York UniversityEducation workers at York University have voted in favour of a strike mandate in response to the institution’s unwillingness to address racism and safety at the bargaining table.

The education workers comprising contract faculty, teaching assistants and graduate assistants are represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3903.

CUPE 3903 is fighting for better employment equity, job stability, and a safe return to campus in the context of the pandemic, says Gizem Çakmak, CUPE 3903 bargaining team member.

The union wants the university to address the lack of representation from equity-seeking groups among contract faculty, and prioritize hiring Black and Indigenous teachers, women of colour and people with disabilities.

“York University’s teaching staff doesn’t reflect the diversity of the campus community despite their lofty rhetoric about equity and inclusion,” Cakmak said. “This is an opportunity for them to live up to their ideals and address the ongoing lack of diversity and make a real commitment to anti-racism.”

CUPE 3903 is also concerned about the university’s plan to offer up to 50 per cent of courses in-person in the fall semester, without taking requisite actions to ensure people’s safety including reducing class sizes and implementing public health guidelines.

The union leadership is questioning the university administration’s commitment to bargaining in good faith as the institution continues to move towards a labour disruption.

York University has been in a position to lock-out union members since July 5, after it requested a No-Board report from the Ministry of Labour in June.

“In each step of this process it’s been York that has escalated towards a labour conflict, driving members to support a strike mandate,” said Vanessa Lehan, CUPE 3903 chairperson. “Keeping our members and students safe should be a shared priority, yet we’re facing a lockout, instead of working together towards solutions.”

The parties return to the bargaining table on July 12. The last collective agreement expired on August 31, 2020.