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Support the Strike at York University

Support the Strike at York University

Starting Nov 6, 2008, CUPE 3903, the union representing contract faculty, teaching and research assistants at York University in Toronto, Canada, went on an all-out legal strike. Significant issues include wage increase corresponding with cost of living increase, funding guarantees for graduate students (who also form significant number of workers at York U), improved working conditions (which mean improved learning conditions for students), and job security for contract faculty (some of whom have been teaching for several years on a sessional basis, carrying 1.5-2 times the load of the permanent faculty at 50-75% of the cost for YorkU). Find a summary of all outstanding issues at http://cupe3903.tao.ca.

The issues are obviously significant for the workers at York University to strike over. Their significance goes beyond York U however. These are issues facing non-permanent teaching and research workers in all universities, who are estimated to carry 40-60% of the workload at low exploitative wages and benefits, in poor working conditions and without any job security. This is the reality of labour in higher education institutions functioning as for-profit corporations (as is York U) governed by BoDs composed of representatives of other corporations.

The significance of the current strike also goes beyond York U proper. CUPE 3903 has been one of the strongest unions in Canadian universities for many years, and for many years its collective agreement has been a precedence-setting document for other workers and locals in other universities. The last successful strike at York U in 2000 was followed by strikes at University of Toronto and Carlton University, where CUPE locals were able to refer to CUPE 3903 collective agreements to support their demands for comparable contracts. Although they did not make as many gains, it is now clear that a certain base-line has been established in Canadian higher education labour relations.

York U Administration has consistently tried to weaken CUPE 3903's collective agreement and erode the baseline. This is highly advantageous to other university administrations as they face their workers' unions in their negotiations. One of the current outstanding differences with York Admin is over the length of the collective agreement. The union is demanding 2 years which would allow it to negotiate in keeping with changing economic conditions and also to join in a province-wide University-sector union initiative to improve labour conditions and increase public funding and control of the universities set for 2010. York U Admin want to impose 3 years which would take CUPE 3903 out of this rank and lock the wages at way below CoL increases for a longer period of time.