OCUFA issues open letter to York University President Rhonda Lenton

A photo of the home page of the OCUFA website (credit: OCUFA)

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) is deeply concerned by the York University administration’s attempts to challenge faculty member decisions to reschedule their classes and ensure the academic integrity of their courses. The university administration should focus their energies on negotiating a fair collective agreement with CUPE 3903 that ends the strike.

An open letter to the president of York University

March 6, 2018

Dear Rhonda Lenton,

On behalf of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) and the 17,000 full-time and contract university professors and academic librarians we represent at 28 member associations across the province of Ontario, I am writing to urge you to return to the bargaining table with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3903, negotiate in good faith, and reach a fair deal.

OCUFA stands in strong solidarity with members of CUPE 3903, who play a vital role in delivering courses and supporting the academic mission of York University, and fully supports their efforts to defend fair working conditions. The concessions that York University has put forward in its final offer will compromise the working conditions of contract faculty, teaching assistants and graduate assistants and the quality of education students at York receive. Working conditions of academic staff are students’ learning conditions.

Faculty across the province have been working together to deliver fairness and job security for contract faculty. Too many sessional instructors at Ontario universities are in precarious positions and need to reapply for their job every semester. They live without the stability needed to make long-term plans for themselves and their families. Quality of education is better when academic staff are treated fairly and given appropriate levels of compensation, job security, and time to work on teaching and supporting students.

At a time when the need to address precarious work has been widely acknowledged, and the momentum in our province is towards delivering more fairness in the workplace, it is disappointing and concerning that York University is proposing to reduce existing opportunities for a limited number of conversions for long-serving contract faculty to full-time appointments. This shows disregard for the need for improved job security measures for contract faculty. We support CUPE 3903 in defending existing conversions and seeking to expand pathways for contract faculty into more secure, full-time positions.

We also support the York campus community’s call for respect for policies that protect the rights of students who choose not to cross picket lines, and we echo the concerns that many faculty members and students have raised regarding the continuation of classes during the strike. In particular, we find it troubling that the administration has tried to challenge faculty members who have sought to reschedule their classes to meet standards of academic integrity and fairness to students required by the policies of the University Senate.

A recent public opinion poll found that over 90 per cent of Ontarians expect universities to be model employers in their communities. Now is the time to support more good jobs for Ontarians, not fewer. Faculty across the province support workers at York University in their effort to defend good jobs and improve student learning conditions.

We expect York University to drop its concessionary demands and negotiate a fair and equitable collective agreement with CUPE 3903 that acknowledges the important work of their members.

Sincerely,

Gyllian Phillips
President, OCUFA

Read this letter on the OCUFA website.