Two of three bargaining units still on strike at York University

Flickr; Fight Back/La Riposte

Some students were asked to cross the picket line today as classes resumed in five departments on York campus.

The University's Deans and Provost met yesterday to determine which faculties, if any, would resume holding classes. They determined that five schools, including Engineering, Administration, Nursing, Human Resources and the School of Business would reopen despite the ongoing strike.

The decision was made on Tuesday, responding to the results of Monday's ratification vote in which two-thirds of striking York University workers voted to reject the administration's latest offer and remain on strike.

Teaching assistants, instructors and sessional staff had been on strike since March 3, after the CUPE 3903 membership voted to reject the final contract proposed by the university's administration, demanding better language on tuition protection, better funding for Graduate and Research Assistants, and significant moves toward job security for contract faculty.

With the help of a mediator, the two parties continued to negotiate during the first week of the strike. On Friday March 6, the bargaining committees reached a tentative agreement, which the union's executive committee then recommended to the membership for ratification.

Almost 1,300 members of CUPE 3903 participated in the ratification vote on Monday night to decide whether or not the union would accept the proposed contract. Like many university unions, CUPE 3903 is a composite local made up of three distinct units, each of which voted separately on the proposed contract.

Unit 1, which represents Teaching Assistants voted 59 per cent to reject the Employer's latest offer, while Unit 3, representing Graduate and Research Assistants rejected it by 77 per cent. Both units remain on strike while Unit 2, which represents Contract Faculty, ratified the agreement, with 65 per cent voting to accept it.

Until this point, all classes had been cancelled at York. It would have been hard to hold classes while all three units were on strike, given that graduate students and contract faculty teach over 60 per cent of York's undergraduate classes.

The York University Faculty Association (YUFA) president Richard Wellen told CP24 reporters on Tuesday that things would get very messy if classes are resumed, given that teaching assistants will still be on strike and some undergraduate students will choose not to cross the picket lines.

Because contract faculty are no longer in a legal strike position, they will be required to return to work but the union has advised them not to take on any of the work load that would be performed by the Unit 1 and 3 members who remain on strike.  

According to the University's Senate policy, students cannot be forced to cross picket lines to attend classes. Go Transit and TTC buses are refusing to cross the picket line.

Ella Bedard is rabble.ca's labour intern and an associate editor at GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine. She has written about labour issues for Dominion.ca and the Halifax Media Co-op and is the co-producer of the radio documentary The Amelie: Canadian Refugee Policy and the Story of the 1987 Boat People.

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