To the members of CUPE 3903:My read is that the mediator realized pretty quickly he wasn't going to get any movement from York on anything. So, he tried to push the union into a way of ending the strike. That's his job, so I'm not blaming him for this unfolding debacle. But, clearly, York never had any intention of trying to settle this on their own. In the entire strike, there has -- being generous here -- been about two weeks of actual bargaining. The rest has been press releases, stone-walling, and outright lies by the administration. It's not particularly surprising that this pattern continued this week. It's disappointing, though, to see McGuinty pretend that the blame can't be laid entirely at the feet of the York administration. They've had multiple chances to present offers that would go some way to address the priorities that the CUPE 3903 bargaining team made very clear, and they have wasted every single one of these chances. And every single one of them is making six figures to do it.
In the very early hours of Saturday morning, January 24, 2009 the Bargaining Team and the Executive of CUPE 3903 held an emergency meeting. We voted, by a substantial majority, to reject binding arbitration and to offer to continue to bargain.
York University made it clear that they had no intention of bargaining. The mediator indicated that York held their position on the basis of both “economic feasibility and principle.” Although we significantly lowered our demands, York made no movement and offered the same pass that members rejected by 63% in forced ratification.
At midnight, the mediator made it clear that if 3903 did not accept binding arbitration, then they would be contacting Premier Dalton McGuinty, and the outcome would be back-to-work legislation.
We feel that it was inappropriate for the mediator to set us this impossible choice between binding arbitration and back-to-work legislation, with a 7:00am deadline. Although we have no way of knowing how the employer was treated, from our point of view, the responsibility fell on our union to decide between two unpalatable choices.
The Bargaining Team and the Executive feel that our demands are fair. The mediator asked us to reduce our demands to a few key priorities. We dropped our demands on wage increases in response to feedback from the membership at the January 21 General Membership Meeting. We withdrew over 40 outstanding proposals. We continue to emphasize that minimum guarantees, job security, and child care funds are essential to our members. Because York offered a three-year deal with a two-year funding structure, with poor back-to-work protocol, we were unable to accept their offer. At the same time, York has made it clear that regardless of how often we lower our demands, they dismiss the value of our members, and refuse to give our members the respect they deserve.
We are convinced that by rejecting binding arbitration, we are keeping members’ best interests in mind. We lose very little by refusing binding arbitration. We have rejected binding arbitration since bargaining began, and it would be inappropriate to accept it now. We considered carefully the larger political implications of our decision. We want to continue to bargain on our own terms. We refuse to undermine the dignity of our members by accepting an offer that our members already rejected.
Members of the Executive, CUPE Local 3903