Vote on strike deadline is nearing

Negotiations still not far along, says university

Jacqueline Perlin

Assistant News Editor

Talks between the university and the union representing York teaching assistants and contract faculty are ongoing.

In the latest update on their website, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3903 outlined the problems they are encountering with the university.

The update included news that the union has met with the employer regarding 20 employment equity proposals, including a proposal asking for transparent hiring of graduate and research assistants.

Even so, CUPE 3903 pointed out the employer had only agreed to negotiate on four of the 20 proposals, stating in the update that, of the four that the university has agreed to acknowledge, “none have been taken seriously.”

The update states that in response to CUPE 3903’s proposal for a transparent hiring process, the employer has proposed that each individual hiring unit develop their own hiring procedures.

“This is by no means sufficient. A number of hiring units already have “official” hiring processes in place and they’re the problem rather then the solution,” says the update, adding that the employer is taking a “haphazard” approach to employment equity.

“This is our employer’s idea of good faith bargaining!” sarcastically stated another part of the update.

Karen Walker, chair of CUPE 3903, says the issue with the employment equity proposals is that the university has legal obligations to the local, including pursuing issues of discrimination and harassment.

“There’s not really a process in place anywhere at York University to do that and [the university] has this legal obligation, but they won’t agree to a process around,” she says, adding that the university is essentially telling CUPE 3903 that they don’t need all the proposals to be in the collective agreement.

However, the local believes they belong in the collective agreement since there have been problems around cases of alleged racism.

Rob Castle, senior advisor to vp administration and finance, says that there is simply no bad faith in the bargaining.

“The truth of the matter is that we’re all bargaining […] and if you look at [another one of CUPE’s updates] they say they’ve been negotiating in earnest since November,” explains Castle. “We’ve had very healthy and positive negotiations on a huge number of proposals that have come forward.”

The main question is: Where should language around employment equity reside, in a collective agreement or in an equity plan?

“I think the general assertion from the university’s perspective has been that measures about employment equity should reside in an employment equity plan,” says Castle. “It’s really more of a nuanced issue of, ‘where does this thing properly reside?’”

Castle adds the university is continuing their negotiations with CUPE 3903 to decide how to deal with employment equity.

Another major issue is the rate of wage increases. According to the union, the employer tabled a wage proposal of one per cent per year for three years. CUPE 3903 points out that since inflation has risen this year by three per cent, this increase will simply not be enough.

“If the rate of inflation is higher than the wage increase, you’re actually getting a pay decrease because the money you have to live off of is in fact less,” says Walker. “If we’re not willing to accept that amount then it makes bargaining not really go anywhere.”

Walker points out that if the membership decides that bargaining is not progressing, a strike vote will take place and based on the vote, a deadline will be set for bargaining.

“We are reaching that stage,” says Walker. The vote, she says, has not been scheduled yet.

“The university isn’t going to interfere in the internal processes of the union,” says Castle, adding that the university and the union have only been negotiating since November, when the university received 171 proposals from CUPE 3903.

So far, the university and union have signed off on 30 proposals while there has been an agreement in principle in a number of other areas.

“We’re still in the early-to-midpoint of negotiations,” states Castle. He says there has been only one meeting so far regarding monetary proposals.

“We’ve got a long way to go in our discussions,” he says.

The university and the union are scheduled to meet February 10.

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