Thursday, December 11, 2008

No back to work legislation.

So, a partial victory for CUPE 3903 thus far. The Ontario Legislative Assembly is now in recess until February 17. The government could, in theory, convene an emergency session of the House to pass back to work legislation, but I don't see any indication that this is likely. Indeed, the private member's bill (Bill 135) to compel the introduction of back to work legislation -- from douchebag Thornhill MPP Peter Shurman -- although scheduled for second reading, didn't actually get dealt with today. I'm not enough of a procedural expert to know whether it can come back in the new year or not; perhaps someone will enlighten me in comments.

That said, the University can still play the forced ratification card. For non-Ontarians (I think Ontario is unique in Canada in this regard), legislation introduced by the Harris government in the '90's allows employers to compel a ratification vote by the membership of a union. They can only ask for a forced ratification once, though, so the University has to be very careful about when to ask for it. If the ratification fails, then the option is completely off the table. The sense I get from the Union is that this is going to be the University's next move to try to avoid negotiating a settlement. I don't like the idea of forced ratification, as it's pretty obviously one-sided and a backhanded attempt at union-busting (by undermining the leadership). The only way I can see it being acceptable is if the Union has a similar right to bypass the University bargaining team, but I don't see how that right could be structured in order to have any teeth whatsoever.

Beyond that, I don't see any options for settling this beyond serious negotiation on the University's part -- the Union has already made significant moves, so the ball is really in their court. The Fall semester, if I read York U Senate policy correctly, is at this point a write-off. Unless hell freezes over and there's a ratified contract by Monday (logistically, this is basically impossible), the semester is considered unrecoverable. So, any courses taken thus far are as if they didn't happen. What that means in practical terms, I'm not sure. I suspect that the Winter semester would then be the next one threatened by the strike, and students' tuition would be banked for any future courses. (That is, they don't just advance the Fall semester to start in January.) I don't think students will get refunds unless they kick and scream in order to get them. (An interesting question is what happens to grad students like me who are ABD -- All But Dissertation, that is. If the Fall semester is scrubbed, given that I wasn't attending any classes anyway, does the semester count or not?)

I wonder, though, about the mediator in all this. Right now, my sense is that both sides expect the mediator to call them together for more talks. Why isn't he doing this? Officially, the reason is that the sides are too far apart, but isn't it his job to try to compel both sides to settle? What, exactly, is he being paid for?


Jesse said...

I'm an undergrad @ York. Does this mean everything I was marked on so far wont count for anything?

ADHR said...

I don't know, honestly. If they cancel the semester, I don't think it counts for anything. But the Senate may have the power to offer some sort of partial credit, as may the individual departments.

Unfortunately, I think you'll have to sit and wait until the official announcement on Monday to see the details of what the Senate is planning -- and is able -- to do.

burpnrun said...

I hope the next offer from the university is a reduction of 10% in all wages and benefits from current levels. Followed two weeks later by a further 10% cut, and so on. When/if they get to 100% reduction from current levels, just declare them surplus and open up position advertising at current levels, or less.

Whem the global economy is going to hell in a handbasket, now is not the time to gouge the public purse.

ADHR said...

You really have no idea how the academy works, do you? If the university opens up TA positions, then they still have to provide funding, for no teaching work. If the university opens up contract faculty positions, then 50% of all teaching at the university doesn't get done.

I'm deeply unclear why it's "gouging" to say "hey, how 'bout paying us a living wage, and, y'know, giving people some reasonable job security"? But, I suppose in your world it makes sense.