Jan 27 2009

Letter from Cheri DiNovo (NDP) – MPP for Parkdale-High Park

Category: Point of Information,Strike Discussion (2008-09)jonnyj @ 1:15 pm

The following is a response from Cheri DiNovo, which nicely contextualizes the strike and back-to-work legislation within the larger educational and fiscal trends that are ongoing at Ontario universities. Read on…

As you know, this strike has been about issues of grave importance to the quality of post-secondary education in Ontario. In many ways, the strike has highlighted the significant lack of funding that the province gives to large post-secondary institutions like York University. In another way, as the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3903 has highlighted, it is also about the working conditions of contract faculty and TAs, who perform upwards of fifty percent of all teaching at the University. New Democrats believe the chronic hiring of mostly part-time and casual workers at low wages has become a deliberate strategy on the part of York University and the McGuinty government, which refuses to fund universities to the point that Ontario is now ranked last among all provinces in per capita university funding.

Unfortunately, contract faculty and TA wages have failed to keep pace with their increased value within the University sector. Indeed, as Marc Bousquet has recently pointed out in his informative book, How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation (2008), universities like York have remodelled their core business practices from one of higher education to one of fundraising, which increasingly relies on corporate donations to fund research and infrastructure. One of the drastic side effects of this transition has been a significant decline in tenured faculty positions. Currently, York is offering contract instructors 17 five-year contracts over three years. The union says that this is inadequate since there are already 67 contract faculty members with more than ten years of experience. It is clear that contract faculty positions are not a substitute for tenure conversions. However, there have been over 100 retirements in the past five years, which have not been replaced. Clearly, the University plans to replace these full time tenured faculty members with temporary part-time contract faculty. We believe this is weakening the standards of education in the province.

The York University administration, aided by the inaction of the McGuinty government, has exacerbated the crisis. The back-to-work legislation provides them with a convenient crutch that strips away the rights of workers to collectively bargain.

The strike at York is an attempt by a union of dedicated and hard-working TAs and contract faculty to protect the core values of the university: strong public education, equitable access to university, and fair and reasonable contracts for workers in the university sector. We support the struggle to preserve high quality public education in the province. We thus oppose the McGuinty government’s attempt to ignore the chronic lack of public funding at York University by legislating legally striking workers back-to-work. We also call on the University administration to return to the bargaining table and treat these workers with dignity and respect.


To read a transcript of today’s debates in the Ontario Legislative Assembly, download the Legislative Assembly of Ontario Hansard Transcripts January 27 2009

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