University pushing binding arbitration

The York propaganda machine is steaming ahead in these tense times with the recent media release on their site. The University is calling for immediate acceptance by the Union for binding arbitration and offering students a return to “classes immediately” if the Union accepts the offer. The University is looking for undergraduate support right now to pressure the Union to accept the 9.25% increase over a 3 year contract offer.

The University’s apparent motivation is to get “our 50,000 students can return to class.” The same message is repeated over and over again throughout the release. According to the article, it is not the intention of the University to devalue the the collective agreements of the Union as the Employer has no “proposals on the table which would result in a reduction of wages or benefits.” And, that CUPE 3903 enjoys some of the highest wages and benefits in Canada. 

From the University’s publication it seems that  the Union will not sit down unless the University offers a better deal (ie. 2 year contract) and that the University will not offer that. Between the lines, it is clear that the only way this is going to get resolved is by binding arbitration. It is fair to assume at this point that the Union and the University will not be sitting down anytime soon unless it is with a Provincial mediator in between. 

 The University is starting to look like the good guy from the undergraduate perspective. They are trying to get us back into school as soon as possible and avoid another possible labour disruption in 2010 by proposing only 3 year contract deals.

We are becoming the pawns in this conflict. The Union is holding us hostage and hoping that the University will break under the pressure and the University is trying to delegigtimise the Union’s actions.  

Talk it out guys. We can do what we think is the “right” thing to do or whatever will get us back into class quickly.



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64 responses to “University pushing binding arbitration

  1. ff

    I dunno, I hope that undergraduates that support this strike understand why binding arbitration is an untenable solution for the union – and why in the past the administration has said that an arbitrator is undesirable because they have no connection to the university, and do not have to live with the consequences of their decisions.

  2. I don’t see how an admin that won’t come to the bargaining table has any motivation to get us back to class. CUPE 3903 has told the provincial mediator that they want to return to the bargaining table but York hasn’t. York University clearly knows that the union can’t support binding arbitration, and like I revealed yesterday, York U wrote a short essay on the subject in the past.

    In fact, I seriously question the admin’s refusals to bargain… The Labour Relations Act (Ontario,) says under the heading “Obligation to bargain” that “The parties shall … make every reasonable effort to make a collective agreement.” Won’t make them look great to the mediator…

    In the end the longer they hold out the longer CUPE 3903 will be on strike… I seriously doubt the union will lose this one. The YUFA won what they wanted last time (After 55 days,) and the same with CUPE 3903 last time (After 78 days.) This will just inspire CUPE 3903 to hold strong…. I have no idea who they’re trying to bluff. York really confuses me…. after looking at their financial statements for the last eight years it’s clear they can easily afford to settle, yet they would rather let CUPE 3903 go on strike right when they’re trying to attract new students for next year.

    Just remember, strike pay isn’t much less than regular pay for TA’s, and in fact is higher than normal for international grad students…

  3. SSK

    I believe that the TA’s are doing what they have to for the greater good. The TA’s are the ones who make it beneficial for the undergrads and give assistance where necessary. We should just take a back seat and allow them to do what they’re doing because we are not in their situation, we take advantage of things such as this and dont realize how other parties feel. I am an undergraduate student and i feel for the TA’s as they are more deserving than any other member of faculty.

  4. Jafac

    This is ridiculous. The university is making no effort to negotiate on its own, yet it apparently has the best interests of the students at heart? Give me a break. I understand the perspective that the union demands are too steep, but if the university isn’t going to make a reasonable effort to bridge the gap on their own (ie. actually engaging in dialogue) then they are just as much to blame for keeping “our 50,000 students” out of class. The fact that this is now officially the 7th day of the strike and there has been ZERO dialogue between the two sides is simply outrageous. Jeff is right, when a provincial mediator does get involved, the university isn’t going to be looking very good.

  5. MR Two

    Looks like we’re in for a long one…

  6. A student

    “We are becoming the pawns in this conflict. ”

    When were we ever not?

  7. JOhn

    i just cant see the union accepting the binding arbitration.

  8. Bobby

    I don’t think they should accept it – It’s going to benefit the undergrads eventually… things take time to settle in and people have to think for hte future instead of right now. so maybe they will extend the semester by a couple weeks… big fucking deal… just work harder. I am probably a months’ behind in schoolwork (almost) so i think the strike is goodfor me …for now..but i dont think a few weeks is a big deal..unless they end up cancellign the semestered courses if it goes on too long. anyway, back to reading about Botticelli!

  9. Bobby

    excuse my typos and grammar… i’m just typing quickly and i really dont care to fix my errors. sorry! 🙂

  10. Student

    “he said, she said”
    this is bull!

    The university is well financed to offer the union something better, or for them to meet in between, at least. The union is not going to accept this offer.

    We’re stuck in the middle and its frustrating! No one listens to us.

    I have an international field work that I have to attend to, which was accomodated after my exams, and now the only response that I’m getting from my professor is that “I think it’s best NOT to take risks and plan accordingly.”
    Wow! Thanks for the super advice, I should’ve been smart enough to PREDICT a strike back in September when I booked my flight.

  11. Basil El-Salviti

    This will inevitably last as long as the previous strikes unless we petition the provincial government to step in….

  12. Guess Who

    I read the statement issues by York University on their website. They have repeated the same union-must-accept-binding-arbitration-to-get-students-back-to-class stupidity.

    It is quiet clear that YU does not want to negotiate with the union and are using us students as an excuse to pressure the union to accept the arbitration. The union obviously won’t be made a fool of and will not accept this. It is not everyday that a union can hold strike to demand what they want. They will make sure they get what they want.

    I agree with MR Two, we are surely in for a long one.

  13. yorkstrike2008

    Agreed Basil

  14. Art

    What can provincial government do here?

  15. Basil El-Salviti

    It is the provincial government that holds any jurisdiction with regards to these sorts of issues. They can only do what they can!

  16. A

    yeh i read smwhere on this site that the mayor said it is out of his jurisdiction :S ?

  17. Nathan

    From an admin perspective, you’re looking at a Union that has gone from 70, to 30, to 15.6, to 7. Whether the Union deserves this money, that’s up to whoever is reading this, but those bargaining tactics are ridiculous. If you wanted to buy someone’s used car, and that person demanded $125,000, then thought they were doing you a favour by dropping it down to $115,000, wouldn’t you be pissed?

    The university has stuck to its hard line of ~2-3% for months now, because that is what every other Union on campus has agreed to. It also sticks to 3 years, because it would be suicide from their perspective to agree to a 2 year contract and hand CUPE carte blanche to demand whatever it wants in 2010. CUPE does not view a 3% offer as fair and refuses to even acknowledge it’s existence. That is how they justify their claim that the ball is in York’s court, despite York actually tending the most recent offer (the one rejected on Nov 6).

    York sees no resolution except arbitration, because they cannot budge from 3% from a financial perspective – setting this precedent would result in massive salary hikes across the board, and assuming York does not receive substantial outside financial assistance (gov’t, sponsors, etc…) or levies additional fees upon the businesses and/or students of York, would bankrupt them. CUPE refuses to accept 3%. Why, I have no clue, aside from their belief that they deserve and are entitled to more. This logic appears to also hold for the 2 vs 3 year contract. CUPE could probably demand 25% and get it in 2010 if the province goes on strike, thus again, putting York in a very delicate financial situation.

    Again, for everyone who says York has the money just because the execs are paid bloated amounts… if you slash the pay of 10 deans, each earning 150k, by 10%, you save 15k*10 = $150,000. If you increase 3000 TAs pay (let’s say, 16k) by 3%, that’s 480*3000 = 1.44 million dollars.

    In contrast, the profit margin for the ENTIRE University last year was 1.7 million dollars.

    The other thing is: people who are blaming the Administration for cancelling classes.

    Remember, classes WERE NOT canceled in 2000/01. A combination of profs not crossing the lines, some classes being on, others being off, cancellation of tutorials/labs, delays and harassments by picketers, and general confusion led to complete chaos.

    Would you rather that?

  18. ff

    Art – I don’t know if this answers your questions but: the province has, at this point, no legal right to do anything without contravening about 100 years of labour law that is entrenched in Ontario.
    They can do something like, declare that students are being denied an ‘essential service’ – which is what happened (if i am remembering correctly) when high school teachers went on strike in the late 90s – childcare was a huge issue there – and it isn’t here.
    So, I don’t think there is anything the province can or should do – and the administration is holding us hostage by prolonging this strike unnecessarily in what appears to be a vain attempt to manifest scorn for the union. They continue (Alex Bilyk as recently as yesterday) to cite the 41% demand that has been off the table for weeks now in an attempt to gain support among those who are too upset to get a better grip on the issues at hand.
    That’s my $0.02 anyway.

  19. yorkstrike2008

    “The profit margin for the entire University last year was 1.7 million dollars.”

    York gets Provincial funding. If there is one thing to keep in mind about Provincially funded institutions is that they ALWAYS spend as much of their budget as they can. They want to keep a low profit so the Province doesn’t cut their funding.

    Lets say avg. $10,000 per students that goes to York/ annually.

    10,000 x 50,000 = 500,000,000.00

    500 million dollars. York makes revenues from so many other areas such as parking, lease contracts from retail and good vendors, research grants, private donations, private research funding and Provincial funding.

    The University has lots of money to go around.

    The $1.7 m figure is because at the end of their fiscal year they are TRYING to spend as much money as possible.

  20. Nathan

    ff said:
    So, I don’t think there is anything the province can or should do – and the administration is holding us hostage by prolonging this strike unnecessarily in what appears to be a vain attempt to manifest scorn for the union. They continue (Alex Bilyk as recently as yesterday) to cite the 41% demand that has been off the table for weeks now in an attempt to gain support among those who are too upset to get a better grip on the issues at hand.
    That’s my $0.02 anyway.

    Well, the 41% is somewhat of an odd number contrived in a very weird way, so don’t put much stock into that. However, the Union has not budged from their 11% offer. I would get you an exact date… but the bargaining history prior to Nov 6 has… vanished from the CUPE website. Can someone find it for me?

    But I don’t think the Admin is actively working hard to heap scorn on the Union. The Union has been lambasted in the media – even the left wing media – since day 1. Certainly, undergrads do need to look beyond the “I’m missing classes” angle and weigh both the financial and the moral aspect of this strike, but I wouldn’t say the Admin is going out of its way to demonize the Union with propaganda.

    Rather, the Union is shooting themselves in the foot. Apparently (says eyewitnesses, professors, and news media), they refused to allow veterans who were attending the Rememberance Day Ceremonies at York through the picket lines in a speedy manner.

    But you’re right. The province has no grounds on anything. They cannot declare university education an essential service, especially since the strike is localized to ONE facility. They may do so in 2010, assuming the province wide strike occurs. But do not expect Queen’s Park to act in this situation.

    I think there are 3 likely scenarios:

    1. The Union and Administration both soften their tone and hammer out a deal – perhaps a 3% over 2 years. This can occur at any time.
    2. The Union runs out of money and settles in January (3% for 3 years).
    3. The Administration is faced with the cancellation of an entire semester and the refunding of 50,000 tuitions. 50,000*2500 = 125 MILLION dollars, or 15% of the University’s overall ANNUAL revenue. The Administration caves in to all of CUPE’s demands – 11% over 2 years. This will happen around February – March.

    Any thoughts on these scenarios?

  21. ff


    I think the university canceling classes was the right move, although I spoke to my YUFA profs who told me they would not cross a picket line, so the point is moot for me.
    The university has every right as I’ve said elsewhere to try and run the school without 3903, but they have put themselves in a position where ~50% of teaching is done by its members.
    I don’t think it is ridiculous to point to people who have received huge pay increases and ask ‘what is going on’? I think you could easily replace Dean Drummond, for example, with someone as qualified who would do just as good a job for much less than he is currently making; I don’t know that they would have the same level of success finding 3400 people to replace the current union membership. I think that is why it is valid to take pot shots at people in these positions.
    I am not trying to take a position against the university itself, or the administration – but, I think this is a real do or die time for higher education in Ontario. You’re in the sciences, where this is much less of an issue – but in terms of liberal arts, we’ve been under attack for a long time. The products of social science/humanities disciplines is one that is not easily measured, but simply because its products are unquantifiable does not mean that they are worthless, or inessential to a vibrant society and economy.
    The problem is not necessarily that the administration disagrees, but that the school is being restructured from without (by the province’s legislation and ‘centers of excellence’ model) leaving the arts in the cold. Instead of cutting graduate enrollment in the arts, they increase it – so that graduate faculty of arts students effectively become undergrads again, paying the way of the more profitable disciplines. While you get a package that guarantees you 20K, i’m looking at ~10K next year, at best, after tuition. I’m pretty frugal, and I will still have a hard time going 12 months on that.
    This is why I think the strike goes beyond the immediate situation of union/administration.

  22. Nathan

    “York gets Provincial funding. If there is one thing to keep in mind about Provincially funded institutions is that they ALWAYS spend as much of their budget as they can. They want to keep a low profit so the Province doesn’t cut their funding.”

    Explain then, their 2004-2008 profits?

    2004: 35.6 million.
    2005: 42.1 million.
    2006: 55.5 million.
    2007: 40.6 million.
    2008: 1.7 million.

    While York may have a nest egg somewhere, that 1.7 million figure is NOT fabricated or artificially generated, and is an indicator of York’s financial concern.

    York is well established as a commuter school. How can you justify a 10,000 per student figure?
    York has published their revenue from student fees, and it was 331.7 million last year, assuming 50,000 students – $6,634 per student. Sales and services (parking, etc…) amounted to only $66.8 million.

  23. ff


    I would like to think that option 1 would be the happy medium, but there is still the sticky issue of job security, do you think that in the event of a two year contract, Unit 2s would be willing to wait until 2010 for a more clear answer on that matter? I don’t have a good sense for what the dynamics between the units are.

    Even though you did not number it, I would say number 4 is probably the way I see things playing out. I think I know ideologically where the leadership is coming from, and so, it would surprise me more if option 1 were to happen than this long drawn out war of attrition. The CUPE war chest is probably big enough to last at least long enough to the point where the administration would have to look at refunding the entire semester. When faced with that – what option do they have?
    Also, if they are not trying to heap scorn on the union, why continue to cite the 41% figure in interviews?

    What seems clear is that, if things play out in the way I’m predicting, the real losers will continue to be undergraduates. Maybe we can look forward to de-regulation of undergraduate and graduate program fees as a policy response – what are your thoughts?

  24. Nathan

    ff, you’re absolutely right – there’s nothing I would like better than every TA to be paid 30,000 dollars per year – regardless of program. But we’ve discussed that in the other thread, and it is a much much larger issue than just this school and this union, involving government and society as a whole.

    You’re probably right about the deans too… but absolute power corrupts absolutely. People who receive fancy titles want pay scales to match those fancy titles. I mean, Peter George at Mac makes Mr. Shoukri’s salary look like child’s play. To be honest, I never understood the purpose of university executives. The tenured profs do the brainwork, the TAs do the brawnwork. What in the world do the deans actually do?

    With regards to just this specific incident, I think the situation may be a little simpler than that. The basic question may simply be: can York financially afford to give the TAs what they want? This is not necessarily a historically stubborn administration. They did give a tuition freeze in 2000/01, something no other administration in the province would ever dream of. I honestly do think that they’re completely broke – or will be, once the other unions demand deals matching that of 3903.

    My main concern, unfortunately, is much more pragmatic:
    3000 TAs at 7%. How many YUFA and YUSA will demand the same in 2011? How much strain will that put on a university that is already spending 65.2% of its revenues on salaries?

  25. Nathan

    “What seems clear is that, if things play out in the way I’m predicting, the real losers will continue to be undergraduates. Maybe we can look forward to de-regulation of undergraduate and graduate program fees as a policy response – what are your thoughts?”

    No. De-regulation would lead to free market economics like in the United States – especially since everyone needs a BA now to get a job. Fees will balloon hideously. I think, if anything, we need more regulation. Fix fees to the rate of inflation, and make the province cover the deficit.

    As for job security… I don’t think that’s actually a sticky point for the admin – it doesn’t cost them a dime. I think their refusal to grant that is really just a bargaining tactic. But yes, Alex should stop saying 41%, without at least launching into a long winded explanation of how the heck they reached that number in the first place.

    Then again, if I were the Admin, I would just shut up and keep offering 3%. Everyone but the Union sees 3% as perfectly fair – thus, the Union’s continued refusal would only drive the stake into their own heart.

  26. Ummm, their budget rose from 550 million 5 years ago to 850 million this year. In previous years they spent enormous amounts on buildings (ie 110 million on the ACE and ACW projects.) What does that mean? Astronomical funding increases with almost none going to our actual teaching. Where is it all disappearing to?

    Their budget vs actual for full time faculty was underestimated by 5.6 million in 2006-2007 (The newest data I have available.) That’s 25% more than the 7% raise CUPE is asking for in the first year of their contract. If they had no problem finding that money then, why do they have that problem now? For goodness sakes, until the day before CUPE went on strike they couldn’t afford a penny more than 2%,2.25%, and 2%.

  27. yorkstrike2008


    Why did profits dive by almost $40 million? Certainly not the new research building?

  28. ff

    First thing: I think the higher wage increase demands make sense in light of the below poverty level wages grad students are being expected to pay, and that a better comparison is other ‘developed’ countries whose economies and higher education structure resemble Canada, more than other unions within ontario, or canada per se. For YUFA or YUSA, who already make enough to put food on the table, I think having a COLA pegged to inflation would be more than generous.

    The job of the university president, traditionally was filled by a senior academic. More recently it has become fashionable to bring in people with business connections – that are perceived to have the ability to bring in more outside funding from alumni, and the private sector.
    Since 2000/01, York has had a lot of political turmoil, and Lorna Marsden was a very polarizing figure in a lot of ways. The tuition freeze harkens back to an era that this strike is attempting to rekindle, and a politics that has fallen out of fashion, if not for work action like the one currently being undertaken.
    Another job of the president is to entertain guests, and schmooze – hence the car and the driver, and the fund for a house. They need to have people over all the time to juice them for more cash. This is the sad reality of what the university is becoming.

  29. Just one thought… if York raises tuition fees at the maximum they’re allowed to (5%), and 25+% of the assistantship money (York’s words,) that they give out through TA positions goes back to them, then wouldn’t a 3% raise mean a decrease in spending power? Just a question…

    That being said, I think that overall the wage issue might not be the biggest issue ever, especially how much they’re losing every time York hires a new CUPE 3903 member and doesn’t add a penny to the health fund, etc.

  30. Nathan


    Revenues 2007: 824.5 million
    Revenues 2008: 848.8 million.
    Change: +24.3 million.

    Salaries and benefits 2007: 495.3 million.
    Salaries and benefits 2008: 554.0 million.
    Change: +58.7 million.

    Net: -34.4 million.

  31. ff

    I agree that de-regulation is a hideous idea, but sadly it seems more likely than tax increases to fund education at this point, or that Ontario will dig into its coffers to bail out York on this one, or the subsequent one without serious political pressure.
    Even having tuition increases pegged to inflation is hugely problematic, because when you look at wealth distribution in Canada over the last 30 years, everyone continues to get poorer in real terms except the top 10%. That means that everyone, even if tuition only goes up with inflation becomes less able to pay for it. Something more drastic has to be done.
    Tentanda Via

  32. @ yorkstrike2008 I just looked at the budget overview – it looks like they went on a hiring frenzy. I know they hired over 250 new CUPE 3903 members alone (8% membership increase in a year)

  33. ff

    a huge issue is teh 28% membership increase in CUPE3903 – which is something that was mandated by the province as a way of getting funding. Dolt’n McGinty is an ‘education’ premier – he wants people to go to univerisities, but he only wants to fund certain things. and not that well. I want to learn more about what is going on with these changes, so I will probably spend the next few days doing some research and trying to talk to people

  34. Nathan

    Unfortunately, I don’t think York can go “we’re being progressive by paying our TAs 30,000 dollars a year. However, we’re broke now. Can you help us out?” and expect a sympathetic ear.

    Ummm, their budget rose from 550 million 5 years ago to 850 million this year. In previous years they spent enormous amounts on buildings (ie 110 million on the ACE and ACW projects.)

    Yep. Their salaries also went from 393.5 to 554 million from 2004 to 2008. Heck, the cost of the buildings isn’t even factored into their balance sheets (not as an evident lump sum anyway)… which makes me think that they’re paying on an installment plan. As for the YUFA estimate in 2006/07 – that year, they turned a 40.6 million dollar profit – so it was easy to find the cash. 2008, salaries have jumped 60 million (probably as a result of new deals with both YUFA and YUSA), but interestingly enough, revenue from grants has not moved at all.

    When you look at the change in revenue between 2004 and 2008 – 848.8-653.3 = 195.5, 83% of that is nullified by salary increases – 554.0-393.5 = 160.5.

    Source by the way, is here:,%202008.pdf

  35. Nathan

    You’re absolutely right, and I completely forgot about that. York desperately wants to expand their post undergrad programs, so they did go on a hiring and recruiting spree. But is it their fault they want to improve the name and reputation of the university?

    I suppose they’re a little like the US banks. Spent like nuts without foreseeing financial trouble ahead – except York isn’t getting 850 billion dollars any time soon. But the Union’s argument that universities aren’t affected by recessions is complete bunk.

  36. ff

    even if they just capped earnings at 30K, that would be better. so that way they don’t take bursaries and scholarships from top scholars to fund people that jsut want to credentialize.

    The problem there being, there are a lot of socio-political factors concerning who gets scholarships, and whatever… idunno, I’m going to get some shut eye for now.

  37. mm


    VERY interesting information and comments.

    Some thoughts:

    I agree that York did the right thing cancelling classes, but still I think York administration is the only one responsible for the fact that undergrads are not receiving the classes they paid for. CUPE is not responsible for that, the strike is a legal action.

    There are two different agreements going on: one is between students and York admin, and the other one is between York and its employees. Many students don’t see this difference. They can’t blame the employees just because their legal actions have a negative impact on student’s plans for the summer, budget, etc.

    It is perfectly understandable that students are annoyed for what is happening, but they should learn that strikes happen in labor relationships. Students should make their voices heard to push both parties to negotiate and solve this asap, but ultimately it is the admin the one responsible for giving them the education they expect.

    Finally, students should think about what the administration is refusing to give to CUPE and how this impacts in their education. It is hard to understand why contract faculty have to renew they contracts so often, despite the long time they have teaching at York. Why can’t York just give them some job security? How are these poor conditions influencing in their work and affecting student’s education?

  38. JMac

    Unbelievable verbal diarhhea on the part of some people on this site who I would bet are members of the striking union!

    How anyone in their right mind, and with a straight face, can refer to someone being paid $17,000 a year for working 10 hours a week – maybe 9 months a year, as being paid below the poverty line – is absolutely incredible!

    This is nothing more than a union web site masquerading as some kind of impartial voice for the students.

    Hopefully any York students who stumble onto this site will read what Nathan has to say because he has this figured out.

    The rest of you union/TA supporters, quit using the undergrads to try to gain what are totally unrealistic and selfish wage demands.

  39. JMac

    And yes it is Admin that is responsible for giving students the education they expect.

    But they can’t do that if the union refuses to accept an offer from York which is more than reasonable when compared to what other schools and their unions are agreeing to.

    Quit trying to make students believe that despite unreasonable union demands that the school admin is STILL responsible for this mess!

  40. mm

    Right JMac, it is unrealistic to ask that professors with 10 years of full time teaching at York have their contracts renewed every 5 years instead of every semester. How can they dare to ask such thing?

  41. ff

    JMac, the rest of the world treats the work grad students do AS STUDENTS as WORK. Therefore they are getting paid that much for ~50-80 hours a week.
    These are fundamentals of higher education and capitalism. The university simply cannot run without TAs and contract faculty. It has put itself in this position – it is unlikely they will be able to hire scabs at the wages TAs and contract faculty are paid. It is also unlikely that anyone in their right mind would scab in academia, since it would be suicide.

  42. JMac

    50 to 80 hours a week as a TA and then full time studies on top of that is just plain bull crap and you know it.

    If the contract is for 10 hours a week and you are doing 80 as a TA, maybe you should find another job that you are capable of doing.

    Or if you and your brothers like the perks that the TA job offers too much to give it up, then figure out how to do it in 10 hours and quit your whining!

    On the other hand, if you were trying to say TAs get paid for 50 to 80 hours a week, which includes your studies, then you are being deceitful and you are spending much closer to 10 hours a week doing the job that you are contracted to do.

    And that brings you right back to someone whining that $17,000 a year for about 320 hours of work is a poverty wage.

    Either way, you should be ashamed of yourself.

  43. Jafac

    JMac… I don’t appreciate you accusing me (an undergraduate student) of being a sheep. I understand your frustration in being a part of the minority on this site, but I think that’s simply a reflection of the overall feeling among the undergrads: for the most part, they’re on the side of the Union, not the Uni.

    But I think the longer the strike goes, the less support the Union will be receiving from the undergrads. The general feeling was that everybody could do with a 2 week vacation, but nobody really wants to have the semester extended by any significant length. As the strike drags on, undergrads will be increasingly vocal in voicing their displeasure.

    FF, I think you’re overestimating a bit with the 50-80 hour workweek. That would probably be the total if you include normal student work (which obviously you don’t get paid for). But I agree that its definitely more than 10 hours… 10 hours barely covers the class time. What about lesson planning? Marking?

    Bottom line is both sides are at least partially to blame for this mess. Both sides have legitimate concerns and both sides have unrealistic demands. The real sheep are the ones who believe their side to be infallible.

  44. ff

    Please calm down – I understand your frustration, but things aren’t what you are making them out to be.
    When a graduate student is accepted to a university, they are offered along with their admission, a package of funding. That funding can take any number of forms. In other countries that compare to Canada, many graduate students are funded, and don’t do any TA or GA work, or, if they do, it is in addition to what they are already getting.
    Here, when you get your letter of admission you get a funding package that requires you to make a commitment to your work (ie. studies); as a part of this, the university will fund you X amount (depending on the program/department) and you are asked to do some work as a token. The work of being a TA shouldn’t be equated with the 10hours or so a week that it requires. It is a part of your overall funding as a graduate student. Study = Work.
    When you are doing graduate school, you are producing work in the form of a thesis, or conference papers, and so on. This work helps grow the reputation of the university. A good community of scholarship creates more good scholarship, and attracts more prestigious faculty, brings in better guest lecturers, more funding, etc…all the way down to the undergraduate level.
    You should also bear in mind, that if a grad student is caught working outside the university, in one of those other jobs you mention – which is easy for the school to tell when tax times rolls around – they can be subject to financial penalty. So, it is not a matter of getting another job. Unless you want people working until they are 30, then going to get a masters/phd, then trying to get a full-time faculty job – we will have 50 year olds that have never had a ‘real’ job.
    Using TAs and Contract Faculty keep the cost of courses down for undergraduates and the university. TAs are saying that after tuition – they cannot afford to live downtown Toronto on 11-12K a year.
    On top of studying ~80hrs a week, when is someone going to find time to get another job? Many do, nonetheless, but if subject to losing their TA-ship, that means they need to be either making more than they would, by working more hours (there is a limit to the number of hours in a day/week) or working under the table, and not paying taxes – which, is bad for the government/system.
    How then, does the university deal with this? Where would or could they find a workforce to teach you as well, or better for ~10K a year? Or, should full time faculty just work 2x as much? How then, will they train new workers?

  45. ff


    I don’t know about you – but as an undergrad, I work very hard to maintain my average. On top of class, I easily spend over 50 hours a week reading and writing.
    Most graduate students I have spoken to tell me much the same. It is extremely competitive, and lazy people just don’t get ahead – much like the real world.
    50-80 hours is an estimate of the time someone spends doing non-recreational things; that includes studying, going to lectures, conferences, writing emails to students, grading, prep time, and so on. Generally you find that most people that are successful in a field don’t have nearly as much leisure time as many suppose.

  46. Gabby

    Great comments and I completely agree with you

    for one TA’s aren’t full time employees, they are students who are getting paid for helping other students, atleast they have a job and honestly they make good money, i would be perfectly happy with that.. in fact I’m perfectly happy with my $13/hour job

    as for those who are working full time: if they don’t like the job so much then why don’t they just get another full time job instead of disrupting the undergrads? it’s not like anybody is forcing them to stay. it was their decision to get into the job that they are in

    now that being said, I do agree that job security is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask for but they are also asking for completely unreasonable things. i think that 9.25% over 3 years is a reasonable offer especially considering they are going to be asking for more once the contract ends. The more i read off the union’s site the more they sound like a bunch of greedy children; you don’t always get what you want, that’s life and being “bellow the poverty line” is part of being a student (if you can even say that about part time employees)

    back to the topic of this discussion i think that a binding arbitration is not only a great idea but may be the only solution, if this was just about wages then maybe things couldn’t be settled but the 2yr vs 3yr thing isn’t going to be resolved any time soon

  47. JMac


    I didn’t accuse you of anything.

    Who do you think union supporters (workers) like some of those who have posted here are trying to sway when they make less than truthful statements against York admin?

  48. ff

    Their contract is over. It is their right to renegotiate now. They are determining what amount people like me, who are entering graduate studies next year, will look at and decide whether or not to take the offer.
    The union will never agree to binding arbitration because they know it is the same thing as agreeing to a 3 year contract. So, I don’t see how it is a ‘great idea’ at all.

  49. JMac


    That’s a nice explanation.

    My simple answer is – any TA knew the terms of their contract or agreement, and I repeat agreement, when they signed on.

    I can only imagine how much whining they did amongst their brothers BEFORE this contract offer.

    They signed on and agreed to terms. Now they are being offered substantially more.

    Stop your whining and accept!

  50. Jafac

    Definitely agree that as a student I can easily spend that much time on my work. And I also agree that the more time you spend, the more likely you are to be successful. But that’s not time that I’m expecting to be compensated for is it? That’s simply part of my life as a student, its a part of the normal expected workload. JMac was right in that regard. A TA can’t expect to be paid extra simply because they have their normal student work to do. Otherwise all students should be getting paid for their work. It’s the same as any other job… I can’t expect to get paid more at my Timmy’s because I’m a student. While I do think that TA’s should receive higher wages (and I hope they get them), I don’t agree with your justification for it. But that’s just my opinion.

    I encourage you to take a look at what the University itself was saying about binding arbitration last time around. In fact CUPE’s using it as ammo right now…

  51. Gabby

    I’m not saying it’s a great idea for the union but it is for the undergrads and for ending the strike. I know they have every right to negotiate now, I don’t have a problem with that; it’s what they are asking for and honestly, i really hope the university doesn’t give them a 2 yr contract

  52. JMac

    I sure wouldn’t want to be a contract instructor looking for some kind of job security, having to be lumped in with a bunch of TAs crying that they aren’t being paid enough.

    Eventually, that will result in undergrads and the general public siding with York’s position and the union will have to give in.

  53. Jafac

    And the admin isn’t making just as vehement of an attempt to sway us as well?

  54. ff

    They also agreed to the terms knowing that the contract ended November 2008, at which point they could renegotiate to better their lot.

    You forget thousands of ‘sisters’ in the union.

    Also, I’ve never taken economics, but if wage increases are below inflation, they actually aren’t making any more – they are making LESS. The cost of food has gone up exponentially in the last year. So the wage ‘increase’ on the table is not an increase in REAL terms.
    What this means is that education is increasingly unaffordable for all but the top 10% of Canadians.

  55. Gabby

    i agree, it is very odd that they went from being against it to completely for it and I would like to know why.. there are a lot of things on both sides which appear very off which is why this is my main site of information (even tho i check both the union site and the university site) but how else do you think this will be resolved? Like many others I’m happy with a bit of break to catch up on some of my readings but I really don’t want this to go long enough that the winter term will be cut into the summer. Nobody wants a third party to decide things if they feel like they have some leverage but overall this is completely unfair to the undergrads and I think it is the only way this can be resolved without going too long

  56. Jafac

    Yeah, I see where you’re coming from. I just don’t see a reason why the Union would agree to it though. Hopefully there was some progress from today’s talks… waiting for an update……

  57. ff


    Undergraduates, unfortunately have become accustomed to paying for school. We don’t pay for school from K-12, and then all of a sudden we do in university.
    The idea is that once you reach graduate school – or at least your PhD – you are training to become an academic – since it is highly unlikely that you will walk out and get a job as an historian anywhere else. A PhD in the arts is basically like an apprenticeship in the skilled trades. Apprentices are paid enough for them to live and eat. Going to school is training, and therefore, work. It isn’t something people do ‘just because’ unless graduating at 30 and then getting a job you could have had 6 years sooner is anyone’s idea of a good investment.

  58. mm


    regarding your comment: “as for those who are working full time: if they don’t like the job so much then why don’t they just get another full time job instead of disrupting the undergrads? it’s not like anybody is forcing them to stay. it was their decision to get into the job that they are in”

    I’ve heard that argument many times. Consider these arguments as well:

    1) “If you don’t like a university where strikes can happen, why don’t you go to another one? York has a long history of strikes, why you didn’t check that before you enrolled?”

    2) “If you don’t like a country where strikes are legal, why don’t you go to live somewhere else? Who is forcing you to live in Canada?”.

    I bet those statements sound ridiculous to you. And believe me, they do to me too. Of course we “could” go somewhere else when be face things that we believe unfair. But it doesn’t mean that me “must”. We also can stay and try to change those things we consider wrong, that’s our right, as it is your right to go to York or to stay in Canada.

  59. ff

    nice rhetorical flair!

  60. Gabby

    there is a difference between being born in a country, choosing a school where strikes in any school are possible (so it really doesn’t matter which school you go to) and choosing 1 out of tons of jobs that have different pay, hours etc

    yea it sucks making less money than you want and i think everyone would love a pay increase but that’s not always how things work and it’s not like the university was completely rejecting to give them anything. They were offered a good increase that many others are getting, what makes this union so special to get more than everyone else?

  61. ff

    It really is a question about “how things work” – isn’t it?
    Take a look at what CUPE3903 is fighting for – it is a different way of working things! It was a big reason I came to York, and that I intend on doing my graduate work here starting next year.

    Did things ALWAYS work this way? No! So, why do a lot of us feel that it is not right to try and change how things work?
    That’s a lot tougher question to answer, you might want to check out this series that the BBC made called “The Trap” The whole thing is on youtube, and it takes one look at the way we have come to understand ‘how things work/are’ can, and probably should be changed.

  62. mm


    I agree, those are different choices (the country to live in, the school to study, the work, etc), but I wanted to use extreme examples to illustrate my point.

    With respect to the “tons of jobs”, I don’t agree so much. I am talking about contract faculty. Consider someone who is 45 years old, who has a PhD (I suppose many of them have), and who had been teaching the last 10 years at York. Where do you think he/she can find tons of jobs? These people just need more stability. I am not talking about wages. It is not reasonable to live 10 years thinking that at any time you could end up without a job. Specially considering that York uses these employees to teach so many of the courses.

    Regarding the wages for TA’s, I don’t know what number is reasonable. I think ff at 8:56pm explained very well what TAs work is about. I would say that it reasonable is to have enough $ to pay modest living expenses. The argument “they work only 10 hours per week” simply ignores what being TA/grad student means.

    Also note that not all TAs are below poverty line. Many of us do okay in terms of money, although it has been the same since 2005, despite inflation. For those who are above poverty line, the better wages would be compensated with less money from research assistanship. So at the end the money would be the same. The point should be to increase salaries until all TAs can cover reasonable living expenses.

    What makes this union special? Nothing, they are not special, they are just asking what they believe is fair. The idea of “you can’t ask for more money, don’t you see there’s no money at all?” is naive. Some kind of people is always going to make you believe that you’re asking too much. The money is there, somewhere, York admin can find it, it’s their responsibility as employer. Having a few hundreds of TA below of the poverty line is not a matter of finance, it is a matter of ideology, politics, or whatever you want to call it.

  63. Nathan

    “The money is there, somewhere, York admin can find it, it’s their responsibility as employer.”

    Isn’t that equally naive? Everything is give and take given the economic climate. In order to compensate the TAs fairly, York will have to pull money out of something else – extracurriculars, increased parking fees, what have you.

    But I don’t think the University is truly worried about TA wages. What they’re worried about is the precedent these negotiations set.

    If they give CUPE 7%, that’s an extra couple of million dollars. Not a big deal. But then the professors will also demand 7%, and there are no real grounds to deny them that – if the TAs get it, why shouldn’t the profs? Well, 7% on a 125,000 salary is going to be about an extra 8000 dollars per professor. Assuming there are 1000 profs, that’s 8 million dollars right there. Then the staff workers will ask for a pay raise on an equal magnitude, etc…

    Honestly, I wish the Union, rather than asking for a flat wage increase, would try to push that individual departments set funding at an appropriate level for graduate students (because the peanuts that they get paid in the Humanities is ridiculous). But unfortunately, I don’t think they have that sort of power.

  64. mm

    yes, departments setting funding at an appropriate level for graduate students sound great. But as you said, the Union seems to not have such power. In the last GMM they said that when the Union talks about department’s funding the admin responds that that is an academic issue, not a labour one, so they are not open to talk about it.

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