Following more than six months of bargaining to reach a negotiated agreement with CUPE 3903, and now more than nine weeks into a strike, York University’s President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton has asked the provincial government to take immediate legislative action today.
Yesterday, the Hon. Mitzie Hunter, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development spoke directly to both York and CUPE 3903 and asked the parties to meet to discuss consensual arbitration – a recommendation made by William Kaplan in the government-appointed Industrial Inquiry Commission (IIC). President Lenton immediately endorsed the report and directed York’s bargaining team to reach out to CUPE 3903 to discuss the terms for interest arbitration.
Unfortunately, yesterday, CUPE 3903 rejected the IIC Report’s findings that the parties allow an independent third-party to break the impasse and end the strike. Despite this, York invited CUPE 3903 to join the University bargaining team this morning at an 8:00 am meeting to discuss how to move forward to implement the IIC report recommendations, but CUPE 3903 did not reply to the invitation and did not attend the meeting.
“There has been no path to reaching a settlement at the table for many weeks. The ongoing actions by CUPE 3903 further jeopardize our 50,000 undergraduate students, researchers, and graduate students, and have a far-reaching negative ripple effect on our students, their future, and their families,” said Lenton.
Students who are expecting to graduate are facing great uncertainty that is impacting their career, including the loss of job opportunities, further studies, and the impacts of stress on their mental health.
“Government intervention is urgently needed, and time is running out for any legislative option to be possible. The government must act now. That’s why I called Minister Hunter this morning to ask that she advise the Minister of Labour to immediately introduce back to work legislation to end the strike and initiate binding arbitration,” Lenton said. Legislative action is now the only way to ensure that some of the academic year can be salvaged, including make-up classes and exams to complete the winter term, alternative learning options for those who are no longer able to resume normal classes, and to ensure that spring convocation stays on schedule and preserve what remains of the summer sessions.
The University engaged in good-faith bargaining for more than six months and presented CUPE 3903 with the best offer in the sector, in Ontario, on March 1.
The IIC report clearly states what the University has been saying for many months: CUPE 3903 in its current state is not capable or willing to modify its positions to reach a settlement.
Back-to-work legislation is now the only option, a last resort option that the University does not take lightly but one that was clearly put forward in the IIC Report: “Failing consensual interest arbitration, and assuming the continuation of this dispute, legislative intervention imposing interest arbitration will almost certainly be necessary.”
York calls on all Ontario MPPs to support back-to-work legislation. Our 50,000 undergraduate students and their families have paid too high a price already and need the government’s action immediately.