York University disappointed with vote to reject contract offers

The following statement from York University was released on Monday, April 9:

York University is deeply disappointed with the vote by members of CUPE 3903 in Units 1, 2 and 3 to reject the University’s contract offers that improve upon contracts which already lead in total compensation, benefits and job security provisions in Ontario.

York University is willing to return to bargaining anytime CUPE 3903 provides realistic proposals

Based on the results of the vote, the University is currently reviewing next steps, which include speaking to the government to propose options that would bring the two parties together to end the strike.

The University has been consistent. York provided a sector-leading offer before the strike began and improved that offer on March 20. Yet five weeks into this strike, CUPE 3903 continues to maintain positions and proposals that are unreasonable including wage increases of 3.5 per cent a year, proposals to limit academic excellence and more than 30 other demands. The Union’s position does not provide any basis for settlement.

For the sake of students and the community, York University remains willing to bargain. It is still not too late to save the winter and summer terms. The University asks once again, for CUPE 3903 to come forward with realistic proposals that provide a possibility of settlement and responds to the concerns that have been raised about protecting core academic principles.

York University remains committed to reaching a fair collective agreement

Since negotiations began in September 2017, the University has been consistent about the principles that guide decisions.

First and foremost, York University is committed to the collective bargaining process and has made every effort to reach a fair and equitable agreement with CUPE 3903. As evidence of that commitment, York University has offered a package that keeps CUPE 3903 with the leading total compensation among all Ontario universities. The University has asked for no concessions. The University has withdrawn most of its proposals.

Since the strike began on March 5, the University has added equity language, support funds and benefit enhancements in a further effort to address CUPE 3903’s concerns. York University reiterated its offer made since the beginning of negotiations to be bound by the decision of an independent third-party arbitrator on the areas where the parties most disagree. The University offered, as an alternative, to agree on the choice of a mediator who could make non-binding recommendations about how to move forward and end the strike. CUPE 3903 has rejected all these efforts and suggestions.

There are two key non-monetary issues on which the University cannot compromise and on which the University and the Union remain far apart:

  1. The number of tenure stream positions given to CUPE 3903 members without an open search.

York is committed to the principle that with rare exceptions, full-time tenure stream faculty must be appointed through open and collegial searches.

This is the process followed by all other Canadian universities. It is fundamental to academic excellence that searches be advertised and appointments made on the basis of the candidate with the highest qualifications for the position. This ensures that students have access to the best and most diverse faculty that York can attract.

  1. No work requirement tied to graduate student funding.

Students are students first. The University cannot agree to a proposal that requires graduate students to do non-academic work simply to receive their funding package. York University is committed to its Fellowship model for master’s students that provides funding to support students to focus on their studies and succeed in their programs.

Although currently more than half of York University’s courses continue to run despite the strike with exams or other evaluations occurring, the University is acutely aware that about 75 per cent of its students have had at least one of their courses suspended. Many students are worried about how they will finish their term so they can graduate, pursue employment or further studies, or travel home to their families.

As stated earlier, York University remains committed to the collective bargaining process and is willing to return to the bargaining table to reach renewed agreements. But to let that happen, the University still needs CUPE 3903 to come to the table with realistic proposals, that would allow both sides to be able to bargain successfully.

Interest arbitration could end this strike today

Since the first day of bargaining, York University has asked CUPE 3903 to refer key areas of disagreement to arbitration where an independent third party can make a binding decision fair to both parties.

If CUPE 3903 agrees, the strike can end immediately for everyone.