Monday, November 17, 2008

York is on Strike!!

Yep. CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 3903) has been on strike now for a week and a half. It represents the teaching assistants, and contract faculty. All classes at the university are suspended. The Union wants a wage increase of 11% over two years. The University has offered 9.25% over three years, the same amount that other unions settled for. However, with all the other benefits the union is asking for, their total goes much higher than that.

But, I doubt the university is going to budge on this. In the first place, during these tough economic times, the university can't afford to pay the union what they are asking for, so asking for that sort of raise and benefits is a waste of time. The University has lost a lot of money because of the downturn and needs to tighten its belt, at least, from what I've heard.

In the second place, I am sure that the University is getting tremendous pressure from other schools across the country not to budge. The national part of CUPE wants to unify T.A.'s and contract faculty across tthe country and have them all bargain at the same time. If York backs off, it will look as if they conceded to the union, and I don't think they're going to budge.

Conversely, the union is getting pressure from the national branch to stay the course. They say that they need more money to help students pay for their education, and job security so that the contract faculty don't have to reapply for their jobs every year.

There are problems with their arguments. One is, in the case of the graduate students, they work part time, the majority only 10 hours per week, so why should they get so much more when others get less? Second, for contract faculty. In a sense, they chose being part time. Have any of them asked to be full-time? We don't know. No one has said. I agree they shouldn't have to reapply for their jobs every year, so perhaps the two to three years is fine. However, the compensation the union is asking for makes it difficult.

I sometimes wonder if the majority of the picketers on the lines truly know what they are striking for. Yes, they are very bright people, but I'm not sure that they truly realize it.

In most negotiations, only a few people on each side are involved in the negotiating. When they tell us what went on, they will only do it from their point of view. Thus, we really don't get the whole story from either side. That's why I didn't go into practice with collective bargaining. I'm sick of all the grandstanding. That's what it is folks, it's all a game.

As usual, our students are caught in the middle. The people we depend on to pay our salaries and benefits are now being left out in the cold (excuse the pun on a cold day like this) by others who say they are striking for quality education. What's this about quality educaton? This strike isn't about that. It's about money and benefits, pure and simple!!

The whole thing could be settled by binding arbitration, as the TTC strike was settled. The union has rejected it, claiming that it favours the employer. My personal opinion on this is that the union has no chance of convincing an arbitrator of the merits of their case, especially with the tough economic times and the fact that the other unions got less, so they're not going to agree to it.

Well, here's hoping common sense prevails, and classes start again soon. I miss the cheerful talk of students (as well as their groaning).