York unions rally across campus

(David Clarke)

Major unions at York University are dissatisfied with the administration. On Sept. 20, four unions at York — YUSA, YUFA, CUPE 3903, and CUPE Local 1356 — marched across campus with large signs and banners, demanding fair wages and equal treatment. On Sept. 22, York’s administration held a subsequent meeting with the groups. Now, the university has begun preparing proposals for the respective unions.

The rally concluded at Kaneff Tower, which notably houses the office of York President Rhonda Lenton. The protesters gathered outside her office, blasting songs like Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Going to Take It” on loudspeakers.

Representatives from each union spoke, sharing their common concerns and support for each other. York Federation of Students (YFS) tagged along in solidarity.

In a press release, YUSA (York University Staff Association) said that staff, faculty and TA wage increases were capped at one per cent per year for three years because of the Ford government’s Bill 124.

Bill 124 applied to most public sector workers. CTV news reported that the courts found “the bill infringed on the applicants’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining,” which violated the Constitution and the bill was struck down. The Ontario government filed an appeal against the court ruling. As of now, the Ontario Court of Appeal has not made a decision on the appeal case.

With Bill 124 and other concerns such as the high cost of living, the unions are calling on York’s administration to renegotiate better wages.

(David Clarke)

Sonny Day, the president of YUSA, sat down for a brief interview with Excalibur, where he spoke about the recent rally and the main reasons behind it. Day emphasized the cost of living crisis from the continuous rise in groceries, rent, and other essential amenities — he said it’s about “fair pay.”

“Your salary is only increasing at one per cent a year, but all of your expenses are increasing so much more. It’s just not fair, right? So I think the university needs to pay the faculty [and] staff, what’s appropriate,” said Day.

He also mentioned how other universities, including York’s neighbour, the University of Toronto, implemented pay increases. UTFA (University of Toronto Faculty Association) negotiated a seven per cent salary increase on Sept. 20.

The unions met with York’s administration on Friday, Sept. 22, to discuss wage reopening negotiations. Excalibur contacted York’s Deputy Spokesperson and Advisor, Yanni Dagonas, who shared comments about the recent meeting.

“While the wage reopener clauses negotiated in good faith between the University and York bargaining units have either expired or have not yet been engaged, we recognize that wages are important for York’s valued employees,” said Dagonas. “That is why on Friday, Sept. 15, President Lenton reached out to union partners offering to meet on an expedited basis to begin discussing this matter.”

On the other hand, Day felt surprised by the meeting with York University’s senior management. When asked about it, he claimed the university wants workers to limit future wage increases in order to correct the wage restrictions imposed by Bill 124 for the last three years.

“The solution the university is proposing is to again, limit our right to bargain [for] a fair wage, which I find very troubling and not at all consistent with the university’s statements that it values its employees,” he added.

On Sept. 25, Dan Bradshaw, the assistant vice president of labour relations, addressed a follow-up letter to the unions. In the letter, Bradshaw stated that York has reflected on the perspectives shared at the meeting and is developing new proposals while considering the university’s financial situation. Similar to Dagonas’s comments, Bradshaw reiterated that the wage reopener provisions from the unions are expired or not engaged.

“In the coming days you may expect an invitation to a presentation that the University is preparing for the purpose of outlining its financial position to you. Proposals will be forthcoming after that presentation,” Bradshaw wrote.

(David Clarke)

The frustrations were evident at the rally. The unions directed their passionate remarks to York’s administration. A speaker said in reference to Bill 124: “Make no mistake, it is the banality of evil and it has been lifted, finally. It has been lifted not through some benevolent dictator” — the speaker said, pointing to Kaneff Tower — “it has been lifted through the workers’ power, people coming together,” he added.

The unions and York’s administration have not made any new negotiations, yet the possibility remains open. YUFA recently called the rally a “resounding success.” Despite their sense of optimism, the tensions from the developing situation are still present. Day concluded: “If the university does not do something to address this injustice now and does not remove its conditions on doing so, then I can foresee a very difficult round of collective bargaining in 2024.”

About the Author

By David Clarke

Former Editor

David is in his fourth year, studying English at York University. He has a keen interest in filmmaking, writing, literature, video-editing, and ideas. When he isn’t working on his next project or studying, you can catch him watching film-noirs on Turner Classic Movies.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments