The path to resolving a nine-week labour dispute at York University requires negotiation, not arbitration, the union representing 3,000 striking academic workers said today.
“We reiterate the call we have repeatedly made over the past eight weeks for York University to stop cutting corners and come to the table with a willingness to engage in meaningful negotiations,” said Devin Lefebvre, Chairperson of Local 3903 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 3903).
Lefebvre’s comments came on the heels of a report and recommendations submitted today to Labour Minister Kevin Flynn by Commissioner William Kaplan. Last month, the Minister tasked Commissioner Kaplan with investigating the causes of the protracted strike and make recommendations to the Government.
“While we understand the urgency of Commissioner Kaplan’s recommendations, we have grave concerns about the manner in which York has conducted themselves. Since the strike began in early March, York has repeatedly refused our requests to resume bargaining. Commissioner Kaplan’s report effectively gives York and any other employer free rein to ignore their obligations to bargain in good faith,” said Lefebvre.
“There are elements of this report that are worthy of support and long overdue. We welcome Commissioner Kaplan’s recommendation to establish a task force on precarious employment in the post-secondary education sector and call on the government to implement this recommendation with all due haste. However, we cannot in good conscience agree to surrender our members’ constitutionally-guaranteed right to bargain collectively,” he added.
Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario, said the lengthy dispute represents, “a failure on the part of York University to live up to its basic obligations to bargain in good faith, and a failure on the Government’s part to ensure that institutions that receive substantial amounts of public money live up to those obligations.”
“York has repeatedly refused to sit down and negotiate. They continue to demand that CUPE 3903 agree to concessions and the Government risks rewarding their bad behaviour by expecting workers to surrender their Charter right to free collective bargaining. No one should be expected to do that, particularly when so many university workers across Ontario live at or below the poverty line,” said Hahn.
CUPE 3903’s bargaining team remains available to resume bargaining on short notice, as they have since the strike began.
“At this time, four faculty councils, three department councils, 13 graduate and undergraduate student associations, and the York University Graduate Student Association have all passed motions of non-confidence in President Rhonda Lenton and the York Board of Governors, in large part due to their refusal to bargain. The York University Faculty Association has expressed its own ‘deep concerns’ for the same reasons. For the sake of the summer terms, for students and for York’s own reputation, we hope York will do the right thing and bargain with its employees,” said Lefebvre.