Contract faculty at York University went on strike on Monday, March 5 after members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 3903 Units 1, 2, and 3 rejected the university’s final collective agreement offer after six months of bargaining.
CUPE 3903 represents approximately 3,700 contract faculty, teaching assistants, and graduate assistants who teach 60 per cent of courses offered at York.
Striking faculty members are demanding equity provisions, prevention of further setbacks in their fellowship funding model, job security, and graduate assistant jobs as part of the new collective agreement.
In solidarity with CUPE 3903, the departments of Social Science; Sociology; Politics; Gender, Feminist & Women’s Studies; Cinema and Media Arts; Equity Studies; Anthropology; and Communication Studies, along with the Department of Politics and School of Translation at the York University Glendon campus, have suspended classes for the duration of the strike.
Students have a right to attend class and will be accommodated if they choose not to protest. University facilities, administrative offices, libraries, and food outlets remain open.
More than 800 graduate assistant jobs were previously eliminated during a switch to the current fellowship funding model. Teaching assistants still receive funding in the form of scholarships, fellowships, and research assistantships that advance academic progress, but they have lost other opportunities for work. Contract faculty see fewer full-time opportunities.
At U of T, a separate but related union called CUPE 3902 Unit 3 represents approximately 1,200 sessional instructors. In December, unit members voted to ratify their renewed collective agreement with the school.
Aida Jordao, a sessional lecturer in the Spanish and Portuguese departments at both York and U of T said that at U of T, CUPE 3902 Unit 3 “doesn’t have a lot of power. It also doesn’t have a lot of members.”
“Here at York we can establish a standard by which other universities could measure themselves.”
Jordao said that precarious academic work was harming the quality of education for York students. “Students will always feel it… There won’t be a throughline in their department in terms of curriculum because they will have different professors all the time.”
“I think it’s worse that sometimes we have two weeks’ notice to teach a course… You have to put so much work into preparing the lectures and each class that you don’t have as much time to give to the students.”
Editor’s Note (March 14): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Jordao works in the English department. She works in the Spanish and Portuguese departments.