When the Ontario NDP voted against the back-to-work legislation that would put an end to the strike at Toronto’s York University and bring students and strikers back into the classrooms, I was surprised to see that this royally pissed off a lot of people.
Yes, the strike goes on.
Yes, students are being highly ripped off of their money, time and education.
But a back-to-work legislation is just not the solution to a 12-week long labour dispute that has gone nowhere after much bargaining on CUPE 3903’s part and no budge on York’s part. The university has foully engineered the entire collective bargaining process by riding it out until Premier Dalton McGuinty force the workers back to work.
And they almost got their way. Sixty-five MPPs, Liberals and Conservatives, voted in favour of the back-to-work legislation. Eight New Democrat MPPs said they weren’t going to approve of such a thing and they did the right thing.
Because, the real problem here is not that students have been out of school for too many weeks. The real problem is that the Ontario Liberal government has been under funding post-secondary education to the point where a situation like this has blown up in their faces. The real problem is that workers have historically been shoved in the back seat, driven by corporations that have looked out for anything but their interests.
Implementing a back-to-work legislation would be like concealing a visible rash with makeup. It looks good, but it doesn’t fix those real problems.
Besides, does a back-to-work legislation really do any good? The TAs, graduate assistants and contract faculty are going to be forced back to work under such sour circumstances; no doubt with bitter feelings towards the very institution they’re working for. As a student, I would rather have a TA who fights to raise her below-poverty wages than one who despises her job so much it shows in her teaching.
So no, I don’t think the Ontario NDPs have turned their backs on those 50,000 students. It seems that way, but the decision to reject the legislation is the right step in ensuring a long-term solution is met, one where education is given more of a priority by the province, making major labour disputes like these crop up less and less.
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