Graduate student workers at York University have reached a tentative agreement with their employer and the union is hailing the deal as a “historic victory.”
The 3,700 members of CUPE Local 3903 have been on strike since March 3. Over the course of the strike, the membership voted down previous offers proposed by the administration. Their concerns centred around two main issues: (1) they wanted graduate student funding levels indexed to tuition for all current and future students so that funding levels would increase proportionally with the cost of tuition, and (2) they wanted recognition of LGBTQ as an employment equity category.
“Our members have won a truly historic deal,” said CUPE 3903 Chair Faiz Ahmed in a press release. “For the first time in a collective agreement, we have directly negotiated a freeze and a reduction of tuition fees, putting pressure on universities everywhere to follow suit. And we struck a major blow against differential fees for international students, who have been exploited by Ontario universities to make up for shortfalls in provincial funding.”
According to the union, the York administration has agreed to tuition offset language, indexed to 2012 rates. If tuition fees for domestic or international students rise above 2012 rates — which are the same as the 2005 rates — the University will increase funding for all current and future students to offset the increase.
Significantly, this also means that the international students will receive increased funding equal to the amount of the recent international student fee increases.
The employer has agreed to pay all Unit 1 (teaching assistant) and Unit 3 (graduate assistant) members 100 per cent back pay for the time on strike.
The union is now organizing a ratification vote to take place as soon as possible. Picket lines will remain in force until the end of the vote
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.