'Day of action' brings show of union support to York picket lines

Dozens of union members from around the province descended on the York University picket lines on Friday in a show of support for the striking teaching staff.

University teaching staff now more than 2 months into strike, putting many classes on hold

Union members from around the province arrived early Friday morning to support striking teaching staff at York University. (CBC)

Dozens of union members from around the province descended on the York University picket lines on Friday in a show of support for striking teaching staff.

More than 3,700 York teaching assistants, contract faculty and graduate students walked off the job on March 5 to show their dissatisfaction with job security, wages and benefits.

The day of action was hosted by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and called on "OFL affiliates, Labour Councils, as well as community and campus supporters" to block entrances to the University. 

"They've only had one day of bargaining since March 5, which amounted to an hour of discussions which have gone nowhere," said Chris Buckley, president of the OFL.

Buckley said that having both parties back at the table is the only way to move forward.

A York spokesperson told CBC Toronto that there have been four bargaining meetings since the strike began, not one.

"Our offer to CUPE 3903 is the best of its kind in Ontario across all universities, including pay, benefits, and one of a kind job security measures," said spokesperson Barbara Joy. "We believe that arbitration is the best path forward."

Some York students, weary of of the now two-month-long strike, agree it's time to move on.

"From their point of view you have to understand why they're picketing and striking," said student Barden Polo, whose classes have been put on hold.

"But it's hard to look at it that way when everything gets disrupted." 

Province calls for new approach

In an effort to end the dispute, the province is now calling for the two sides to enter a process of consensual interest arbitration, based on a recommendation by the province's appointed arbitrator William Kaplan.

In that scenario, both parties would give power to an arbitrator to reach a final, binding decision.

While the Ontario government acknowledged that negotiated agreements remain its preferred way to settle labour disputes, it said that no longer appears possible in this instance.

"Mr. Kaplan found that the parties have reached an impasse and there is no reason to believe that they will be able to resolve their dispute through continued negotiations," said Labour Minister Kevin Flynn and Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Mitzie Hunter in a statement.