With the result of 72 percent of YUFA members voting in favour of a strike comes many concerns and questions, especially from students.
Excalibur had a conversation with President of YUFA, Professor Arthur Hilliker, and Communications Officer Jody Berland, on the outcome of the strike mandate vote, in hopes to provide further information and clarity.
“We hope that a strike can be avoided,” says Hilliker. “The reason why we called for a strike mandate vote is because the university has been very slow to engage in meaningful negotiations with us. We have been without a contract since May, so it’s been almost a year.
“What we would like to improve are the allocations of resources for research and teaching, and we also have workload issues concerning a number of faculty members and a number of conditions. These all fall outside of Bill 124. We also have a large list of equity proposals.”
Hilliker says that YUFA and the employer are engaged with mediation and have jointly hired a “very capable mediator.”
On the topic of why a small portion of YUFA members did not vote in favour of a strike, Hilliker says that while, to an extent, they can only speculate, “we do believe that many of them are just so dedicated to the students that they cannot contemplate a strike.
“The second thing it may be is that some faculty members support the idea of a strike mandate vote but can’t simply financially support it, as it will create a financial burden.”
If the strike goes through, how would this impact students and faculty as a whole?
“In recent CUPE strikes, which have resulted in delays in the term, students have always been able to complete their term. So, arrangements would be made for the term to be completed,” Hilliker states.
“In the event there was a strike, which interfered with the term, it’s always been the case in the past and we would be strongly supportive of that, where the term can be completed by later remedial actions.”
Second-year criminology student Sabrina Lombardo comments, “In regards to the latest strike information released by YUFA, I believe as a student at York that it is important for the staff to be treated properly and paid accordingly. Being without a contract is not fair for those who work hard at York.”
In addition, fellow second-year student Annie Bedrosian shares their concerns, saying, “We all just started to come back to school and begin with the adjustments for school, and yet we’re going backwards. I hope we can all stay safe and make this transition as smooth as possible.”
What is the purpose of this current period we are in, between the results of the strike mandate vote results and the invocation of a potential strike?
“What we’re doing is a normal practice in labour relations, when an employer simply won’t meaningfully negotiate,” Hilliker emphasizes.“This is a way of forcing them to the table. They have agreed to the mediation and they are participating in it. Things look promising.”
Berland also adds, “We do want to engage more with students — we have infographics and are going to start having workshops with students. It would really help in our attempts to avert a strike, and to come to a reasonable, fair contract negotiation.
“It would really help to have students support us — the more students can support us the more likely we will be able to avert a strike.”
Hilliker blatantly states that the best outcome of this whole situation “would be to have no strike,” and that they are committed to, and hopeful about the possibilities coming out of, mediation.
“Frankly, we just felt that we had to get the employer to the table, and we needed to put pressure on them. This is a common technique — many strike mandate votes do not result in strikes. It is our fervent hope that would be the case, and we are willing to do any number of hours to mediation,” Hilliker affirms.
What message does YUFA want to send to students who are feeling angsty or nervous towards this potential strike?
“I guess three things. First of all, we wish to avoid a strike and believe that it’s a highly possible outcome. The second thing is, our demands benefit the students as well. They are not based on selfish goals in any way, despite the high inflation we are restricted in compensation. Thirdly, if there was a strike then the term would not be lost. We would be completely cooperative in any remedial actions that are necessary,” Hilliker reassures.
When reached out for a comment from the university, Yanni Dagonas, York’s deputy spokesperson referred Excalibur to the Community Updates.