Minister of Labour green lights union e-voting on York University's final offer

The Minister of Labour says it is asking the Ontario Labour Relations Board to arrange for union members to electronically vote on York University's final offer.

CUPE 3903 members are expected to start voting on April 6

CUPE 3903 members are expected to vote on York University's offer in an electronic vote starting April 6. (CBC)

The Minister of Labour says it is asking the Ontario Labour Relations Board to arrange for union members to electronically vote on York University's final offer.

In a news release issued Thursday, CUPE 3903 says the university requested a forced ratification vote on an offer the union says is not meaningfully different from one that was previously rejected.

Online voting is expected to run between April 6 to April 9.

According to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the union objected to online voting, saying risks included not being able to "visible identify voters, challenge ballots, and physically double check the count." 

The university argued that electronic voting would be more efficient and allow for greater participation.

York University contract staff and teaching assistants walked off the job in frustration over the university's wages and benefits offer nearly a month ago, leading to both sides holding different positions about how to break the deadlock.

Late last week, a group of students began holding a campus sit-in to show solidarity with CUPE 3903 — the union representing contract staff that's been unable to reach a deal with the school after weeks of talks.
Contract faculty and teaching assistants at York University walked off the job on March 5. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

Barbara Joy, the school's director of media relations said Monday, there was no end in sight for the strike.

"Right now the two sides are quite far apart," Joy told CBC Toronto.

Joy said the university made an effort last week to go back to the table and sit down with the union to work through some solutions to press forward.

"Unfortunately the position they came back to the table with are still significantly beyond the reach of the university from a monetary and non-monetary perspective," Joy said.

Some undergraduate students decided to stage a sit-in in the university's senate chamber late last week as a way to express their frustration with the ongoing deadlock.

"At this point we are not asking the undergraduate students who organized the sit-in to leave. They are staying and continuing to do what they have been doing," Joy told CBC Toronto.​

York University says 55 per cent of its classes are running and there are thousands of students who are choosing to continue to learn and who want to finish their school year or graduate as they initially planned.

But the undergraduate students, who have been staging the sit-in since 5 p.m. on Thursday, are concerned that the school's administration is not taking them seriously, including their demand for a cancellation of all classes.

With files from Desmond Brown