After six months of negotiations with Toronto’s York University without significant progress, CUPE 3903 has filed for a “no board,” setting the clock ticking toward a possible strike.

Nearly 3,000 contract instructors, teaching assistants and research assistants have been in negotiations with the university since June 2023. In December, members of the three bargaining units voted 84% in favour of strike action if needed to secure a fair contract.

“The cost of living in Toronto has skyrocketed since the last contract, and the university needs to recognize that and come to the table with an offer that provides an income people can live on,” said Stephanie Latella, CUPE 3903 Chairperson. “Because of Bill 124, wage increases were capped at 1% for three years. Now that the bill has been struck down as unconstitutional, the academic workers are looking for wage increases to make up this shortfall and to index compensation to inflation going forward.”

Other sticking points include resources for combating workplace discrimination, job stability and workload.

“All three units have been facing restructuring and job losses that worsen the uncertainty inherent to contract work. We do the majority of instruction at York University, and working conditions really affect the learning conditions for students,” said Latella. “Instructors need time with students, and for people who mark assignments, the quality of feedback students get improves when there is time to do more than just provide a grade. There is a direct correlation between what we’re asking for in these negotiations and the quality of education at York University.”

Seventeen days after a “no board” report is issued by the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the union and university are in a legal position to strike or lock workers out.

“Obviously we don’t want to go on strike. We want to continue working and creating an environment for excellent learning and research at York. But after more than six months of negotiations, the employer is leaving us with few options,” said Latella.

Last weekend, members of CUPE Local 1356-2 working at York University in goSAFE and CCTV also voted 85% in favour of strike action. That local is seeking to address the rising cost of living and bring its lowest-paid members closer to a living wage.