Chaos, confusion, crisis: Admin’s response to the strike has made things worse

A photo of Kaneff Tower, where York University senior administrative offices are housed

The York University senior administration's actions in the last two weeks have done little to help end the CUPE 3903 strike. Indeed, this response has made the situation worse. Now in its third week, the strike appears at an impasse: until its statement on late Sunday afternoon, the administration has seemed intent on bargaining—and forcing concessions—through a public relations campaign in the media.

YUFA welcomes the decision by the administration to take steps to return to the bargaining table with CUPE 3903, but remains deeply concerned by the University's approach to labour relations since the strike began. The impact of this approach is increasingly obvious:

  • Chaos: In the absence of a clear decision about whether to suspend classes across the University, chaos has ensued among students, faculty, and staff. Students are showing up for classes that the University claims to be continuing, only to discover that most have been cancelled (see here); faculty have been inundated with countless requests to justify their professional and academic judgment to cancel classes; and staff have been informed they must work extra hours if picket lines delay their arrival at work.
  • Confusion: Without any clarity about what is happening on campus in the short term, there is widespread confusion about what will happen in the weeks ahead, especially when the strike is over. The conflicting and contradictory messaging from the administration has raised questions about how remediation will happen, how exams will be conducted, how students will receive a final grade, and how the campus will return to any semblance of normalcy once CUPE members return to work.
  • Crisis: In the midst of the chaos and confusion, the administration's response has exacerbated a long simmering crisis of governance at the University, in which senior administrators are attempting to shift decision-making power away from existing and established collegial bodies to unaccountable and undemocratic management structures. The attempt to strip Senate of its authority to make an academic decision about whether classes will continue across the University is just one example of this crisis.

YUFA has responded to the crisis with a number of goals in mind:

  • To protect all rights and entitlements of YUFA members throughout the strike: The chaos and confusion caused by the administration's response to the strike so far are likely to continue long after the strike ends. In an effort to minimize their effects, YUFA has already communicated to the Employer that members have long-planned research and professional commitments in the next semester, which must be accounted for in any remediation plans. YUFA is also concerned about workload issues, especially if members are asked to extend their classes and/or re-teach aspects of them. In such a scenario, YUFA and the Employer have agreed that appropriate compensation must be provided to members for any additional work they may be asked to do.
  • To preserve the collegial bodies and processes that allow faculty participation in University governance: YUFA strongly objects to the administration's trampling on existing and established practices of collegial governance in the lead-up to and during the strike. If we don't defend governance during the strike, it will be significantly eroded afterwards. For this reason, YUFA supports colleagues' initiatives to discuss these questions at faculty councils and share their outcomes with Senate. YUFA also encourages other forms of engagement, such as this statement signed by 28 Senators and this motion that asserts Senate's authority to determine whether classes be suspended on the basis of academic integrity.
  • To minimize the disruption to students' education and their plans for next semester: The administration's claim that "classes that can continue, will continue" has contributed to the chaos and confusion across campus. The reality is that teaching has come to a complete halt in many faculties, even according to the Employer's incomplete data (see here), yet the administration continues to peddle the fiction that it's "business as usual." In the absence of a clear and consistent approach to classes across campus, students and parents will continue to receive conflicting and inaccurate information, and face the prospect of a long and complicated remediation period that will disrupt their work, study, and travel plans next semester.
  • To help create the conditions for the parties to return to the bargaining table and negotiate a settlement: A negotiated settlement is the best way to end the strike, and YUFA members have every interest in seeing CUPE 3903 achieve a fair and equitable contract (see this FAQ). YUFA signalled its own intent to bargain on February 2, and will soon meet the Employer to begin re-negotiating our own Collective Agreement. If the Employer succeeds in forcing concessions from CUPE 3903, it will have more confidence—and the momentum—to try forcing concessions from YUFA, too. Therefore, we urge the Employer to make every possible effort to reach a negotiated settlement at the bargaining table with CUPE 3903 this week. A fair deal could end the strike.

These goals will continue to guide and motivate YUFA's actions as the CUPE 3903 strike continues. We invite all members to do what they can to support these goals; in addition to helping bring the parties together to achieve a negotiated settlement, they have the potential to build unity among the YUFA membership and strengthen the Association as we engage the Employer in our own round of bargaining.

For the latest YUFA updates about the strike, please click here.