As I am sure many of you are aware of by now, the Union is trying to get a 2 year agreement so that they can participate in the project of collective bargaining with other CUPE locals and the Province in 2010. The University has consistently rejected attempts for a 2 year agreement and have demanded either a 3 year agreement or binding arbitration – neither of which the Union will likely capitulate to. The gravity of this collision and its implications for the direction and duration of this strike have been largely unrecognised. I wish to clarify, give context and demonstrate the significance of this point of conflict.
As a member recently wrote in a comment, the 2010 project is a province wide initiative by CUPE locals at other Universities. As of now the University of Ottawa, Ryerson University, Brock University, University of Windsor and McMaster University all have recently signed contracts that are expiring in 2010. McMaster nearly evaded a strike and Windsor just experienced a 3 week long strike earlier this term. The plan is to have all the CUPE locals’ contracts to expire in 2010 so that they can hold collective bargaining with the Provincial Government and circumvent the Universities. So where do we fit into this picture?
York is currently on strike and, as I mentioned above, the Union is adamant about securing a 2 year contract. CUPE Local 3902 is currently bargaining with the University of Toronto administration for, among other demands, a 2 year contract. The 3902 local is in legal strike position and will hold a strike vote on December 3rd and 9th. This has heavy implications for all sides of this conflict. York and U of T are the two largest Universities in Ontario and if they cannot participate in 2010 the project will likely fall through. York and U of T failing to secure a 2 year contract not only permits a broad and unifying action plan to fall apart but it also sets precedent for following labour negotiations.
York and U of T administrations are most likely in contact, considering the intimate nature the repercussions that an outcome will have on York and U of T negotiations and on the wider 2010 labour movement. Consider, if U of T administration gives a 2 year contract to CUPE 3902 then York will have to, almost imminently, concede to a 2 year contract with 3903. I believe that the two administrations are wise enough to recognise this and are coordinating their strategies. As a result, I will predict with certainty that U of T will be on strike by December 9th and will be for a while. Indeed, the current York experience is a foreshadow for the coming U of T labour conflict. Furthermore, if U of T goes on strike then the entire situation will be greatly complicated; York cannot very well move without U of T’s agreement, or at least prior knowledge, and vice versa. The same will be for the Unions. U of T administration simply cannot give a 2 year contract to 3902 as that will make it very difficult for York to resist a 2 year contract with 3903. Likewise, if 3903 gives into a 3 year contract then it will be even more difficult for 3902 to not lose hope in the feasibility of a 2010 collective agreement and cave into the proposed 4 year contract. I believe this entire conflict will be extrapolated onto a much larger canvas.
I am not fear mongering, but this is a real possibility that should be considered. There are relations and connections that are being overlooked in many discussions on the direction and duration of this strike. There is a much larger cause at hand than financial upgrades and there are other parties that are, as of yet, hiding in the backdrop. It is a very real possibility that York and the University of Toronto will be on strike simultaneously – that would mean an almost certain elongation of this disruption.