YUFA puzzled by Employer’s adversarial negotiation strategy for new collective agreement

On June 21, 2024, the Employer requested that the Ontario Ministry of Labour appoint a conciliation officer to facilitate negotiations for a new YUFA collective agreement.

Although either party has the right to apply for conciliation at any point during bargaining, the Employer's decision so early is highly unusual (and unprecedented at York) since negotiations have barely begun. The two parties have not yet exchanged their full sets of proposals, including those dealing with monetary issues. In the most recent bargaining session on June 18th, YUFA presented its equity-related proposals; the Employer presented proposals on faculty leaves; and agreement was reached on several small updates to the Collective Agreement. 

YUFA notes that the application for appointment of a conciliation officer is provocative, particularly just after a prolonged CUPE 3903 strike that was underway when the Employer initiated bargaining with YUFA (and the winter term remediation period’s overlap with the summer term). Conciliation – followed by requesting and obtaining a “no-board report” from the Ministry of Labour – is a first step toward being in a legal position to engage in a lockout of employees. Strikes and lockouts are not allowed until 17 days after a “no-board report”

The Employer’s explanation for its decision to apply for conciliation is that “Every day that goes by without a Collective Agreement between the University and its full-time faculty represents a missed opportunity to work together to find mutually agreeable solutions [to financial challenges].” YUFA objects in the strongest possible terms to being implicated in the Employer’s financial decisions.  

YUFA has been clear in calling for major reforms in management and governance at the university following the scathing December 2023 Ontario Auditor General's Value-for-Money Audit of the university

The Auditor General’s report revealed major deficiencies in financial oversight, planning, and accountability that have prioritized expensive capital projects and put academic programs at risk.

The Auditor General’s report also noted that over a five-year period ending in 2023, the number of senior managers at York increased by 37% and the amount of related compensation (salary, benefits, bonuses, and stipends) increased by 47%. During this time, salaries paid to Associate/Assistant Vice-Presidents increased by 73%, and salaries paid to Vice-Presidents increased by 48%, while YUFA members’ salaries rose just 1% per year.  

York University’s administration – not YUFA – is responsible for these irresponsible   financial decisions.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Tuesday, June 25, when YUFA intends to present its monetary compensation proposals. YUFA’s bargaining priorities were approved at a general membership meeting on June 6th.

YUFA and the Employer are covered by provincial legislation concerning collective bargaining. Details on how collective agreements are reached in Ontario, including conciliation and lock-outs, can be found at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/collective-bargaining

We will keep members posted about the progress of bargaining.