Dear Colleagues. As YUFA prepares for a possible strike commencing March 24, the comms team have compiled a list of questions that you might have.
1. Who decides that a Strike will be called? The YUFA Executive, in consultation with the Bargaining Team, will call a strike if negotiations break down and/or our key proposals are not met with a satisfactory response.
2. When do I inform Students?
When a strike is called, colleagues should notify and support students immediately.
3. What do I tell Students?
Like all our colleagues, YUFA Executive and the Bargaining Team are very concerned about the impacts that a labor disruption will have with students and the community. YUFA strongly wishes to avert a strike if possible. But YUFA also has a duty to negotiate what is best for its members. We trust that the Employer understands this and settles soon. In case there is disruption it is best to prepare students in the following ways:
Assurance. Students have not lost their academic credits, term, or year because of past labour disruptions at York. Colleagues should assure students that a strike will not cause students to lose their academic year and they will graduate. Should YUFA members decide to remove their labour (strike), however, there WILL be a disruption to the schedule of classes and grades. While students will be able to register for summer classes, they cannot continue or complete their winter term courses until the strike is resolved. YUFA will negotiate specific course completion protocols as part of our BTW (Back to Work) protocol in the final agreement.
Honesty. There is no way around a disruption if a Strike is called. A labour dispute is disruptive. It is potentially divisive as there are two sides messaging very different interpretations of events. Note that YUFA is not prone to strikes (it has been 25 years since the last full time faculty strike) while our employer seems incapable of avoiding them. Our bargaining team is comprised entirely of faculty members; theirs is led by an expensive Bay Street Lawyer. We need a strong support to help bring about a resolution.
Support. In our experience students have predominantly supported striking faculty despite disruptions to their studies. They understand that professors want to create better working conditions and a more collegial environment (especially after COVID) which will lead to better teaching and learning conditions at York. They understand that labour action is sometimes the only way to achieve such objectives.
Our punishing workload is central to our concerns, and not just because of Covid. Many York faculty members have a higher teaching load than professors in other universities in the sector; many colleagues must submit annual applications to obtain the course load considered normal in other institutions. An improvement to our workload would enhance our working conditions and our teaching. It would make York faculty more accessible to students, more resilient, and more capable of meeting our many professional commitments.
Education. This moment is educative for students. Students need to think about the importance of labour, even where it concerns professionals. We can point to the role of unionized work during the pandemic, when health, education, and other essential service workers carried on because they were in a union dedicated to protecting their wellbeing as well as being dedicated professionals. Graduate student teaching assistants will want to engage in discussions of the issues as well; many student unions are engaging in labour action at the moment.
4. Will members have an opportunity to vote on a final contract? The Bargaining Team will approve an offer to be presented to the Executive. Once approved by the Executive, it will be subject to an electronic vote by members.
5. Is there possibility of a lockout?
This is a concern for YUFA, which is why we are collecting alternative emails for colleagues. You should ensure that you have downloaded classlists, Eclass materials, student work, student contact information and other data from the York server.
6. Will there be Forced Ratification?
We hope not. However, in any bargaining process, the Employer can bring forward a Forced Ratification. This must go to YUFA members for a vote without input from the Bargaining Team or YUFA Exec. Such a vote would be organized by the ON Ministry of Labour and is likely (judging from CUPE strikes in the past) to prolong the disruption.
7. What do I tell TAs?
YUFA members on strike will not be submitting student grades. As graduate students who are also union members, TAs are well informed and have begun to rally behind their professors.
8. What about contract faculty?
CLAs in YUFA will be on strike. Contract teachers in CUPE 3903 have issued this strong statement in support of YUFA:
Following six months of fruitless bargaining, the York University Faculty Association (YUFA) has set a strike deadline of March 24, 2022. CUPE 3903 extends our unfaltering solidarity to our YUFA colleagues and condemns the university administration’s intransigence. The administration seems dedicated to fostering poor labour relations across the university, including in ongoing negotiations with the York University Staff Association (YUSA). Broad, cross-campus solidarity is needed to protect the York community from these continued attacks on fairness, equity, and collegiality, which affect us all.
9. What do I tell the Community?
Tell them YUFA wants to negotiate a fair contract.
This is a difficult time for Canadian faculty associations. There are, or have recently been, faculty strikes across the country, largely not about monetary issues but rather about the increased hollowing out of collegial governance affecting important aspects of our teaching and professional life.
Recently the UOIT Faculty Association resolved a strike in two weeks, while the union representing Ontario college faculty has announced a possible strike commencing Friday, March 18. This strike will involve faculty at Seneca College, situated on Keele campus.
A labour dispute has lasting effects on faculty and students. Ask community members, parents, your MPP, the press, and social media influencers to write the Employer to let them know York Colleagues deserve better.
For those interested in learning more about what the Globe and Mail calls a “ripple of faculty strikes” across Canada, this article might be useful.
For those interested in learning more about the last YUFA strike, in 1997, this article by retired colleagues Linda Briskin and Janice Newson might be useful.
For those interested in learning more about York finances, watch for a forthcoming bulletin, “Where is the Money Going?”