York University students hold campus sit-in to show support for union on strike

A group of York University students is holding a campus sit-in to show solidarity with a union that has been unable to reach a deal with the school's administration after weeks of talks.

Contract faculty, teaching assistants, graduate assistants, research assistants went on strike March 5

York University students spent the night outside the schools' senate chambers and more demonstrators joined them this morning. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

A group of York University students is holding a campus sit-in to show solidarity with a union that has been unable to reach a deal with the school after weeks of talks.

After failing to negotiate a new contract with the administration, four categories of workers — contract faculty, teaching assistants, graduate assistants and research assistants — went on strike on March 5. The university, however, remained open for classes. 

There were glimmers of hope earlier this week as bargaining between CUPE Local 3903 and administration officials restarted with the help of a mediator. But that effort also fell apart. 

Substantial distance remains between both sides, with wages and job security chief among the concerns of unionized faculty and staff.

York University administration says, however, that if it were to accommodate all of the demands on the table, costs would increase more than 50 per cent. 

On Thursday night, York University's Senate met on campus to discuss cancelling classes until the strike is resolved. Some students and the union had hoped that halting classes would force the administration into a more difficult bargaining position.

"The administration, unfortunately, doesn't really feel the pressure because classes and business is going as usual," Karmah Dudin, an undergraduate student and a member of a student coalition that supports CUPE 3903, said.

More students were expected to join the sit-in outside the senate chambers as the day carried on. Many have begun to express significant concerns about the future of the school year should the strike go unresolved.

"I am worried about what's going to happen," Carly Howie, a fourth year nursing student, said in an interview with CBC Metro Morning earlier this week. 

"I'm a sitting duck right now, waiting to see if I'm even going to write my exam and then apply for jobs. It's just frustrating to be caught in the crossfires."

Both sides in the dispute claim that they have made substantial concessions to the other, but a tense atmosphere persists on campus.

"We are going to be here until our demands are met," Dudin said.