Will there be a strike?

York does not want a strike.

We believe that an agreement can be reached without any disruption to the school year and we are fully committed to doing this.

To avoid a strike, York is always prepared to have outstanding issues decided by an independent arbitrator who can make binding decisions on both parties. York is also prepared to use a mediator to assist in resolving outstanding negotiation issues.

When will we know for sure if there will be a strike?

There is a formal process that must be followed over a period of time before a strike can occur:

If negotiations become stalled, either side can ask the Ontario Minister of Labour to appoint a conciliator to assist the two parties in trying to reach a negotiated settlement.

If a negotiated settlement cannot be reached with the assistance of a conciliator, either side can request what is called a “no-board report.”

The union will be in a legal strike position 17 days after the no-board report is issued.

The union must also schedule a meeting of its members to ask for a strike vote. A positive strike vote doesn’t necessarily mean a strike will happen. It authorizes the union executive to take that action should they choose to do so.

Have there been strikes in the past and how have they affected the school year?

There have only been three strikes at York in the last 17 years. These occurred in 2000-2001, 2008-2009, and 2015.

In each of these cases, students were able to complete their academic year. York accommodated individual student needs and circumstances. We will do the same if a strike occurs in these negotiations.

What is CUPE 3903 and who do they represent?

CUPE stands for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

CUPE 3903 represents four distinct groups of employees at York called bargaining units.

Three of these bargaining units are involved in these negotiations:

  • Unit 1 represents about 1,900 teaching assistants who conduct tutorials and labs, teach courses and grade. Members of this unit must be graduate students pursuing full-time studies.
  • Unit 2 represents about 1,100 contract faculty who teach courses, conduct tutorials and labs and grade. Contract faculty do not hold full-time academic appointments.
  • Unit 3 represents about 130 graduate assistants who are employed by the university for administrative, clerical or research jobs that are generally not related to their degree.
  • Unit 4 representing about 15 part-time librarians and archivists completed negotiations for their first collective agreement with York in January 2017 and are not part of this negotiation.

What are contract negotiations all about?

All Ontario universities have unionized employees so collective agreement negotiations are a regular occurrence on university campuses.

We come together with our unions to negotiate salaries, benefits, working conditions and other issues when our collective agreements with them expire, which at York has typically been every three years.

We believe in the collective bargaining process and the value of unions.

York has 14 collective agreements with six unions.

Over the past 15 years, we negotiated 49 collective agreements, and 46 of these were achieved without a strike.

When does bargaining with CUPE 3903 begin?

The negotiating teams exchanged proposals on Monday, October 16, which included the details of what the two sides are seeking in the bargaining process. The negotiating teams have agreed to meet every Monday through November.

Is bargaining public?

It is not a standard practice to bargain in public.

However, CUPE 3903 has stated that all members of their bargaining units may attend.

We will provide a summary of each day’s negotiations on this site once bargaining starts.

Are you bargaining with other unions at York?

Yes. Negotiations are currently under way with the York University Staff Association (YUSA) Unit 2, representing part-time office, clerical, research, technical, and support staff. None of our other collective agreements at York expire until April 30th, 2018 or later.

In addition to CUPE 3903, we have collective agreements with:
Academic unions

  • York University Faculty Association (YUFA), which represents 1,450 full-time faculty and librarians.
  • Osgoode Hall Faculty Association (OHFA) representing about 52 full-time faculty in Osgoode Hall Law School. They are not represented by YUFA.
  • Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) 578 representing about 75 full-time and part-time English as a Second Language Instructors at the York University English Language Institute.

Non-academic unions

  • York University Staff Association representing about 1,400 full-time
    and  part-time clerical employees.
  • International Union of Operating Engineers representing about 16 operating engineers who run York’s power plant producing electricity and heat for the university.
  • CUPE 1356, with three bargaining units representing about 450 maintenance, grounds and trades employees.
  • CUPE 1356-1 representing about 40 security and parking lot employees.
  • CUPE 1356-2 representing undergraduate student employees supporting the GO SAFE program.

Where can I get information on what is happening?

You can receive email updates by providing your name and email address on the home page of this site. We will also post regular updates on this site.

What does York University want in the new contract?

We want to arrive at an agreement that respects the contribution that teaching assistants, contract faculty and graduate assistants make to our students’ education and success and to our collective vision, values and goals for this university.

Like all universities, York faces significant economic challenges. We must focus on long-term sustainability, taking the economic climate and fiscal realities into account in collective bargaining.

We need to balance a range of needs at the university, including high-quality student services, student financial assistance and improvements to campus infrastructure.

We fully support the collective bargaining process and want to reach a settlement without a strike.

York has 14 collective agreements with different unions. Over the past 15 years, we negotiated 49 collective agreements, and 46 of these were achieved without a strike.

We look forward to successfully reaching a renewed agreement with CUPE 3903 that ensures York continues to be in the strongest position to deliver the best possible learning experience for our students while supporting our outstanding teachers and researchers.

What is a concession?

It has recently been suggested that the University is seeking concessions in its contract negotiations with CUPE 3903. In collective bargaining, concessions are defined as changes that relinquish substantive contractual rights – generally wages and benefits. The York University bargaining proposals do not seek concessions.

Is York asking for concessions from the union?

No. In fact, we have said we will increase salaries in line with other Ontario universities. We are not asking for any changes in the benefits union members now enjoy.

We have made proposals in each of the three Collective Agreements we have with CUPE 3903.  Along with a wage increase, the University proposals are:

  • For Teaching Assistants (Unit 1), we are proposing to:
  1. Have job offers accepted or rejected within five days so they can be offered to other union members;
  2. Address a concern around funding by more evenly spreading funding payments across the calendar year, including the summer; and
  3. Make sure that students can communicate with their TAs by email and that technology is used where appropriate, including replacing the requirement to post paper copies of departmental and University meeting notices, so that we can rely on more effective and efficient electronic notices; and
  4. Adding forty (40) additional opportunities for Teaching Assistants to work as Course Directors, which keeps pace with the growth in the number of graduate students since the current number of available opportunities was established.
  • For Contract Faculty (Unit 2), we are proposing to:
  1. Have job offers accepted or rejected within five days for positions advertised late, so that others can be offered the job;
  2. Give student access to course evaluations, so they can make informed decisions;
  3. Make sure students can communicate with instructors through email and replace the requirement to post paper copies of departmental and University meeting notices so that we can rely on more effective and efficient electronic notices and
  4. Create new opportunities to provide access to longer term faculty positions, which will replace the expired language between the union and York.
  • For Graduate Assistants (Unit 3), we are proposing to:
  1. Have job offers accepted or rejected within five days for positions advertised late, so that others can be offered the job;
  2. Spread funding payments across the calendar year including the summer; and
  3. Replace the requirement to post paper copies of departmental and University meeting notices so that we can rely on more effective and efficient electronic notices.

Click here to review a summary of York’s current bargaining position. 

What accommodations does York make for employees or students who need to breast feed their children while on campus?

Equity and inclusivity are core values at York. York fully supports and follows the Ontario Human Rights Code requirements for breast feeding accommodations for members of our university community who need to breast feed their child at work or continuing their education at York.

There are several options available on campus to accommodate breast feeding.
Arrangements can be made at one of the two on-campus day care centres funded by the university at Lee Wiggins in the Student Centre and York University Cooperative Day Care Centre on Atkinson Road. Arrangements can also be made in the Centre for Human

Any employee or student who requires accommodation can make arrangements on a case-by- case basis.

We would ask that anyone who needs breast feeding accommodation to reach out to York’s Centre for Human Rights, to learn more about the resources available.

How is York prioritizing financial support for teaching assistants, without extra work ?

York offers funding guarantee without work obligation.
Graduate studies are demanding. That’s why York University created the fellowship funding model, to better support students in focusing on their academics, without the obligation to work.

In the current Unit 1 collective agreement, teaching assistants are already guaranteed a minimum amount of funding ($5,384) in addition to their teaching assistant earnings.

Currently, funding is provided through:

    1. An additional work assignment (teaching assistantship or graduate assistantship); or

<li ">Non-taxable scholarships, fellowships or research assistantships that advance students’ progress toward fulfillment of their degree requirements.

The University is now proposing to remove the additional work requirement (#1 above) from the collective agreement.

This means that students working under the Unit 1 collective agreement would continue to receive the guaranteed additional funding amount in the form of non-taxable student financial support, but no longer have the obligation to complete an extra work assignment.

The University maintains that graduate students are students first.

The University wishes to build on its efforts to support graduate students in focusing on their academic success. Employment opportunities should further graduate students’ professional development without jeopardizing their progress toward successful degree completion.

What is interest arbitration?

Interest arbitration is a legitimate and time-tested part of the collective bargaining process. It does not get in the way of the labour negotiation process.

What it is

An independent arbitrator is brought in to review the positions of both sides and make a final and binding decision.

It is used whenever provincial legislation is passed to end a strike, such as the recent college faculty strike.

It also provides an opportunity for both parties, by mutual agreement, to refer any outstanding issues to an arbitrator before the process stalls or results in a strike.

Parties can decide to go to interest arbitration at any time

Negotiations do not have to break down in order to go to interest arbitration if both parties agree. Any and all outstanding issues can be referred to arbitration at any time.

How arbitrators make their decisions

Arbitrators are required to review what each party wants to achieve through negotiation.

They then impose a new collective agreement that reflects what the parties could have reached at the negotiating table in what is called “replicate free collective bargaining.”

What this means for CUPE 3903 employees

Interest arbitration does not necessarily mean that a union that is already leading the sector in compensation and benefits, as is the case with CUPE 3903, would receive less through interest arbitration than it would have in bargaining directly with the employer.

For example, the Toronto Police, who lead all Ontario municipal police forces in wages and benefits, continue to move forward under interest arbitration.

Police, fire, ambulance, hospitals all regularly go to interest arbitration and receive raises.

York willing to go to interest arbitration at any time

Any items agreed to prior to interest arbitration would become part of the new collective agreement.

However, after more than two months of negotiations, no final agreement has been reached on any of the 110 proposals made by CUPE 3903 or the eight proposals made by York.

To avoid any disruption to the academic year, we have offered since negotiations began to go to interest arbitration at any time.

If CUPE 3903 agrees, there will be no strike.

Learn more about the collective bargaining process

Watch our video on this site to learn more about the process.

What steps is York taking to support survivors and address sexual violence?

We are adding staff, offering more training and information sessions, and investing in new facilities to protect every member of the York community from sexual violence and to support survivors. This includes proposing that any CUPE 3903 member can take a domestic or sexual violence leave of up to one full term – including four weeks paid – where they or their child experiences or is threatened with domestic or sexual violence.

York University has and continues to take strong action on sexual violence to support survivors.

The Policy on Sexual Violence at York University was developed with input from the entire York community including many opportunities for input from CUPE 3903 and was approved by the Board of Governors in December 2016. York University introduced its first Sexual Harassment Policy in 1995 and since that time we have continued to build on that Policy and introduce innovative programming.

Click here to learn more about how we're responding.

Is any of the work done by CUPE 3903 workers precarious?

Contract faculty at York do not fit most of the measures used to define precarious employment. They have a wages and benefits package that leads their counterparts in other Ontario universities, a unionized workplace, job security protections and other benefits that people considered to be precariously employed do not enjoy. Questions about York and precarious work are answered below.

1. What is precarious employment?

As part of its Vulnerable Workers and Precarious Work project, The Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) describes precarious employment as “paid work that includes low or unstable wages, a lack of benefits, weak or non-existent statutory protection and enforcement, a non-unionized work setting, and little or no control within the workplace.”

2. Can contract faculty at York be considered as precariously employed?

Contract faculty at York do not fit most of the measures used to define precarious employment. They:

    • Lead all Ontario universities in terms of their package of wages, benefits, childcare and professional development funding from the first day of employment;
    • Are represented by a union – CUPE 3903; and
    • Have job security protections and programs under the collective agreement that diminish the uncertainty inherent in some contract work.
3. How does the collective agreement address job security concerns of contract faculty at York?

Job security protections have been upgraded over the years and include:

    • Strong Seniority Rights;
    • A once-a-year application process for work assignments in the next academic year;
    • For longer-serving contract faculty:
        • Multi-year guarantees of a minimum annual number of full courses or equivalents to teach through full-time faculty appointments under the YUFA collective agreement and contract faculty appointments under the CUPE 3903 Unit 2 collective agreement;
        • A Streamlined Appointment Process and earlier confirmation of appointments; and
        • Guaranteed Payments if work diminishes.
          Contract faculty become eligible based on the annual number of courses or equivalents they teach and their years of service – a minimum of three, five, or ten years of service depending on the program.
4. What other steps is York taking that address the issue of security in academic employment?

York is committed to equity and social justice. We recognize that uncertainty inherent in part-time contract work is a critical issue. Steps that York is taking that address this issue include increasing the number of full-time faculty, as budget allows, as a top strategic priority for York. In 2018-19, the number of full-time faculty at York is expected to reach a record high of 1,425. Contract faculty are welcomed and encouraged to apply for full-time positions for which they have the qualifications, at York and other universities.

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