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York University strike drags on with little hope of resolution

Posted by MarkhamToday // May 31, 2018 // in News // 0 Comments

Courtesy - Reprinted from CBC News · Posted: May 30, 2018 10:11 AM ET | Last Updated: May 30

CUPE Local 3903 decries university's 'aggressive' stance, while administration defends its offer

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York says its offer is the best in Ontario, but striking workers say the two sides must meet in person to reach a new deal. (CBC)

The longest strike at an English-speaking university in Canadian history is showing no signs of reaching an end.

On Wednesday, contract faculty, teaching and graduate assistants at York University marked their 87th day of job action.

The union, which represents approximately 3,000 workers, says York has shown little interest in resolving the impasse.

"I don't think anyone in the York community expected that we would see the university take a line as aggressive as they've taken," said Devin Lefebvre, a PhD candidate and chairperson of CUPE Local 3903.

"There's no reason the strike has needed to go on as long as it has," Lefebre said on CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

The union is casting blame on the university for its unwillingness to meet at the bargaining table to hammer out a new deal. Since the strike began, CUPE says the two sides have only spent 15 minutes negotiating face-to-face.

York University Interim Vice President Academic and Provost Lisa Philipps did not dispute that number, though she also called the university's standing offer the strongest in the province in terms of pay, benefits and job security.

"We really do agree with Mr. Lefebvre that there is no reason for this strike to be continuing," she told Metro Morning.

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CUPE 3903 members and their supporters rallied outside York University in March, not long after the strike began. (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC)

Given the union's refusal to accept the offer, Philipps said it now appears unlikely that the disagreements can be resolved without interest arbitration.

"I think we've done everything we can in our power," she said.

Lefebvre said CUPE is not willing to enter a binding arbitration process until proper, good faith negotiations have taken place.

University hands out provisional grades

Meanwhile, students who had been in line for graduation have been receiving provisional grades as to not delay their graduation.

Philipps said the grades are being determined by a careful assessment of each student's specific situation, factoring in past performance, workload and grade point average.

"We're very concerned about the students but we do understand they need to move on with their lives," she said, adding that "many" students are still accepting offers to attend the university next year.

Lefebvre, however, has described the provisional marks as "mystery grades."

"There's no consistency with departments, never mind across the university," he said. "This raises very serious questions about academic integrity and York's reputation."

The two sides have not yet agreed on their next steps to resolve the strike. The issue has also become a subject of debate in the Ontario election, as well.

Asked how much longer the dispute could drag on, Lefebvre responded: "Who knows?"

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