By Michael McKiernan, National Post
School is still out at York University after striking staff rejected a settlement offer from administrators.
The president of York University, in a rare public appearance, said he does not expect it to return any time soon.
“We’ve reached an impasse,” Mamdouh Shoukri said. “We cannot improve the offer without jeopardizing our academic and economic position.”
A total of 1,466 members of Canadian Union of Public Employees 3903, which represents teaching assistants, graduate assistants and contract faculty, voted no to the university’s offer — a margin of 63%. All three units rejected the deal.
A small group of members erupted in cheers when Tyler Shipley, the union spokesman, announced the results.
“It’s a clear statement to the university that this offer was inadequate and the process was disrespectful. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve wasted 10 days of our time,” he said. “I’m proud of our members for standing up to the pressure they faced from the administration. We’ll be waiting for them at the bargaining table at 1 p.m. tomorrow.”
But York University will not be meeting him there.
“There will be no negotiations for the sake of appearances,” Dr. Shoukri said. “CUPE members who believed a no vote would cause York University to bow to their demands are mistaken.”
He said the summer term is now in serious danger.
The results were announced last night at a hotel in North York, where voters cast their ballots over the last two days.
The ratification vote, supervised by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, was forced on the 3,340 members of CUPE 3903 after the union refused to put the offer to a vote.
University administration used labour laws to request the vote on a settlement they proposed on Jan. 7, four days after negotiations resumed following a month-long break in talks.
The university claimed the deal, which includes a wage and benefits increase of 10.7%, represented a reasonable offer, especially in light of the current economic situation in Canada and around the world. But CUPE dismissed it, highlighting what they see as inadequate job security for contract faculty, who must reapply for positions at the start of each academic year.
Under the terms of the offer, in the next three years, the university promised to create 17 new teaching positions with five-year contracts plus five tenure-stream conversions. CUPE asked instead for 15 of the more prestigious and better paid tenure conversions in the next two years.
York University’s 50,000 undergraduates have been shut out of classes since the strike began on Nov. 6. Earlier this week, figures showed a drop of almost 15% in the number of applications to York.
Hamid Osman, the president of the York Federation of Students, says students are worried about the damage the strike has done to the reputation of the university, as well as the more personal impact it has had on their finances and education.
“We just want to get back to school,” he said. “It’s been so frustrating for all the students. Nobody thought it would ever get into an eleventh week.”
This is going to be settled by government intervention. The University has no more faith in the bargaining process. I do not see another way out of this.