Report: Arbitration needed to end strike at York University

The provincial government is calling on the sides in the York University strike to agree to arbitration to end the two-month-old dispute.

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.

Last month, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn appointed William Kaplan to examine the remaining issues in the dispute and report on any steps that can be taken to address them.

Flynn says Kaplan has found that the parties have reached an impasse and there is no reason to believe they will be able to reach a negotiated settlement.

He says Kaplan recommends the government call on the striking faculty and the university to enter into consensual interest arbitration.

Flynn and Advanced Education Minister Mitzie Hunter are calling on the parties to accept Kaplan's recommendations and begin the arbitration process ``as quickly as possible."

York University released the following statement:

“York University has worked diligently over more than six months to reach a negotiated agreement with CUPE 3903. We value the contribution that CUPE 3903 members make to the University and we aimed to demonstrate that by offering the best contract of its kind in the university system in Ontario.

On April 13, the Minister of Labour appointed William Kaplan to conduct an Industrial Inquiry Commission, and draft a report based on his efforts. Today, we received Mr. Kaplan’s report and after reviewing his findings, we fully endorse the conclusion and recommended approach to resolve the strike. The parties remain at an impasse based on fundamental differences of opinion and we accept that arbitration is the only path to an immediate end to the strike. We must now agree to terms for arbitration to take place.

York further welcomes the recommendation that there is a need to have a forward-looking discussion about broader societal issues related to job security, with a focus on the post-secondary education sector. York would be eager to collaborate in discussions and contribute to new research and dialogue that supports policy change for the greater public good.

We have reached out to CUPE 3903 to indicate we would like to begin work immediately, to implement Mr. Kaplan’s recommendation of arbitration.

Our students have been impacted the most, and it is our students’ academic experience that continues to be our greatest concern. The goal now is to activate make-up classes and exams to complete the winter term, as well as alternative learning options for those who are no longer able to resume normal classes, preserve what remains of the originally scheduled summer session, and ensure that spring convocation stays on schedule. The University will do everything in our power to move toward arbitration so that the strike can end as quickly as possible.”

CUPE local 3903 responded:

"We reiterate the call we have repeatedly made over the past eight weeks for York University to stop cutting corners and come to the table with a willingness to engage in meaningful negotiations."

"While we understand the urgency of Commissioner Kaplan's recommendations, we have grave concerns about the manner in which York has conducted themselves. Since the strike began in early March, York has repeatedly refused our requests to resume bargaining. Commissioner Kaplan's report effectively gives York and any other employer free rein to ignore their obligations to bargain in good faith."

"There are elements of this report that are worthy of support and long overdue. We welcome Commissioner Kaplan's recommendation to establish a task force on precarious employment in the post-secondary education sector and call on the government to implement this recommendation with all due haste. However, we cannot in good conscience agree to surrender our members' constitutionally-guaranteed right to bargain collectively,"