York’s Past and Present on Binding Arbitration

By Jeff McMurtrie
“Arbitration is not a solution to the difficult issues that divide [York] and [CUPE 3903]. It effectively acknowledges the incapacity of the parties to reach what is needed – a mutually agreed upon settlement – and substitutes a decision that neither party owns.”
That sounds like a CUPE 3903 quote, right? Wrong. York University said that exact thing, except when they said it they were against binding arbitration. Here’s the unaltered quote:
Arbitration is not a solution to the difficult issues that divide YUFA and the administration. It effectively acknowledges the incapacity of the parties to reach what is needed – a mutually agreed upon settlement – and substitutes a decision that neither party owns.”
That’s right, when the York University Faculty Association went on strike York University opposed their suggestion that binding arbitration was the best way to get the 50+ day strike over with (Note: YUFA and CUPE 3903 are different unions. CUPE 3903 has never supported binding arbitration). 
Let’s compare York’s statements. 
This time:
  “Binding arbitration is a commonly used process of dispute resolution by a neutral third-party arbitrator.” 
Last time: 
“Some might note that arbitration is a standard way to end disputes in other sectors (e.g. in the essential public services sector) and in other universities. For example, at the University of Toronto there are negotiations on compensation matters between the administration and the Faculty Association. If the negotiations fail to resolve matters the final positions of the two parties are put to arbitration. However, there is a good reason for this process: faculty at the University of Toronto do not belong to a labour union and, therefore, have no legal right to strike as a means for forcing the resolution of a dispute. At the U of T, the parties must have some alternative method in place for resolving an impasse on compensation negotiations. For YUFA, as with other trade unions, the right of employees to withdraw their services is the ultimate method of resolving disputes.
This time:
“Will binding arbitration reduce the “value” of the CUPE Local 3903 collective agreements? No. The arbitrator will decide on the issues which remain outstanding between the University and the Union based on the proposals which will be exchanged.”
Last time: 
“Arbitration is not a solution to the difficult issues that divide YUFA and the administration. It effectively acknowledges the incapacity of the parties to reach what is needed – a mutually agreed upon settlement – and substitutes a decision that neither party owns.”
“Arbitration risks handing over the future of the institution, and the definition of a new contract for faculty, to a third party who cannot possibly appreciate the subtleties and complexities of a university such as York.”
“Engaging in arbitration on these issues is tantamount to allowing an outsider who has no continuing interest in, or commitment to, the University to have the authority to decide academic priorities for the institution. The arbitrator, unlike faculty and administration, is not accountable for making his or her decision work. Arbitrators do not have to find the money to meet the costs of their judgements, nor must they live with the impact of their decisions.”
Clearly the YUFA thought they would benefit and York University expected they wouldn’t. This shows that binding arbitration is biased and explains why CUPE 3903 won’t accept it.
The question ‘Is it okay not to bargain?’ is actually answered by Ontario’s Labour Relations Act. It says that “every reasonable effort to make a collective agreement [should be made].” The problem though is that York University actually refused to bargain with CUPE 3903 until today – a week after the strike began (In fact their ‘Negotiations Update’ which they put out Tuesday talked about nothing but binding arbitration.)
Everyone wants the strike to be over. Union members are out in the cold, aren’t being paid, and can’t do their graduate studies, undergrad students are faced with an extension of the school year, and York University isn’t looking very appealing to potential new undergrads. Hopefully York University can soon move past calling for binding arbitration and get a deal with CUPE 3903 so we can all get back to class.
“Do we really want to put in the hands of an outside arbitrator the power to determine what this University’s priorities will be?” “I hope that we will be able to come together again — and soon — around the table to seriously grapple with real issues in a reasonable and responsible way. There is too much at stake not to.” I’m sure this is how CUPE feels now….
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7 Comments

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7 responses to “York’s Past and Present on Binding Arbitration

  1. A student

    Them nice research skills…

  2. Larry

    So, that was then, this is now. Different admin, different prez. You can howl all you want about binding arbitration but it appears reasonable to me and Im guessing most.

    Graduate students and TAs on strike is laughable. You should all be grateful you have work. In the private sector you most likely wouldn’t.

    Contract FACULTY is a different matter: they deserve greater job security.

  3. UndergradSupporter

    I like that you noted that “Negotiation Updates” were full of “Binding Arbitration.” Offering Binding Arbitration is NOT negotiating… it’s just misleading students to believe that the university is trying. It’s sitting back and doing NOTHING.

    I hope the Union and the Admin don’t meet next week, honestly. It would be a waste of time. They should take AT LEAST another week, sit around, think of the consequences and sometime around the 24th… come together and talk. Otherwise its a waste of everyones time. Does the provincial mediator get paid, btw?

  4. Larry, if you’re going to ignore York’s previous arguments, then at least explain why they are invalid. ‘They’re old’ is a cop-out and avoids the use of logic and reasoning.

  5. yorkstrike2008

    @Jeff

    My 1st year logic prof would have snapped over that logical fallacy Larry. Pick it up!

  6. mm

    I feel that both (past and present) statements sound quite general in the way they support/oppose binding arbitration. Specially the past statement sounds very strong, as saying “binding arbitration will never make sense in York” (I am exaggerating of course). But even if they went that far in the past, I don’t really see how it follows that the present administration should be consistent with the past statement. Of course it is an interesting “contradiction” to show, and CUPE did right making it public, but I don’t think it can have real consequences, other than being a small part of the Union’s speech.

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