say on whether to accept our offers.

About 25 per cent of the total membership in the three CUPE 3903 units voted on the offer we presented on March 1. With the stakes so high, we feel it is important that every member now has the opportunity to cast his or her ballot on the enhanced offer we tabled on March 20.

This is why we have now asked the Ontario Ministry of Labour for a supervised vote.

What is a supervised vote?

A supervised vote is a process managed by the Ministry of Labour that provides every member of CUPE 3903 the opportunity to vote using a secret ballot. A supervised vote can only be requested once.

When could this happen?

We made our request for a supervised vote to the minister of labour on March 27. It usually takes eight to 10 days from the time the request is received to conduct the vote.

We have asked the minister to use an electronic/online voting system to make the process easy and accessible for every employee. More details will be provided regarding the supervised vote as soon as they become available.

What are the issues?

We have offered CUPE 3903 the best pay and benefits package of any university in Ontario, but there are two key non-monetary issues on which we can’t compromise:

  1. The number of tenure stream positions that will be given to CUPE 3903 members without an open search: York is committed to the principle that in all but exceptional cases, full-time tenure stream appointments must be made through open searches as they are at all other Canadian universities. To balance this principle with CUPE 3903’s interests, York is offering six tenure stream positions for contract faculty over the life of the new collective agreement. This is being done through the conversion program, which is unprecedented in the country. York’s offer also enhances other job security features, including more long service teaching appointments and new special renewable contracts (subject to approval of YUFA).
  1. No work requirement tied to graduate student funding: We won’t agree to a proposal that would require our graduate students to do non-academic work simply to receive their funding package. Our graduate students strongly support our fellowship model. We stand by this approach as vital to student success and academic excellence.

CUPE 3903 wants to negotiate imposing a work requirement for master’s students, which we have told the union has no place as a strike issue. CUPE 3903 does not represent students who receive the York fellowship and who are not employed by the University. Therefore, it is out of the scope of these negotiations. We have, however, provided enhancements for CUPE 3903 Unit 3 members.

What are we offering CUPE 3903 to settle the strike?

Our offers for each of the three bargaining units provide substantial increases in many benefits and provide market-leading wage increases of 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3 per cent to ensure the collective agreements continue to lead the province in total compensation and job security programs. You can read the details of our most current offer:

A negotiated settlement is still possible

The offer that the University has made represents the best of its kind in Ontario, leading in total compensation and including unique job security provisions.

We have also offered interest arbitration on matters where we disagree as the best way to reach a fair settlement. Holding a supervised vote does not prevent arbitration from happening. Nor does it prevent CUPE 3903 from presenting a counter-offer that provides a realistic possibility of settlement by responding to the concerns we have raised about the principles needed to ensure student success and academic excellence.