CUPE Ontario executive board lends support to striking York University contract staff

As the first week of the contract staff strike at York University wound down on Friday, members of the CUPE executive board — the union representing around 3,000 contract faculty — along with teaching, research and graduate assistants, showed up on the picket line to show their support.

President Fred Hahn hands over $5K cheque for strike fund

Contract faculty, along with teaching, research and graduate assistants at York University were joined by various other CUPE union members on the picket line Friday. (Barry Smith/CBC)

As the first week of the contract staff strike at York University wound down on Friday, members of the CUPE executive board — the union representing around 3,000 contract faculty — along with teaching, research and graduate assistants, showed up on the picket line to show their support.

"All of us are here to say to you today: we stand with you in this fight," Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario, said to the crowd outside the university on Friday afternoon. "We have folks here from Sudbury and from Windsor and from Ottawa. Folks from every sector of our union — municipal workers, school board workers, social service workers, health care workers."

Hahn also handed over the "first instalment" of "financial solidarity" to local CUPE 3903 in the form of a $5,000 cheque in order to help fund the strike.

"I know you will stand strong. I know you will fight. I know you will be proud to have us stand with you and I know together we will win."

On Monday, hours after the workers walked off the job, CUPE 3903 made an offer through a conciliator to try to resume talks on a new deal, which was rejected by the school the next day.

In a statement issued by the school on Tuesday, York said the union's overture included demands that were beyond the university's reach.

CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn speaks to a crowd outside York University on Friday. (Barry Smith/CBC)

The union president spoke to reporters on Friday demanding York come back to the bargaining table.

"Our members are deeply frustrated," he said. "They'd like to do all the important work they do for this university [and] the only way that's going to happen is if York stops being missing in action and comes back to the bargaining table and solves this."

According to a statement released by York, the union proposed that 30 contract faculty get full-time positions in each year of the collective agreement, with 20 of those jobs being tenured-stream positions that would be filled without an "open collegial search, which is the hallmark of tenure stream appointments at universities across the country."

York's statement also added that the offer proposed a 3.5 per cent wage increase per year, which it claims is roughly double the Ontario university average increase.

The school has urged CUPE 3903 to respond with a realistic counter-offer, saying "it's in the best interests of the entire York community, especially our students."

'The workers ... are treated, frankly, like crap'

Hahn said the issues around this strike are the same as the five-week Ontario college strike last year.

"This is about the long-term reality for post secondary education," he explained. "The quality of education for students who are paying huge tuition fees suffers over and over because the workers who are delivering that work are treated, frankly, like crap."

The union is demanding better job security; better funding for assistant positions; improved equity and accessibility in the workplace; and for the school to replace at least some of the 800 jobs that were recently cut.

"If you have to reapply for your job every four to six months, if you only get a partial job so you have to get a job at two or three institutions ... you can't be present for your students," he said, adding that many of the workers are "trying to knit together their own security."