It’s not about the money. It’s not about the benefits either.
The real reason Rob Heynen spent yesterday afternoon marching down Bay St. with snarled traffic at his back and biting wind in his face was something else altogether: Job security.
“The uncertainty of never knowing how much work I’m going to have, how much money I’m going to make, what the courses are going to be – it’s really psychologically tiring,” said the 39-year-old, who has been teaching political science, social science and geography at York University for the last six years. “Whatever I can get.”
Heynen was among hundreds of striking York staff, mostly other contract faculty and teaching assistants, who gathered outside the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities at 900 Bay St. Yesterday marked four full weeks since they walked out on Nov. 6.
The crowd was boisterous, the mood festive, as reggae music clapped against the walls of the Bay St. government offices and towering condo buildings. Speaker after speaker, about 20 by the time the day was over, hammered home what they said was a major discrepancy in York’s budget: Contract faculty and teaching assistants account for more than 50 per cent of the teaching at York University, and earn 7.5 per cent of total revenues.
“That’s what a lot of people went out on strike for. And a lot of people are willing to stay out until we get job security for contract faculty,” said teaching assistant and union organizer Christina Rousseau.
After leading a cheer to “negotiate, not legislate,” NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo told the crowd only her party voted uniformly on Tuesday to strike down a “shameful Tory bill” to legislate York teaching staff back to work.
“My husband’s a contract teacher at Humber College, so this is an intimate issue for me,” she said later. “These people are being used as cheap labour. They do the same job as (full-time) faculty – they don’t get the same pay. In fact, many of them do more work.”
Shortly after DiNovo’s speech, the crowd moved south on Bay St., then west along College St. to Queen’s Park amidst heavy police presence. The rally continued on the exact same spot York students held a rally of their own a day earlier, demanding back-to-work legislation.
“Many of our members are also students and we will try to do whatever we can when we get back … I would really like to see them back in the classroom as soon as possible,” said contract faculty member and union organizer Parbattie Ramsarran.
“It’s unfortunate that it got this far. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to save the term, but I’d like for us to be able to give them some kind of assurance that they will complete their year and they will graduate. They have been greatly inconvenienced. That, I will acknowledge,” she said.
York spokesperson Alex Bilyk agreed after the rally that York’s 50,000 students were being inconvenienced. A mediator suspended negotiations Saturday, and no new talks have been scheduled.
“It’s unfortunate that it got this far. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to save the term, but I’d like for us to be able to give them some kind of assurance that they will complete their year and they will graduate. They have been greatly inconvenienced. That, I will acknowledge,”
Enough said. Who wants to go protest at York on Monday for negotiations to start back up again? We have to do it quickly. The original plan was to was to go and protest and the meeting but that isn’t gonna happen. Monday 11 AM outside of Ross?