Rhonda L. Lenton
President and Vice Chancellor,
Dear Rhonda L. Lenton,
We are writing on behalf of Ryerson Faculty Association (RFA) to convey our concerns regarding the recent developments at York University. The RFA stands in solidarity with Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3903 that was forced to go strike on March 5, 2018. We urge you to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair contract with CUPE 3903 as soon as possible.
CUPE 3903, which represents Contract Faculty, Teaching Assistants, Graduate Assistants, Part-time Librarians and Archivists, has been attempting to negotiate a fair collective agreement with York University for several months, but the University has tried to impose concessions that are totally unacceptable and would definitely weaken the CUPE contract. We strongly support the key areas of bargaining for CUPE 3903, which include job security for contract faculty, better funding for graduate students, employment equity and other important areas. The RFA supports CUPE 3903’s concern that “since 2000, the number of tenured Professors at York has increased by 20% while the number of Contract Faculty has increased by 121%” (CUPE 3903). Furthermore, despite teaching increasingly more courses at York University, Contract Faculty remain precariously employed. The administration’s offer will reduce existing opportunities for a limited number of conversions for long-serving contract faculty to full-time appointments. We support CUPE 3903 in defending existing conversions and to find ways for contract faculty to secure full-time positions.
We are also disturbed by the fact that the administration attempted to challenge the faculty members who tried to reschedule their classes during the strike. We support York University Faculty Association’s (YUFA) position that “individual faculty are in the best position to determine whether the academic integrity of their courses can be preserved; therefore, such decisions are not subject to the approval of [the] Dean/Principal” (YUFA). The individual faculty member has the right to make the decision to continue classes or to suspend them.
We share YUFA’s concern that the “climate for labour relations at York University, including for YUFA” as it enters into its “own round of bargaining, will be set by the actions the Employer takes with CUPE”. Therefore, YUFA, which has been highly supportive of CUPE 3903, has called on “the Employer to return to the bargaining table with CUPE as quickly as possible and to respect the processes of collegial governance that allow the University to function”. RFA is highly disturbed by the divisive tactics used by York University’s administration.
The forced ratification vote held between April 6-9 was rejected by an overwhelming majority by all three units. All three units of CUPE 3903 on strike, representing Teaching Assistants (Unit 1), Contract Faculty (Unit 2), and Graduate Assistants (Unit 3) rejected the employer’s offer by large margins (CUPE 3903).
The Ministry of Labour has appointed an industrial inquiry commission to investigate the strike and produce a report for the Minister. CUPE 3903 has stated that it “will cooperate fully with the Ministry’s fact-finding mission,” but, at the same time, CUPE 3903 “had hoped for a more meaningful intervention by the government”. We fully support CUPE 3903’s position that: “As a public institution, York University should be held accountable” for creating this situation. CUPE 3903 is rightly concerned that displacing “this conflict to another semester is not good for students, for whom the uncertainty and anxiety would only be prolonged” (CUPE 3903).
The RFA strongly urges York University’s Administration to give up on its concessionary demands and negotiate a fair and equitable collective agreement with CUPE 3903 at the earliest possible.
Peter Danziger – President (RFA)
Rahul Sapra – Vice President External (RFA).