After weeks of standoff and stalled classes, the new year may offer hope for York University students.
Graham Potts, a chief negotiator for Local 3903 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said the union representing York’s graduate students, contract faculty and teaching assistants should be able to iron out a deal with the school’s bargaining team when they resume negotiations at the bargaining table on Saturday.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that they have decided to modify a number of their positions and take the concessions off the table,” he said.
This is the first time during the strike that the school has asked to return to the bargaining table, Potts said.
The mediator has informed the union the university will return with an offer in the ballpark of previous agreements signed by both parties.
“Our bargaining position is an 11 per cent increase over two years. Their latest offer was slightly less than 10 per cent over three years, which is well below the total wages compensation that we have agreed to in the past,” he said.
The employees are fighting for improved job security, higher wages and a two-year contract that would give the union more power at the bargaining table.
Disgruntled students have been out of classes since Nov. 6.
It will take 13 days of classes in the new year to make up for the 18 lost days from the fall. This will allow the same number of classes overall as would have been held over 11 weeks, rather than the usual 12.
If a deal is not reached on Saturday, classes will be stalled past the expected start date of Monday.
“They have decide to cut four days out of the (winter) term as well as take out reading week,” said Potts. “I’m also a PhD student who stands to lose from this mess.”
Alex Bilyk, a spokesperson for the university, said the mediator wanted to both groups at the table on Friday, but the union requested an extra day.
Bilyk said the university has a set budget and the economic meltdown is not making things easier.
“We would rather have a negotiated settlement at the table,” he said.
“The whole objective is to get the 50,000 undergraduate students back to class as soon as possible.”
Nayha Jehangir, 21, a third-year visual arts student, said while those strike days were wasted, she still had to pay for food and rent. “I will be happy to get out of the routine of being home all the time.”
The international student said she will feel robbed of a proper education if the university compresses the semester.
“That sounds like `here is your compressed, compromised degree,'”.