Jan 30 2009

86 Days Later, President Shoukri says Strike Issues are “System Wide” and Admits York Lawyers Rejected Collective Bargaining Process

Category: Strike Discussion (2008-09)Bob Hanke @ 12:48 pm

Rewind:  On October 16, 2007, Jessica Verb of the Globe and Mail asked President Mamdouh Shoukri  “What are your first impressions of York?”  Shoukri responded:

Well it’s an absolutely wonderful university. It’s a university that has been committed, since its incipience, to excellence in education and in research. It’s been particularly committed to inter-disciplinary education and research, which is a very important feature. It has also committed itself from day one to accessibility and social justice, and in some sense that is what attracted me to the university, as these are core values I believe in on a personal level.

by Elizabeth Church and Karen Howlett (excerpted from the Globe and Mail, January 29, 2009)

TORONTO — York University president Mamdouh Shoukri says the labour strife that shut down the Toronto campus for three months is a sign of larger problems that need to be addressed at the provincial level.

Just hours after back-to-work legislation was passed by the Ontario government and routine activity began to return to the sprawling campus, Dr. Shoukri said questions of funding and the use of contract faculty extend beyond the country’s third largest university.

So, too, does the question of protecting the rights of students and institutional integrity while preserving the principle of collective bargaining, he said.

To read the rest of this article, click here.


In a related article in today’s Toronto Star, President Shoukri admits that after Premier McGuinty asked him to return to the bargaining table on Tuesday, but the university’s lawyers advised Shoukri to refuse to negotiate any further with CUPE 3903. This runs counter to the the principle of collective bargaining at York University, and, under Ontario Labour Relations Law, indicates that the President breached the duty to bargain in good faith.

“We had credible legal opinion that to go back to the table could undermine the process of back-to-work legislation,” said Shoukri yesterday, the first day he granted one-on-one interviews since the strike began Nov. 6.

To read this rest of York U. president denies he was M.I.A., click here.


Post-Strike Story of the WeekIvory Towers in Freefall


Jan 29 2009

Hon. Howard Hamption Questions Dalton McGuinty

Category: Strike Discussion (2008-09)Bob Hanke @ 10:39 pm

The following is an excerpt from today’s debate in the Ontario Legislative Assembly regarding the York University labour dispute:

Mr. Howard Hampton: My question is for the Premier. We’ve heard a lot about putting students first and doing what is best for them, and I know the Premier wants to believe that now, by simply legislating the workers back, everything is fixed.

My question is this: Can the Premier tell us how the needs of York University students will be served by continuing a scenario where many of their teachers will continue to be paid wages that are below the poverty line?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: First of all, I want to congratulate CUPE for its decision to, as quickly as possible, get this dispute behind them, return to their classes and provide the excellent-quality instruction that is available to students at York University. I want to thank them for pursuing this.

The leader of the NDP says that there are remaining issues, outstanding issues. I acknowledge that. We’ve turned this matter over to a process of binding arbitration. We expect that that will be resolved sooner rather than later, in a way that is as fair as possible to both sides. I expect that both sides will do everything they need to do-it may not be easy-to reconcile outstanding differences and to conduct themselves in a way that serves the best interests of the students.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): Supplementary?

Mr. Howard Hampton: I notice that once again the Premier didn’t answer the question. He has to know that what’s happening at York University is literally that hundreds of people who were on the picket line have been teaching and working and have been paid wages that are less than the poverty line.

The Premier should also know that quality planning, quality teaching and quality evaluation at the university level is demanding and it’s time-consuming. Time spent planning a course has a direct impact on the quality of education that students receive.

My question is this: How are the needs of York University students served by forcing the contract faculty-who do most of the teaching-to continue to exist on short-term contracts of one year or less when they don’t know from one semester to the next what courses they will be teaching or if they’ll be teaching at all?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: My colleague asks that I insinuate myself into the employment relationship-

To read the rest of this exchange, click Howard Hampton Questions Dalton McGuinty Jan 29 2009

To read the complete Hansard transcripts of today’s proceedings, click Legislative Assembly of Ontario Handard Transcripts Jan 29 2009


Jan 29 2009

Part-Time Workforce Imperils Universities

Category: News,Strike Discussion (2008-09)jonnyj @ 11:39 am

The following opinion has been reposted from the Toronto Star website:

by Jody Berland and Ricardo Grinspun

The longest university strike in English Canada ends with back-to-work legislation this week. As full-time faculty at York University we are distressed at the impact of this strike on our 50,000 students, who have confronted enormous disruption to their lives, finances and future.

With such disastrous consequences, what can we learn from this debacle for the future of labour relations in Ontario universities?

The employer and much media claim that responsibility lies with a “selfish” union that advanced unrealistic wage demands during an economic recession.

Reality is more complex. The spotlight on CUPE obscures the responsibility of York’s administration and board of governors. Reluctant to negotiate since June, the administration spent two hours bargaining in November, refused to meet in December, and negotiated for four days in January before forcing a vote and another two-week delay on an offer already rejected by 90 per cent at a membership meeting.

Continue reading “Part-Time Workforce Imperils Universities”

Tags: ,

Jan 28 2009

Hon. Howard Hampton Questions Dalton McGuinty

Category: Strike Discussion (2008-09)Bob Hanke @ 8:17 pm

The following is an excerpt from today’s debate in the Ontario Legislative Assembly regarding the York University labour dispute:

Mr. Howard Hampton: My question is to the Premier. Yesterday morning I asked the Premier to call the president of York University and ask him to go back to the bargaining table. I understand that the Premier did call the president of York University and asked him to go back to the bargaining table and engage in good-faith bargaining. Could the Premier tell the Legislature how much progress has been made as a result of his telephone call to the president of York University?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I did in fact speak with the president to make it clear to him that there was still the option open to him to sit down and continue to negotiate. I understand that the university put out a release and addressed that and said they were not prepared to do that.

I understand that my friend is very interested in pursuing the negotiating dimension of this: what one party said and what the other party said and how they responded to each other and so on and so forth. I just think we bring a different perspective here on this side of the House.

I think the general public is saying, “Look, we understand there’s something called collective bargaining. But do you know what? This has gone on too long. It’s failing our students. We’ve got to get them back in the classroom.” So that’s the position that we’re taking. I’m just not going to get involved in the minutiae of trying to get people together and knocking heads together. It has failed us. I recognize that. What we’re doing is what needs to be done. We’ve brought in a bill, we want to get it passed, and we want to get the students back in the classroom.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): Supplementary?

Mr. Howard Hampton: I ask the question because I think the response from the president of York University was pretty clear: It’s “screw you,” to students-

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): I’d ask the member to just temper the language a bit.

Mr. Howard Hampton: I think this raises the question, how much evidence does the Premier need that the president of York University and the administration of York University never intended to engage in meaningful collective bargaining? They have used every dodge, every manoeuvre, every strategy, to avoid a negotiated collective agreement.

My question is this: Does the Premier really believe that the McGuinty government should reward this kind of conduct by the administration of York University?

To read the rest of this exchange, click Howard Hampton Questions Dalton McGuinty.Jan 28 2009

To read the complete Hansard transcripts of today’s proceedings, click Legislative Assembly of Ontario Hansard Transcripts Jan 28 2009


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

Tags: , ,

Next Page »