The strike at York University will continue to wear on after CUPE 3903 voted to reject the latest offer on Tuesday night.
With nearly 70 per cent of members turning out to vote the union, which consists of teaching assistants, graduate assistants and contract faculty, unanimously decided against the deal, with 63 per cent opting to renegotiate for a better contract.
Tyler Shipley, spokesperson for CUPE 3903, believes the offer put on the table was insufficient.
“The key issue for us is around the contract faculty’s work. Some of these people have worked at York University for 15 to 20 years and every year they have to reapply to teach the same course,” he said.
“We don’t see how this offer addresses this issue. It takes steps in the right direction, but is still inadequate.”
The latest proposal from York saw five contract faculty members being converted into tenured faculty over the next three years. CUPE 3903, which has around 900 contract faculty members, felt it was not an appropriate offer.
“Job security has to be increased for us to accept an offer,” Shipley said. “We want it to end on a fair and reasonable contract, not this one.”
For some, including York student Rashid Katsina, the news that the union rejected the latest offer only added to frustration that the strike would continue.
“If this goes on much longer, I won’t be graduating on time,” he said. “It’s really a big setback for me.”
Katsina was enrolled in university in Nigeria but when the faculty there went on strike he switched schools and started attending York. Now, with the strike approaching three months, he says he is at his wit’s end.
“If we are not back in class by next week, I’m leaving and going somewhere else,” he said.
Frustration in the wake of the strike is also felt by international student Fil McCollum who is worried about how he will afford the $15,000 for another year.
“If the semesters get condensed, I’ll have a hard time financially next year because of the loss of summer,” he said. “So I’ll move home, work less, then come back to York still in fourth year and still with international fees.”
Though the strike will continue, Shipley wants people to know this is a devoted campaign and they will see it through.
“The public’s perception of the strike being about greed is a misnomer. We wouldn’t be standing out there for over two months for a bizarre selfish reason,” Shipley said. “I’m very proud of our members for standing up for their rights today.”
York administration was not immediately available for comment, though the two sides are set to go back to the bargaining table today at 1 p.m.
The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty stands behind the striking CUPE 3903 works until the bitter end, just as you have supported us morally and financially for more than a decade.
And if the province were to force back to work legislation I hope CUPE 3903 would not follow such undemocratic laws.