The bigger picture…

3903 Strike vs McJobs in the University Teaching Sector

Published on 30 Nov 2008 at 10:42 am

Precarious Employment and the Struggle for Good Jobs in the University Sector

Published by The Bullet, Nov. 30, 2008.

Republished here by permission.

by Dan Crow
Precarious employment is one of the hallmarks of what is euphemistically called “the new economy.” It has deep roots in the university sector. Recent decades have seen a move away from full-time secure jobs for academic workers, toward reliance on part-time, contingent, relatively low wage jobs. As a cost-savings measure, and as a way to provide flexibility in operations, universities rely on part-time teaching staff to increasing degrees. In some instances, more than half of all undergraduate teaching in Canada (but also in university systems across Europe) is done by part-timers.

Contingent academic workers, numbering in the tens of thousands in Ontario alone, find themselves in a situation where they have to apply for their jobs as often as every four months, with no guarantee that the work they rely on will be offered. Many have found themselves in this situation for more than 20 years, with an increasingly large cohort joining them each year, proving that there is indeed company in misery. Furthermore, despite the fact that many contingent academic workers have nominally high hourly wages, many live in poverty because of limits on the ability to work. For example, academic work is primarily seasonal work, with very little offered in the spring and summer months.

This has meant increasing income insecurity and employment insecurity. This is just as true for long service employees as newer hires. Precarious employment has also meant that it has been difficult to secure pensions and benefits, which are primarily available to full-time employees of a single university. An unfortunate reality, however, is that a sizable number of academic workers (primarily sessional instructors) do actually work full-time within the university system, but they are forced to work contracts at multiple institutions (often located in two or more cities).

The current strike by CUPE 3903 at York University in Toronto, Ontario, should be examined in light of the extent of precarious employment in post-secondary education. CUPE 3903 represents approximately 3340 contingent academic workers, including teaching assistants, graduate assistants and part-time instructors (sometimes referred to as sessional lecturers). The strike by CUPE 3903 is, however, but one case in the broader struggle for good jobs for university workers. CUPE’s Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee (OUWCC) has been working for years to coordinate the bargaining efforts of university locals, in order to make gains for academic and support workers on campuses, and to fight to increase government funding of post-secondary education to benefit workers and students alike.

The Neoliberal University

In the current context, universities are both enmeshed in, and reproduce neoliberal social relations. As an aspect of neoliberalism, universities have taken on many of the worst elements of the flexible labour market. Work is increasingly offered as part-time, temporary and contingent. Gone are the days when universities relied on tenured faculty for the delivery of undergraduate education. It has been found to be much cheaper instead to hire sessionals at as low as 1/3 the wage cost (not even including the dramatic reduction in benefit, pension and professional development costs).

An expanding cohort of undergraduates is rarely being taught by a tenured professor. There is, of course, no evidence sessionals are less qualified educators. However, this does lead to a negative impact on students in need of reference letters. Since many sessionals teach at multiple universities, and at other jobs, it is also more difficult for students to get face-time with their instructors in order to get assistance with assignments and course material.

Universities have also internalized the competitive model of the market. Funding for graduate work and for research can be substantial for those who receive it. However, competition for scarce resources is stiff. Only a small minority actually get enough funding to not have to work for a wage, or to keep paid-employment to a minimum. Those without access to such funding, not because of poor quality of work, but because of too few opportunities for funding, find themselves having to earn a wage to make ends meet. More paid employment means there is less time to work on the degree, leading to later completion. A divide emerges. On the one hand are the few privileged ones who are funded, finish on time, and have a competitive advantage when seeking those tenure track jobs that do, on occasion, arise. On the other hand is a group of workers who get stuck in the trap of perpetual contingent academic work.

The neoliberal university is affected by privatization and underfunding in the same way that all public services are. Government underfunding reinforces the drive for cost savings, and it also guides university administrators toward forms of privatization – all of which are further encouraged by governments. Privatization comes in many forms, including private financing of research, commercialization of campuses, and increasing user fees in the form of tuition fees. The increasing cost of education itself reinforces the need to work through school, thus pushing workers/students into the trap of life-long precarious employment.

Struggles in the University Sector

CUPE 3903 walked off the job on November 6 in response to these pressures, and to try to make important gains for its members. In this round of bargaining, several demands have been presented as strike issues: wages that bring members up to the poverty line; job security for sessional instructors; protection against the erosion of benefits; and a 2010 expiry date for the new collective agreement. Protection of benefits in this struggle is particularly important for all university workers, since CUPE 3903 has one of the best benefit plans for contingent workers. A defeat on this issue here will hinder the ability of others to finally win benefits. The 2010 expiry date is important to the broader struggle because it is the year in which CUPE, through OUWCC, has targeted as the year for coordinated bargaining in the sector.

Unions of academic workers are currently at the bargaining table at universities across the province – at the University of Toronto, OISE, Guelph and Carleton. Although the specific language being tabled may differ across the sector, the principles on the table are the same: job security, a living wage that is not eroded by inflation or loss of hours, maintenance of (or access to) pensions and benefits. Perhaps more importantly, university locals (including academics, maintenance, trades, custodial, food service and administrative support workers) are fighting to win 2010 expiry dates for their collective agreements. That year has the potential to be of utmost importance for all university workers.

OUWCC and the Struggle to Coordinate Bargaining

The OUWCC is a one of five jurisdictional committees of CUPE Ontario. It has been working toward a strategy of coordinated bargaining to mediate against the fragmented bargaining imposed by the Canadian labour relations regime. Coordination will not only help strengthen locals in negotiations, but has the potential to make bargaining political, to force the provincial government to address underfunding and the lack of pensions and benefits for large numbers of university workers. The year 2010 was chosen because it is the year that had the potential to have the largest number of university locals in Ontario at the bargaining table, but also because all of the collective agreements for university workers in BC come up in that year. University workers’ issues could be on the table for both provincial and federal governments.

For its part, the Ontario government has dismissed the principle of coordinated bargaining. John Milloy, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, recently stated that there will be no central table for bargaining issues because he wanted to respect the autonomy of universities. Such a statement is, however, a red herring. The government would not be interfering with the core functions of universities – i.e. course content, course delivery, and research. Instead, the government will be called upon to help standardize widely divergent working conditions, and provide common benefit and pension plans so that all university workers will have access. Currently, many workers have jobs at multiple universities, and work full-time in the system. But because each university considers the worker to be part-time, they deny access to benefits and pensions (that only full-timers deserve, apparently).

Employers across the sector have been attempting to block the move toward coordinated bargaining. In fact, in the current negotiations between CUPE 3913 and Guelph University, the employer’s bargaining team was given explicit direction from the University president to not sign a deal that ended in 2010. In other cases, where there are multiple locals in bargaining at a single university, the employer agrees to 2010 for some locals, but fights tooth and nail to deny it to others. As employers who want to minimize the strength of unions, their position is equally understandable and reprehensible.

Right wing pundits have begun their “CUPE Watch” claiming that the union wants only to disrupt the system in 2010. While it is true that improving bargaining strength is a main goal of coordination, and the threat of a provincial (or perhaps national) strike of university workers would strengthen CUPE’s position, the other option (fragmented bargaining) means that the real concerns of university workers will continue to be ignored. The status quo is stacked heavily in favour of employers, a fact that none of us can let stand.

Striking Against Neoliberalism

Because CUPE 3903 has been pushed to the picket lines, its local struggle has understandably captured the attention of the media and the provincial government. In essence, the struggle at York University is against precariousness in employment and income for academic workers. A successful strike for CUPE 3903 is of utmost importance for all university workers, for a defeat would make the terrain of struggle for the rest much more hostile.

The struggle is also a much broader one, which includes more than 24,000 CUPE members in Ontario universities (not to mention the other unions that have made overtures to join the 2010 coordination date). There is the potential to create good jobs out of what is now precarious work, and to infuse more funding into a system that should be geared toward the public good, not private profit. This is a struggle the broadest Left should support as one more element in the growing struggles to overturn neoliberalism, and to begin to imagine again what a university might be in a post-neoliberal social order. •

–>Dan Crow teaches at Brock University in St. Catharines and is an activist in CUPE. Visit The Bullet website.

Rally to End Precarious Work

Want to learn more about the workers behind the Strike at York University? Ready to join the fight against the casualization & devaluation of educational work? Come to the CUPE 3903 rally downtown Toronto on Wed. Dec. 3rd, 1:00pm at 900 Bay Street (Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities). LINK HERE for details.


There is what CUPE is fighting for in the larger schemes of things. I will not express my opinion here. I might be cyber mauled by some of you 😉



Filed under Uncategorized

56 responses to “The bigger picture…

  1. “Right wing pundits have begun their “CUPE Watch” claiming that the union wants only to disrupt the system in 2010.”

    Woo hoo! My lame little loser blog got mentioned! Thanks for the free publicity guys. (If you want a link … click my name above.)

    Wait … does that make me a pundit? When do the TV networks start calling?

  2. Jmac

    If you weren’t patient enough to read that neo-neoLiberal diatribe or if you did and you didn’t quite understand what he was getting at … he answered the question that a 2 year contract is likely the only thing 3903 is after in these negotiations.

    CUPE has initiated this battle and the big universities, like Harper and the Conservatives, will use every legal means to fight it.

    It is all about quality education BUT … screw the undergraduates this year, they are unfortunate collateral damage.

  3. trs

    this is too long to read, can someone summarize it

  4. Stef

    Again with the `neoliberalism`. I`m going to have to wikipedia this and find out what it is. At least I`m taking my education into my own hands during this strike. (Thanks for nothing, Union and University!)

  5. Based on what I’ve seen, union executives are the driving force for the 2010 project, for which this article is further evidence: Dan Crow is not merely a “CUPE Activist”, as stated on the byline.

    Do a Google search with the terms: dan crow brock

    Click on the first link, which should be entitled “Elect Dan Crow”. (I would provide a link, but then my post would go to post purgatory.)

    There you will find:

    – When this was written, he was a member of the CUPE Ontario executive board (since August 2007)
    – Since December 2007, he has been vice-chair of the OUWCC (that’s the organization in charge of the 2010 project)
    – He has served as president of CUPE 4207, representing part-time employees at Brock

    So Dan Crow is in fact a senior CUPE executive. Why hide behind the “activist” title, Dan?

  6. gg

    On a side note:
    I think that CUPE’s motto should be:
    “Aim high, achieve low” lol.

  7. jojojimbo

    I’m not sure if anyone else is getting the same sentiment as myself…and I’m not implying that this feeling has developed through reference to this site alone (although to be honest it is a pretty large factor), but is it just me or is the York Admin looking worse and worse as the strike is prolonged. I mean, at first I hated the Union because I felt they were asking for too much and should just settle for anything, in order to avert a strike. Then the hatred deepened as York propaganda somehow got to me and caused me to side with them. Then I started to read into what was being asked for, the real issues on the line, and how, in conjunction with the government failing to properly care for our education, the university administrations have decided to look more and more out for only their own gain, and not the proper care of developing minds. I’m not sure if anyone else is feeling it, but I think we should all “stick it to the man” (nothing against women of course…just a saying) and support for the Union is now my official stance. No hate mail please this is just my opinion!

  8. CUPE member with child

    I have just returned from the Union’s GMM and found out something extremely interesting:

    You may all recall that on Saturday night (after the last bargaining session – one which I attended) York University posted a press release titled “Moderator Suspends talks”. It then followed with a quote from the moderator.

    According to one of our bargaining team members that I spoke with tonight, the gov’t appointed independent moderator was very pomptly called into his bosses office and lambasted for “calling off the talks” (as reported by York, and by the Toronto Star).

    The mediators reply?

    He said that he didn’t call them off at all… York did! He then pressured York to retract their statement that he had been the one to call off the negotiations.

    Now visit York’s website. It doesn’t say the mediator called off talks anymore. It still provides a quote from him saying that the two sides are still far apart (which is all very true).

    Bottom line – be very very very very very careful believing what you read from York’s spin machine. As I’ve said before – they’ve reverted to outright lies.

  9. Nellyli

    @ cupe member with child:

    So do you by any chance know whether we still may go back to class in Dec at all??

  10. CUPE member with child

    I would say that it’s extremely unlikely.

  11. Jimmy

    Woot January FTW

  12. Yorkie


    The fact that York was able to get off press releases ASAP points to a number of factors which seem to be par for the course for this entire strike, namely CUPE’s poor management and leadership

    CUPE’s woefully inept public relations mechanism and media outreach speaks to this. Be it asking students to send angry emails to the wrong provincial minister (hilarious) to its stonewalling of the press (WE ARE NOT NEGOTIATING IN PUBLIC, WE ARE NOT TELLING YOU ARE DEMANDS) and then pathetically whining about its poor treatment by York admin and the news media in CUPE member emails and mailings. To the best of my knowledge, CUPE has yet to make a full list of its demands public and only sticks to the talking points which have been repeated ad nauseum on fliers and posters (please correct me if i am wrong)

    The truth is that CUPE has lost the public relations battle because of the bad engagement choices made earlier and continuing all the way through. The lack of public, media and student support speaks to this. Let’s look at why the strike is taking place: Instead of taking a position that most people strongly support – more job security for Unit IIs – and building up demands from that foundation, CUPE has taken a shotgun approach to its message. Its about wages, its about job security, its about benefits, its about sticking to York university because they have a large budget and a highly paid president, its about contract length, its because York has the audacity to propose binding arbration because they opposed years ago etc.

    Now its about the” casualization of educational labor” and striking out against that amorphous bete noir known as “neo-liberalism”.

    Messages are shifting almost daily and are not dynamic enough to respond to the realities of the day. Asking for wage increases for TAs and GAs – part time employees with nice paychecks and amazing benefits packages – is foolish in the face of a massive recession. Asking for a 2 year contract and job security when York is offering a 3 year contract is confusing to most people and, honestly, gives credence to the 2010 argument. A CUPE steward who leaves in the middle of a strike to go on vacation comes across as arrogant and shows a total and complete disregard for ending the strike in a timely manner. Esoteric strike slogans and strike reasons only confuse and anger people who are (correctly) reading this as a political pissing match with no regard for the students stuck in the middle.

    CUPE has put together no coordinated response to these allegations. Instead we get CUPE sock puppets trying to defend on the internet. Meanwhile, York just has to release a press release or two and all union members go bananas trying to defend their actions and the strike.

    If i have misrepresented anything here, correct me (im sure i’ll get the same copy-paste attack i’ve seen everywhere else i’ve pointed this out).

    Of course, i’m just basing these statements on what CUPE and the University has put out

  13. F-Ed Up

    A quick side-note, just an observation, disregard if this seems stupid, lame, etc:
    While there are some great conversations happening where interesting and compelling ideas from both sides of the debate have come to fruition on this site, there is a trend which I find to be a bit funny. It seems to me that most people (on either side) are willing to accuse others of propagandizing and spinning whenever they read something that they personally disagree with, but isn’t always willing to admit that we’re getting the same thing from both ends… maybe we just need to accept that when it comes to politically-charged issues where several different groups stand to benefit either overtly or covertly from one outcome or another, there’s bound to be bias in almost every piece we read on the topic?

    And maybe we can all be critical thinkers who filter through bias instead of dismissing a piece outright because it contains bias (again, this goes for those on either side of the issue), and who can decide for ourselves and hold real discussions and express our own intelligent opinions rather than just pointing fingers at others? Maybe not, but it’s just an idea 🙂

    (Sorry if it sounds like I’m being *oversensitive* – it’s just a thought. And I understand the nature of blogs, and I’m not calling for people to stop posting what they’ve been posting, or change their posts. Just stating that, to me – and you can disagree – at times this seems less like a discussion and more like a who-done-it.)

  14. F-Ed Up

    P.S. While does the smiley face look so smug and evil?

  15. @ Cupe member with Child

    I was with you on your previous comment until I went to the York website and saw this release.

    For Release By the Parties. 8:30 p.m. December 1, 2008

    The mediator has advised the parties that although there has been some movement in recent days, the parties remain far apart on the key issues in this dispute and that a settlement is not close at hand.

    Therefore, there are no further negotiations scheduled at this time.

    The mediator has asked the parties to review their respective positions and will remain in contact with the parties with a view to returning to the bargaining table if and when a reasonable prospect for settlement exists.

    Greg Long
    Ontario Ministry of Labour”

    This makes it appear as though the mediator suspended talks. I am so confused with the information that we are getting here. If he didn’t in fact suspend talks, and York did, wouldn’t he put that in his media release? This doesn’t make sense to me.

  16. Undergrad@York

    I think it is strange that everyone is so happy about starting in January, and freaking out if someone even mentions the possibility of going back sometime in December, but has anyone thought about what we are going to do if this strike continues right through January – and longer? How likely is this? And what is our year going to look like if that does happen? Is there actually any kind of cut-off date for the strike to end? Just wondering if anyone has explored these possibilities. Also, is there any hypothesis as to what will happen to our money if this does occur? (ie. Tuition, OSAP, Residence Fees)

  17. F-Ed Up

    @ Undergrad@York
    From what I’ve been able to find and look at online (and I find it a bit difficult to navigate through the York strike update page and actually find any clear, explicit info) there’s no official word on any of your questions. There is much speculation (some of it informed by profs, yfs, etc.) on the “No Meeting Dates Scheduled” thread so you can check that out and see if any of it sounds reasonable and choose what sounds most likely to you, but again all we are left with is further speculation 😦

    For what it’s worth, one of my profs is under the impression that the university would only have to refund money if the term is lost, while many have stated that due to some clauses somewhere in some York document, York is protected from having to refund money for the loss of a term due to something like a strike.

  18. Undergrad@York

    @ F-Ed Up

    Thanks for the info 🙂

    I am a first year, and receiving much parental pressure to find out answers, so at least I can tell them that anyone’s guess is as good as ours!

  19. Krisen

    err, anyone have cliffs notes for the article?


  20. j

    I was told by a professor that we will not lose the semester unless the strike lasts for 85 days.

    … for what its worth.

  21. Impatient


    The last strike lasted for 11 1/2 weeks, I believe not including the the christmas break, and they still managed to finished the fall semester, then compress the winter semester to finish just before the summer courses begin. With a January start we would be in what, week 9 or 10? Thats still plenty of time to complete everything.

  22. CUPE member with child


    The mediator’s roll in this is to, (A) remain as absolutely neutral as possible, and (B) encouage the parties towards the table and towards a settlement.

    Therefore he must be as explicitly neutral as possible in his press releases. Notice the passive language: “there are no further ngotiations scheduled…” which gives no hint of whether it is one side or the other, or both, that called off the talks. Now we know (if we can trust) from CUPEs website that they invited more talks to occurr on the tuesday that just passed. (And as an aside, I also know this for myself because I was at the bargaining meeting on Sat. when our bargaining team requested to the moderator that he ask York that they meet again on the Monday – I think the shift to Tuesday was in order to find time to get a suitable venue – I left before the moderator returned with a reply)

    Now, all that aside. You should all recall that York’s original posting from Saturday night said “The Moderator has Suspended Talks”.

    You don’t see that statement anymore. If you don’t believe me… ask yourself why?

  23. CUPE member with child

    I’ve just written to the ministry of labour, which appointed the moderator, and asked them if it was indeed the moderator that suspended the negotiations. I’m not sure if I’ll get a reply, but if I do I’ll certainly post it here.

  24. Hameed

    who is down for paint balling?? lol honestly need something to do with my free time…all this is just getting out of hand..

  25. TA's Opinion

    @ Yorkie

    Unfortunately, I agree with much of your critique of Cupe’s PR coordination and management thus far. It’s not hard to explain, however.

    The university maintains its own Marketing and Communications Division with a staff of 20, headed by a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO?) whose salary is just shy of a quarter million dollars a year. Just one of the three marketing publications the division puts out to promote the university operates on a budget of another quarter million, not including the salaries of the five full-time staff who produce it. Clearly, the full resources of this division have been marshalled to communicate the university’s position during the strike, as it’s mandate is to promote the university’s award-winning “brand” to the public. Significantly, on the York website’s organizational heirarchy, this division appears fourth, just under the BOG, Senate, and President. (And above all those who administrate the academic function of the institution.)

    In contrast, union communications regarding the strike have been organized ad hoc by a group of volunteers, who up until three weeks ago, were probably locked away in little offices attempting to produce academically-sound bits of truth, not media-friendly bites of sound. Moreover, even as a communications committee has emerged during the strike, it does not have the same authority to define or control the message of CUPE membership that York has apparently granted to it’s PR team. The disparate messages you identify are a function of the union’s diversity.

    It is apparent from York’s success in the PR wars that this was a fight they prepared for. And (contrary to what many conspiracy theorists think), one that CUPE’s membership had not been planning prior to the strike.

    If these issues are to be determined exclusively by the professional maniuplation of the media and the public, and your critique seems to suggest they are, then CUPE has a long, uphill battle ahead.

    But I think in the court of public opinion, York’s cynical exploitation of its PR advantage grants some moral authority to the claim that CUPE has bargained in good faith, and that it devoted all of its pre-strike resources to that end.

  26. Basil El-Salviti

    I imagine that the university will find ways to seduce unit 2 workers by January or so….I can’t imagine the university being in the position where they would cancel the entire academic session. ALSO, this blog conducted an interview with Dean Drummond, who told us the year would not be lost. Let’s keep him to his word…

  27. Hullo

    I’m sticking with Jan 15th start. (Just a guess) And YES!! I can finally book my tickets

  28. amy doan

    jan15? what a joke! im taking off to see my family…felt great for leaving the strike behind! see ya all on jan5th

  29. Yorkie


    The fact that CUPE has to rely on a “diversity of opinions” is a glaring weakness of the organization. I have received emails from CUPE representatives which calmly outline reasons for the strike while at the same time hearing about CUPE emails that refer to the police as “pigs”. Having a lead steward go on vacation in the middle of a strike is A BAD IDEA and infuriates people. Talking about strike actions in 2010 frustrates people. When the Toronto Star (left-leaning and traditionally pro-union) opposes the strike, you know there is a problem. CUPE at York is finding itself with fewer and fewer friends as this goes on because they do not have coordinated responses and engagement strategies.

    CUPE should have a single strong message. It does not. Why doesn’t it “cynically exploit” PR? Anecdotally, I can cite numerous examples of people who support the Unit IIs and the contract faculty, but are turned off when they hear about academic arguments such as “neo liberal universities” and a list of demands that goes into the 100s. CUPE is risking being painted as greedy, selfish and spoiled unless they respond forcefully and with a single message. I dont think is a matter of people supporting the university over CUPE as well. I think its more along the lines of people simply dislike CUPE more because they don’t know why CUPE is on strike and CUPE’s lack of clear reasoning and messaging makes them look spoiled and like they’re on strike for capricious “principle” reasons as opposed to being angry about a real wrong committed against them.

    As long as it doesn’t and continues to believe that this slapdash “let everyone speak” it will continue to lose the PR battle and will likely lose this strike.

  30. Nellyli

    My friend forwarded me this msg and it really makes me angry:

    From: “Christina Rousseau”Date: December 1, 2008 8:50:49 PM GMT-05:00
    To: “Cupe 3903″ ,
    Subject: [SC] my leave
    ** please forward as you see fit **
    Hey Folks,
    As some of you may already know, I will be out of the country for a
    period in December. The decision to leave has not been an easy one at all, but I must continue with the arrangements I have made. I am leaving to attend a wedding. The decision to take this trip was
    made in July, which is also the same time that tickets for this trip were purchased. The cheapest tickets to get were of course non-refundable, which puts me in the position I am in now, as I cannot afford to throw away an expensive ticket. At the time that plans were made, I was a rank-and-file member and not in an executive position. I
    only came into an executive position at the beginning of October.
    As I have said, my decision to continue on with these plans has not been an easy one. But at the same time, I cannot afford to just throw
    away a plane ticket. I understand that people might be upset by this decision, but I also hope that people will be understanding of why Iam going.
    The Executive Committee has been planning for my absence according to our bylaws. In the event that the Chair is absent, the Vice Presidents
    take on the duties of the Chair. Maria Wallis (VP Unit 2), Ben Nelson
    (VP Unit 3) and Roxanne Power (Chief Steward Unit 2) have agreed to take on these responsibilities, which include the scheduling and
    planning of general membership meetings, as well as executive
    committee meetings. To help ease this transition (and for the sake of
    everyone’s convenience) the executive have already scheduled the next
    2 GMMs, and the 3rd one is in the works. In terms of media relations,Tyler Shipley (Chief Steward Unit 1) and Graham Potts (VP Unit 1) have already been actively involved and will continue to serve
    as media representatives during the remainder of the strike. Also, we have a wonderful team of media relations people who will continue to do the great work they have been doing.The rest of the Executive Committee will of course continue to do the great work they have been doing. It is important to note that the position of chair in 3903 is not the same as a hierarchical position
    like ‘president.’ All members of the CUPE 3903 Executive have equal rights in decision-making and my role does not carry any more responsibility or weight than any other position.
    In solidarity,
    –Christina Rousseau
    PhD II
    CUPE 3903 Steward
    Division of Humanities
    York University

  31. Nellyli

    I’ve just posted one msg that my friend forwarded me and it said CUPE Executive Chair is leaving the country for a wedding! It makes me really sad. However, it showed that this msg is awaiting moderation.

  32. Nellyli

    I’ve just posted one msg that my friend forwarded me and it said CUPE Executive Chair is leaving the country for a wedding! It makes me really sad. However, the post showed that this msg is awaiting moderation.

  33. CUPE member with child

    Here’s a very detailed open letter on one of the most central issues in this labour disputre, contract faculty job security (although I have to admit one of the better highlights is President Shoukri’s interest free loan directly from York to buy his house with $50,000 per year loan forgiveness). I have removed some web site links so that this will be immediately posted:

    Dear CUPE 3903 Colleagues,

    I am writing to you as a Unit 2 member who is not involved in either the union’s executive or the bargaining team, but who has been around York University for quite awhile. I am writing to urge you to reject any offer from the employer that does not address in a meaningful way the key priorities that we have been trying to achieve during this strike, particularly greater job security for Unit 2 contract faculty members. Below are some of the reasons why I feel this way … any final decision, of course, rests with you.

    Job security

    As you know, enhanced employment protection has been a priority issue in the union’s bargaining proposals. Job security is being sought through three mechanisms: continuation of the conversions program, the re-establishment of Special Renewable Contracts (SRCs), and a complement guarantee (which seeks to maintain a level of Tutor 1 positions within Unit 2). At this particular time, all three of these proposals are exceptionally important for our membership,
    including graduate students in Units 1 and 3, significant numbers of whom will move into the ranks of contract teaching in the not too distant future.

    As most of you are undoubtedly aware, the structure of academic labour at universities is changing profoundly, with more and more of undergraduate teaching being done by contract faculty. This trend has been more noticeable in
    the United States. But it is now also occurring in Canada at an alarming rate, and York University appears to be at the forefront in this change. In a few short years, we will be basically operating under a system, where almost all undergraduate teaching is done by contractual faculty, while tenured faculty concentrate chiefly on research and graduate studies (although we might be
    doing some of the latter too – in the last few years, I have taught 3 graduate courses as a Unit 2 member!).

    Figures from the York Fact Book 2007/8 indicate that there are 1,401 tenured faculty and 1,612 contract faculty teaching at York. The noticeable surge in contract teaching began around 2003, and continues to climb. CUPE Unit 2 members compose just a little over half of the contract
    complement at York. The remaining contract faculty teach in what is called CUPE “exempt” positions, largely concentrated in the professional faculties, such as Schulich, Osgoode, and Administration Studies (but also include pre-university and Women’s Studies Bridging courses). These positions, particularly in the
    professional faculties, no doubt will grow in the coming years as restructuring at York shifts academic concentration into applied and professional streams, away from its traditional focus on liberal arts.

    It is absolutely essential and critical that CUPE 3903 make inroads around job security in our collective agreement – and this strike may well be our last chance to do this, atleast at our local level. There is considerable opposition within YUFA to the current CUPE proposals around SRCs. This opposition comes largely from tenured faculty who support the research-intensive model that will
    increasingly characterize full-time tenure-stream positions. However, currently, there are also important YUFA allies who have been very active on our behalf in negotiations around job security. They are supportive of the SCR initiative, both for ethical and academic reasons. They understand the unfairness of the highly precarious nature of Unit 2 work. They are also deeply concerned about
    the creation of a two-tiered system of academic work, where teaching loads vary significantly between research-intensive and teaching-stream appointments, and the impact that this will have on the quality of education. Due to retirements, many of these YUFA allies will not be around when CUPE enters bargaining again in two or three years.

    There are a number of indicators that suggest York’s administration is clearly heading towards the two-tier model of academic teaching. The university has imposed a hiring-freeze on tenure-stream appointments until 2013. As well, it
    has been articulated at Senate that tenured faculty who retire will not be replaced. At the most recent Senate meeting, on November 27th, both the
    President of the University and the V.P. Academic advised the chair of the English department that the seven YUFA faculty who are retiring in a few days would not be replaced with tenure-stream appointments. Their courses either will not be taught or will shift into CUPE. There are already 54 contract faculty teaching in this department. The attrition of tenured positions appears
    particularly concentrated in the social sciences and humanities. Another troubling trend with respect to tenure-stream hirings is that they are
    increasingly only “strategic” appointments, where the V.P Academic, not departments, determines areas of hiring priorities. 2% of departmental budget cuts over the next three years are being redirected to such “strategic” hirings.

    If we do not obtain a renewal of the SRC program during this strike, enhanced job security will hereafter only be won through a coordinated collective action at the provincial level with other universities. This is why a two-year contract
    is also important for Unit 2 members. Next time around, there will only be a handful, if any, tenured faculty who will support CUPE 3903 on job security measures. The struggle against precarious work will have to shift into a
    coordinated effort and movement among contract faculty in universities across the province. As Joe Berry argues, in ‘Reclaiming the Ivory Tower: Organizing Adjuncts to Change Higher Education,’ the critical fault line in universities has shifted to one between contingent faculty, “who have become the norm for faculty … and those who own, control and manage institutions of higher
    education.” (New York, Monthly Review Press, 2005, p. 12.)

    Costing and the Administration’s economic arguments Over the past twenty years, I have weathered quite a few strikes, both here at York and in my graduate student days at the University of Toronto. In each and every instance, the universities have always trotted out the “yes, but we’re poor” argument! This argument has been forcefully and repeatedly given by York’s administrators to both CUPE and YUFA memberships on numerous occasions in past labour disputes, and if we had taken these arguments to heart, we would currently not have what has been described as the “best” collective agreement in the university sector.

    During this strike, there has been a sustained critique, both by CUPE members and some YUFA faculty, of the university’s poverty claim, and considerable discussion has ensued about finances at York. For many, the more appropriate question that is emerging and that we should be asking is: where does the money go at York? This has become a particularly important topic of discussion in Faculty of Arts.

    What some initial research is indicating is that there has been a substantial shift of economic resources from the Faculty of Arts to new professional programs and, more generally, an overall decline in the academic portion of
    York’s budget. Since the early 2000s, academic spending has declined from 63% to 55% of the university’s operating budget (see: York University’s annual “Planning, Budget, and Accountability Report”). Funds have been diverted into new building construction and administration. Undoubtedly, a significant
    portion of these monies have been used to subsidize some of the exceptional salary increases that York’s top administrators have received over the past three years (see: Public Sector Salary Disclosures at: english/ publications/salarydisclosure/2008/univer08.html#main) – as well as the $750,000 interest-free loan that the new President was given to purchase his Toronto home ($50,000 of which is “forgiven” from the principle each year he occupies his position). Outside of financial considerations, the terms of this loan are downright embarrassing at
    a point in time when more and more students are accumulating huge student loan debts that are not interest free. Also, when students are unable to pay their tuition fees in August, why are they abruptly de-enrolled from courses instead of “forgiven” and shown some leniency with a tuition payment plan?

    A significant portion of York’s budget has also gone towards technological purchases. While tenure-stream appointments have been frozen, plans for purchasing an MRI are proceeding, according to individuals who attended the last Senate meeting. Additionally, considerable amounts of money are spent on media and promotional events, such as the March Gala, estimated to cost around $1,000,000 each year, and York’s 50th birthday party, ball parked at half a
    million dollars. Similarly, as the CUPE 3903 website points out: “The University retains Human Resources managers trained to negotiate collective agreements, and pays them well over $100,000. Meanwhile, we conservatively estimate that York pays the law firm hired to negotiate with us about $400/hour. Couldn’t the tens of thousands of dollars spent on legal fees in
    this round of bargaining be put to better use?” One might also pause and consider, here, that our bargaining team is composed only of our own Unit 1, 2 and 3 members.

    When York administrators cry “poor,” it must be remembered that there are two important revenue streams for the university that have increased substantially over the past decade (one of which will undoubtedly continue to grow): revenues
    generated from mounting student enrolments, and monies stemming from the York Foundation fundraising campaign. Over the past decade, both undergraduate and graduate enrolments have each increased by roughly 50%, coincident with mounting tuition fees. During this same time period, the number of YUFA members only grew by 27%, whereas the employment of contract faculty went up 112% and TA tutorial assignments rose 116%. If these trends continue (rising student enrolment and the growing use of CUPE members to meet teaching needs – combined with the expected substantial increases in tuition fees, in the next few years), it would suggest that revenues for the university should be fairly stable, if not healthy. Last year alone, income derived from tuition fees rose from $316 million to $332 million (York University Financial Statements 2008). Based on the projected tuition fees for 2009/10 (which are estimated on University’s own website to be $5,524 for 5 courses next year at York), large first and second year courses with student enrolments of 225 plus, which are more often than not taught by contract faculty, will generate upwards of a quarter of a million dollars in tuition revenues per course for the university.
    Out of this, a CUPE 3903 Unit 2 Course Director is paid $13,838.00 (current 2007 wage rate).

    There will also be more money flowing from provincial funding for the planned expansion of graduate enrolments at York. CUPE estimates that increases linked to provincial graduate funding amounted to $38,000,000 in 2007. This amount
    will grow in the coming years alongside increased graduate enrolment. Finally, lets not forget, as well, that the York Foundation has raised over $160 million in their ‘York to the Power of 50′ campaign ( Surely some of this money could be used to reach a fair settlement for CUPE 3903 members. As one YUFA member has pointed out, it would only take a small portion of these funds to secure a significant number of SRCs and Conversion positions for Unit 2 members. The
    cancellation of the March Gala, for just two years, alone would more than cover CUPE 3903’s SRC proposal (costed at around two million dollars).

    There is no solid evidence that the current global economic crisis will have a tremendous or devastating effect on York’s or other universities’ revenues. Indeed, if you read the papers or listen to the news, many individuals who have either lost or fear losing their employment, talk about returning to university to up-grade their academic qualifications, or to pursue graduate studies to
    enhance their specialization. Since the current market-driven emphasis on credentialism does not appear to be waning, more students are likely to return to school. What universities might see is a shift from full to part-time students on account of tuition costs, but it is doubtful that either
    undergraduate or graduate enrolments will decline in the near future. As well, the spectre of a new coalition government at the federal level, raises hopes that some of the spending package will include investments into post-secondary
    education. Indeed, the winds of change both in Ottawa and south of the border tend to give a modicum of anticipation that the political landscape is shifting. Dare we dream that we are starting to see the end to decades of neo-liberalism?

    The Problem with the University’s current proposal around job security. It is dismaying that the university has still not discussed the issue of
    conversions at the bargaining table, and that it has refused to budge on its highly problematic proposal around renewable contracts for Unit 2 faculty, despite criticisms of this proposal from both CUPE and YUFA members. What the
    employer has persisted in advancing is a seriously flawed program, entitled ‘YUFA Teaching-Stream Appointments'(which I will refer to as TSAs). Their
    proposal basically maintains precarious employment for Unit 2 members. What CUPE 3903 members would like to see is the re-establishment of SRCs.

    What are SRCs?

    SRC stands for Special Renewable Contract. These are five-year renewable appointments within YUFA (York University’s Full-Time Faculty Association) that can potentially provide job security for CUPE contract faculty who are regularly employed by York University. SRCs are NOT tenured-stream appointments. They are
    teaching positions, which also include an administrative service component.

    SRCs are not new. Originally negotiated in collaboration with YUFA in the 1998 round of CUPE bargaining, the SRC program essentially acknowledged the contribution of contract faculty member’s service to the University. From 1999 to 2004, approximately 40 CUPE Unit 2 members where transferred into five-year YUFA appointments. The salaries for these appointments were negotiated in a similar way to that of regular YUFA appointments, and sabbaticals were available once during the tenure of the position. Course loads varied between
    2.5 to 3. Renewal was basically pro-forma and no-one has yet been turned down in the renewal of their contracts.

    In the 2002 negotiations with the employer, CUPE 3903 agreed to suspend the program to allow the remaining members in the pool be appointed to an SRC, with the written understanding that the employer would examine alternative job security programs over the course of the three-year agreement. This never happened. Hence, CUPE reintroduced an SRC program in its proposals for
    bargaining this year.

    What CUPE 3903 wants

    Our proposal seeks SRC appointments with a 2.5-3.0 course load at a base annual salary of $75,000 annually, with provisions for sabbaticals, PTR (progress through the ranks), and an “evergreen” clause that would insure that the program would remain open to Unit 2 members as they reached specified levels of years of service at York. This proposal has the support of the YUFA executive.

    What the University offered

    The University has so far only offered a TSA program with 10 appointments, spread out over a three-year contract. This TSA program is very different from what existed prior to 2004. These positions are ‘high-intensity’ teaching-stream appointments, where faculty would be required to teach a 4.0 course load for $60,000 a year. They include a service component as well. Unlike the old SRC program, which had provisions for subsequent renewals of the five-year contracts, the university wants these SRCs to be subject to
    adjudicated renewals, with provisions for cancellation of the position, at any point during the five-year contract, on account of curriculum or budgetary changes.

    Why this is NOT a good offer

    The University’s proposal around TSAs is deeply flawed. Their current offer actually increases job insecurity for Unit 2 members who would be appointed to these positions.

    First, the salary that the University has specified for TSA appointments represents only $4,000 more than what a Unit 2 member would earn teaching four courses under the current CUPE wage rates. This increase is even less once any
    wage gains achieved during this round of negotiations are factored in. Contract faculty, especially ‘high-intensity,’ long-service members, can earn substantially more by staying in Unit 2 under CUPE wage scales.

    Second, the University’s proposal actually erodes job security for Unit 2 members.

    Currently, when curriculum and/or budgetary changes result in fewer courses in departments in some years, contract faculty generally compensate by doing what one Unit 2 member has termed the great “contract shuffle,” applying for and teaching courses in a variety of different departments. This is how many Unit 2 members stay afloat in ‘lean’ years.

    However, under the university’s TSA proposal, people in these appointments become ‘sitting ducks’ in any cost-cutting measures undertaken by the university, both due to the actual provisions in the proposed TSA program, as well as due to the numerical minority that individuals holding TSAs will constitute within the YUFA membership. Without a doubt, in an economic crunch, these positions would more than likely be the first to go over any full-time tenured positions within the YUFA bargaining unit. As YUFA appointments, TSA
    positions have no seniority protection. Indeed, terminated TSA appointees would re-enter Unit 2 without the years of their TSA appointment accruing to their CUPE Unit 2 seniority.

    Finally, the high teaching load that the University proposes in their version of TSAs continues to perpetuate barriers to research and to writing which is precisely what many Unit 2 members would like to be able to do. We are seeking some form of job security with regularized and reasonable teaching loads precisely so we can engage more with our own academic and research interests.

    YUFA’s position

    While the CUPE 3903 SCR proposal was endorsed and supported by the YUFA executive, they have not supported the university’s TSA offer. YUFA has given every indication that it will not accept a two-tier employment structure within its collective agreement. In other words, they will not sanction teaching-stream appointments where the course load is substantially higher than what tenured faculty teach.

    What should CUPE members do?

    CUPE 3903 members, from all units, should reject any offer of renewable contracts that is modeled on the TSA proposal currently on the bargaining
    table. It extends neither job security nor any substantial incentives in terms of income, teaching loads, or time to pursue research and writing to our membership. This week, at both the Unit 2 caucus meeting and the CUPE General
    Membership Meeting, the TSA proposal was resoundingly rebuffed as insulting to contract faculty, many of whom have devoted many years of teaching service to the university. Bargaining team members, across all three units, have clearly
    and repeatedly articulated a commitment to renewable teaching contracts as a key priority that must be obtained in our new collective agreement. We must continue to support them in this effort.

    I would encourage any of you who have not come out to Unit 2 caucus meetings to do so. Come out and participate, and get involved in the organizational initiatives that are being developed around supporting the strike, and around
    supporting a greater and more active union participation amongst contract faculty that can be sustained well into the future.


    Lykke de la Cour
    Unit 2 CUPE 3903

  34. Ridculous

    @ CMWC

    It is my understanding that the provincial mediator retains control over the booking of mediations. This is standard and their job, thus it is at their discretion to say both parties must review their position to ensure all meetings are productive.

    What I think happened was that it was the provincial mediator’s opinion that both parties are unable to budge on key issues and as such negotiations were at a stand still and ultimately it was becoming unproductive or perhaps even regressive to continue meeting. It is the mediators job to coordinate information between the parties.

    I am inclined to agree with this view since all I hear from York is how unreasonable the union’s demands are. Whereas, all the union claims York is lying and greedy. This does not sound like the two parties are capable of meeting productively.

    Hopefully, the union and York are contacting the mediator behind the scenes and he is still working on the strike by assisting in a reaching a middle ground albeit while keeping the too feuding parties apart.

  35. Nellyli

    Here is the msg that my friend forwarded me. I really makes me sad and I hope it is not for real:

    From: “Christina Rousseau”
    >>> Date: December 1, 2008 8:50:49 PM GMT-05:00
    >>> To: “Cupe 3903″ ,
    >>> Subject: [SC] my leave
    >>> ** please forward as you see fit **
    >>> Hey Folks,
    >>> As some of you may already know, I will be out of the country for a
    >>> period in December. The decision to leave has not been an easy one at
    >>> all, but I must continue with the arrangements I have made.
    >>> I am leaving to attend a wedding. The decision to take this trip was
    >>> made in July, which is also the same time that tickets for this trip
    >>> were purchased. The cheapest tickets to get were of course
    >>> non-refundable, which puts me in the position I am in now, as I cannot
    >>> afford to throw away an expensive ticket. At the time that plans were
    >>> made, I was a rank-and-file member and not in an executive position. I
    >>> only came into an executive position at the beginning of October.
    >>> As I have said, my decision to continue on with these plans has not
    >>> been an easy one. But at the same time, I cannot afford to just throw
    >>> away a plane ticket. I understand that people might be upset by this
    >>> decision, but I also hope that people will be understanding of why Iam
    >>> going.
    >>> The Executive Committee has been planning for my absence according to
    >>> our bylaws. In the event that the Chair is absent, the Vice Presidents
    >>> take on the duties of the Chair. Maria Wallis (VP Unit 2), Ben Nelson
    >>> (VP Unit 3) and Roxanne Power (Chief Steward Unit 2) have agreed to
    >>> take on these responsibilities, which include the scheduling and
    >>> planning of general membership meetings, as well as executive
    >>> committee meetings. To help ease this transition (and for the sake of
    >>> everyone’s convenience) the executive have already scheduled the next
    >>> 2 GMMs, and the 3rd one is in the works. In terms of media
    >>> relations,Tyler Shipley (Chief Steward Unit 1) and Graham Potts (VP
    >>> Unit 1) have already been actively involved and will continue to serve
    >>> as media representatives during the remainder of the strike. Also, we
    >>> have a wonderful team of media relations people who will continue to
    >>> do the great work they have been doing.
    >>> The rest of the Executive Committee will of course continue to do the
    >>> great work they have been doing. It is important to note that the
    >>> position of chair in 3903 is not the same as a hierarchical position
    >>> like ‘president.’ All members of the CUPE 3903 Executive have equal
    >>> rights in decision-making and my role does not carry any more
    >>> responsibility or weight than any other position.
    >>> In solidarity,
    >>> Christina
    >>> –Christina Rousseau
    >>> PhD II
    >>> CUPE 3903 Steward
    >>> Division of Humanities
    >>> York University

  36. CUPE member with child

    Yikes, I posted it twice – york strike2008, can you remove the second one please? Cheers

  37. Woot

    Thanks for keeping us updated Cupe member with child!

    Its very much appreciated!

  38. Basil El-Salviti


    I don’t want to endorse your idea, but I’m anticipating based on precedent the strike to end at any point in January.

  39. yorkstrike2008

    @Cupe MWC could you please email me that entire article **with the source links** I have been asked to do an interview and I’d like to use some of that information in that article. That was an excellent read. Thank you for the post!

  40. Yorkie

    @ CUPE member with child

    Open messages (not official documents) are not acceptable engagement strategies. By and large they are subjective and akin to editorial pieces. Letters with multiple unclear messages, walls of text, esoteric academic arguments which don’t make this about tangible issues and still are involved in the petty and babyish “York admin makes better money that us” are still not effective public engagement strategies.

    I’d like to address the York is rich issue.

    President Shakouri makes a large salary because he as 1) wildly different duties than a TA/GA working 10 hours a week 2) is responsible for the administration of a large public institution. The CEO in effect. Ditto for the departmental managers. To remain an effective institutional organization which is managed effectively and maintains a high York has to offer lucrative salaries to attract qualified talent. Is is benefit package fair? Hard to say as I do not have information regarding salaries and benefit packages at other universities. Is such a benefit package appropriate for someone managing an organization with close to 60,000 students and staff members and considerable budgets? Likely yes.

    It would be more fair to ask how much Sid Ryan makes in terms of benefits and perks packages, as he to is responsible for the management of a large organizational structure. I’m guessing its fairly high.

    And before you say that university should be run like CUPE or any other union, considering what a terrible job has been done so far by the union in basic public engagement and organization, well, thank god for “the bosses”. Is CUPE still struggling to get people on some gates? How about pulling down picket lines at 5pm now because people are mean to them? You go big or you go home.

    Oh, and btw, TAs and GAs can work off campus once they fulfill their work requirements. I know several TAs/GAs who do exactly that. You are disingenuous to suggest otherwise

  41. Ridculous

    @ Yorkie

    Great post! I completely agree on your opinion of an open message. Posts referring to articles, messages, picket line gossip or 1st or 2nd information on meetings should be qualified as such and not presented as proof or more than they are.

  42. F-Ed Up

    @ CMWC

    Contrary to the above responses, I believe that this was an interesting and informative article which goes well beyond pointing out imbalances in employee-related spending (be it salaries or interest-free loans) and breaks down some of they key issues, both large and small, at stake in this strike. In addition, you framed it as such (and not as “proof” of anything – just further information from a defined source, which people can then give as much credit to as they want), which indicates that the strength and relevance of the letter lies in those sections.

    Again, if one is not capable is filtering through bias and opinion to get to the factual meat at the heart of any piece of text… well it is impossibly to truly “read” anything. And it’s frustrating to try to engage in any kind of discussion with someone who refuses to engage with the discussion piece!

    Thanks for posting something interesting and relevant!

  43. F-Ed Up

    P.S. I am interested to find out if the administration have provided an in-depth justification of their position, in any format – I am not interested exclusively in media releases, as media releases are intentionally generally short and fairly shallow (not meant in the derogatory sense).
    I am not insinuating anything by asking, I am just curious if this type of communication from the admin exists; if so, I would be really interested in reading it. Thanks in advance to anyone who can help.

  44. TA's Opinion


    I thought your criticisms of CUPE’s communications were offered in good faith, but as your posts go on, you seem to have tipped your hand with regard to where your affiliations lie.

    This is a blog – a very useful one at that, maintained voluntarilty by some saintly individual with an interest in collecting and publishing as much info on the strike as possible.

    It is apparent that many stakeholders in this strike – students, union members, “CUPE watchers”, admin? parents, and the public, are using this blog to find and share whatever information and opinions they have access to. It’s popularity points to an absence of useful or coherent information coming out about the strike from either side responsible for it.

    If you persuse comments from students across the anti-strike online groups, it’s apparent that while the university is effectively communicating a position on the issues of the strike (CUPE is unreasonable, disorganized, callous to students, etc) it is failing to provide students the information they need to manage their lives during the shutdown. The university has done little to respond to student anxieties about holiday plans, exam and graduation dates, refunds, program delays, etc. For three weeks, the best its $4 mil a year Communication Division could come up with was “get some regular exercise.”

    Blog readers understand that posters like CMWC are individuals, disseminating whatever information they have access to, information that posters like you have requested in earlier posts. To then reject those attempts as “unacceptable engagement strategies” is – to use your words – “babyish”. Your critique is better directed to an official CUPE outlet or CUPE spokesperson, not to the individual posters who choose to participate here.

  45. Yorkie

    @ TA’s Opinion

    Actually I’m referring to people with CUPE in their name who I am assuming are de facto spokespeople for the union. CUPE has done little to give public notice of their official demands. Why not provide a list of all 120 demands for scrutiny by the press, pundits and undergrads alike? Would that not stand as the best mechanism for everyone involved to determine the fairness/unfairness of their demands and the fairness/unfairness of York’s position? (Conversely, if CUPE has publicized their demands officially, not in talking points or open letters, could you link to it?)

    CUPE has mishandled this from the start. Most people do not want editorials, they want concrete positions. I have yet to see the positions of CUPE articulated outside of think pieces. Like it or not, York admin HAS published their reasons for opposing the demands of CUPE official communiques and editorialized releases. CUPE continues with its stonewalling, scattershot messaging and “the world is against us ” approaches.

    If i have misconstrued CUPE as stonewalling please correct me, but i am only basing it on what i have read in the press

  46. york student

    I really want to go back to school. Does anyone think this is going to be happening soon.

  47. BFD

    Finally some agreement by both parties in this strike!!

    From thestar(dot)com

    Note the last couple of paragraphs;
    Union organizer Parbattie Ramsarran is quoted as
    commenting to the students:
    “They have been greatly inconvenienced. That, I
    will acknowledge,”

    To which;
    ” York spokesperson Alex Bilyk agreed after the rally that York’s 50,000 students were being inconvenienced.”

    So there you have it folks, the demonstrated level of
    concern for our welfare is an acknowledgement that
    we have been “inconvenienced,” sheesh!

    “They really oughta go ‘n find out how the hallways smell
    They’d benefit to know ’bout what the bums in there could tell”
    FZ -rip-

  48. Impatient

    Anyone know if there was any talk about negotiations mentioned at the GMM last night?

  49. ProudYorkie!!

    @york student
    I do not think that we’ll be returning anytime sooner than January!! So chill, and enjoy the vacations as I dont think we’ll be getting a lot of them in the coming year!!

  50. student

    @TA’s Opinion – How exactly is the communications department suppose to respond to students? There is no timeline on this strike and thus no way of giving concrete information to students about when classes, exams, grad dates and whatnot will resume. Anxieties about holiday plans seem to stem from people wanting the okay to take spur of the moment trips during this strike period without having to face consequences should we resume before the 23rd. Any plans made pre-Nov 7th and the University will have to accommodate you. Perhaps a general notice then that should you decide to leave the city/country/continent that you do so at your own risk and are liable for the consequences? But that too will likely be met in anger and anxiety from students.
    There was a release a few days ago that was a bit better in regards to informing students about remediation but not sure if it was from the Comm. Dept.

    The senate decides remediation and asides from reaffirming this point, there seems to be little else that 4 million dollar comm department can do; except pr to better the admin’s image to the public eye.

  51. Worried

    Has there be any new development with cupe and York that anyone has heard of yet? I was hoping they would have set up a new date to talk things through.

  52. Alien Baby

    @ Yorkie.

    Nah, it’s just me, TA’s opinion. I am neither a spokesperson for aliens or their babies. Nor are posters using CUPE in their handles union spokespeople, de facto or otherwise. For all we know, CMWC is a balding call center worker in Bangladore, strangely preoccupied with Candian labour politics.

    If CUPE could give me a quarter-million dollar salary and a $4 million annual budget, not to mention the power to authorize every official and unofficial communique of it’s 3000+ members, which is what York gives to its Chief Marketing Officer, rest assured I’d adopt many of your suggestions and perhaps even hire you as a consultant. Until then, we are both left to piece together as much info as we can.

    I obtained the original demands of the union off of its website. In the bargaining process, however, these demands have changed. It has been the official position of the union, based on legitimate counsel I think, that bargaining “in public” can be not only unproductive but construed as acting in bad faith. This is why instantaneous minutes of every bargaining meeting are not widely disseminated to the public, by either side. If I can find a public document outlining the information you request, I will post it, and I would encourage you to do the same.

  53. CUPE member with child

    @yorkstrike2008. I’d email you the letter if I had your email address. I’ll try and find it on the site momentarily.


    You stated: “To remain an effective institutional organization which is managed effectively and maintains a high [sic] York has to offer lucrative salaries to attract qualified talent.”

    There’s CUPEs argument in a nutshell, summarized by yourself in the description of the president’s salaraies and benefits. We have not been offered anything that attracts our talent, and thus we have withdrawn our labour. Thank you and good day.

  54. Yorkie

    @CUPE member with child

    That’s it? That’s your message? Well gee, i though it was about the casualization and precariousness of work, the lack of job security, poor wages/benefits, and york evilly offering a 3 year contract. So this is CUPE’s official message? Yes? No? Or will next week bring forth another avalanche of atrocities which York has been inflicting on their workers?

    I’m sorry, but that’s a cop out response. I’m trying to engage here and you make a smarmy little remark.

    By the same reasoning, if your talent is not being met, well lets go classical economics here. In that case, you should find another job then which better speaks to your skills and let the university hire new TAs and GAs . And if York fires the lot of you and brings in cheap labor from, where ever, you shoudl be happy because now because you can be a TA at HARVARD (this is inflammatory, but still, CMWC has ridiculous reasoning. If this simple binary reasoning/attitude is what is going on at the GMMs I might as well just drop out in January)

  55. Nurse 1

    Here’s my response from another site on the Dan Crow letter but it fits well with this topic:

    If the strike is a platform for the alternate agendas of the CUPE-OUWCC 2010 objective as well as an ideological fight against so called neo-liberalism ( where does that leave York students?

    Do the ends justify the means? Does closing York university, sending 50,000 students home and threatening the economic and educational future of students justify one of the primary CUPE 3903 contentions that a neo-liberal government and university is destroying the education system by reducing the number of full-time and tenure positions and increasing the number of contract based professors (

    There is no doubt that it is a dangerous trend in Ontario to degrade PhD level professionals by forcing them to work in unstable, inequitable contract positions. In fact, the issue is so important to CUPE 3903 that the union has based much of its stand during this York strike on attempting to ensure equitable conditions for contract staff ( In addition, the upcoming December 3rd CUPE 3903 rally at the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities is centred around this very issue.

    However, both the CUPE-OUWCC 2010 objective and the December 3 rally extend beyond the halls of York University and this strike. CUPE 3903 is attempting to bring their message to a government level. But, in doing so, have they forgotten that 50,000 students remain out of the classroom? Is CUPE 3903 in danger losing focus on the reality (and the real gains they can make here at York) in order to “fight the good fight?”

    Moreover, can the contract teacher issue be truly solved during the current York strike? CUPE 3903concedes that the issue of contract positions versus fulltime teaching positions in the educational sector is Ontario wide (even global) ( Can one university and its 50,000 students be expected to be act as precedent for an overall CUPE agenda against neo-liberalism? During the YFS town hall on November 25th, the CUPE3903 speaker stated that York was being viewed as a flagship. There were high hopes that during this strike CUPE would make precedent setting gains that would act as a beacon for the rest of the sector. This sentiment is echoed on the CUPE3903 web sites and Dan Crow writes “a successful strike for CUPE 3903 is of utmost importance for all university workers, for a defeat would make the terrain of struggle for the rest much more hostile” ( However, does such an agenda based too much on ideology and raising the gains bar as high as possible put in danger the collective bargaining process? Will CUPE 3903 realize that gains of the magnitude they are hoping for must be made bit by bit over years and not all at once, here and now, during this strike.

  56. grad student

    @ Yorkie’s “Oh, and btw, TAs and GAs can work off campus once they fulfill their work requirements. I know several TAs/GAs who do exactly that. You are disingenuous to suggest otherwise”

    Just as a clarification, while many TAs and GAs do work second or third jobs outside of the university after they fulfill their obligations to the classes or profs they have been assigned to (including myself), we are technically breaking the terms of our contract by doing so. According to the university, we are not supposed to work more than 10 hours/week, either in or outside the university, so we can concentrate on our research and studies. If the university were to find out about our secondary jobs, they could take away our funding and TA/GA-ships.

    Unfortunately, most contracts as GAs/TAs do not pay enough to cover rent, let alone bills, groceries, books, metropasses, etc. so most people work those second jobs anyways.

    It boggles my mind that the university does not see the financial packages they currently offer grad students as more of an asset to the reputation and success of the school. The positions and funding they offer to master’s students in particular are unparalleled in Canada and many grad students I know had offers from other more “prestigious” schools and programs which they turned down in order to come to York because at York they could afford to complete their degree without taking on more student debt. If the university wants to continue to attract hard-working grad students and dedicated TAs, they need to maintain these levels of funding and benefits, not retract them.

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