Province launches commission to examine York strike dispute

The Ontario government has launched a commission to look into a contract faculty strike at Toronto's York University that has left tens of thousands students out of class for more than a month.

University says they are at point of last resort with union

York University contract staff and teaching assistants walked off the job on March 5. The university says they have reached an impasse with the union, and that they are at the point of last resort. (Barry Smith/CBC)

The Ontario government has launched a commission to look into a contract faculty strike at Toronto's York University that has left tens of thousands students out of class for more than a month.

Labour Minister Kevin Flynn says an industrial inquiry commission will examine the remaining issues in the dispute and report on any steps that can be taken to address them.

In an emailed statement, York said they welcomed the decision, calling the move "a new path forward" in the ongoing dispute. 

The university said they are inviting the union to ask their members to return to work "so that our students can successfully complete their winter terms while the Inquiry process is underway."

"We make this invitation on the understanding that CUPE would retain the ability to withdraw its members' services during the summer term if a settlement is not reached," the statement reads. 

More than 3,000 York graduate teaching assistants, contract faculty and graduate research assistants walked off the job March 5 in a dispute over wages and job security.

All three bargaining units of the Canadian Union of Public Employees local 3903 rejected the university's latest offer in what the union called a "forced ratification vote" earlier this month.

2 sides at point of last resort, York says

The university this week called for binding arbitration, but the union refused, saying it wanted to negotiate a deal and move to arbitration only as a last resort.

York has argued the two sides have reached an impasse and that they are, in fact, at the point of last resort.

Flynn said the government understands that parties sometimes need support beyond the bargaining table, and the commission will look into the strike impartially.

William Kaplan has been chosen as the commission's sole member and will report back to the minister.

The government said the last industrial inquiry commission was called in 2015 to examine a dispute between the United Steelworkers union and Crown Metal Packaging Canada.