Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ontario NDP statement on York back to work legislation.

Original here.
McGuinty taking easy way out, ducking real issues

Dalton McGuinty is taking the easy way out and ducking the real issues behind the York University strike by trying to ram through back-to-work legislation, says NDP Leader Howard Hampton.

“Dalton McGuinty’s chronic underfunding of Ontario’s universities is at the root cause of not only this strike, but the real possibility of further labour disputes at other Ontario universities,” said Hampton, noting Ontario ranks dead last among all Canadian provinces in per-capita funding for universities.

“Rather than scrambling to bring the legislature back today to force through back-to-work legislation that strips York workers of their right to collectively bargain, the McGuinty Liberals should take steps to ensure all of Ontario’s universities are properly funded. University workers and all students and parents across the province deserve nothing less.”

Hampton also slammed the McGuinty government for not doing more to avert the crisis at York.

“We didn’t need to reach this unprecedented stage, but the McGuinty Liberals chose to sit on the sidelines for nearly three months while York students and workers suffered through this strike,” said Hampton.

“Dalton McGuinty looked the other way as the University refused to negotiate in good faith, putting the academic future of 50,000 students at risk. Now the Premier is at his clumsy best trying to clean up the mess he created and providing a crutch for a University administration unwilling to negotiate with its workers to give students the educational experience they've paid for.”

York’s striking workers perform 54 per cent of the teaching at the University yet only receive 7.5 per cent of the University’s entire annual budget in salary and benefits. They also have little job security.

“Where is the fairness when senior University administrators make almost half a million dollars in salary, benefits and perks alone?” asked Hampton.

“These workers, many of them students themselves, are demanding fairness. That’s why we will stand with them and vote against Dalton McGuinty’s back-to-work bill,” he said.

7 comments:

Steve V said...

"ducking real issues"

Seems to me, the real issue is thousands upon thousands of students being held hostage by a bargaining process, with the mediator even said, had little prospect for resolution. As it stands now, these students have already lost half their summer, which means job prospects are minimized, which means more debt. People can throw out all the stats they want about the workers, but this thing has morphed, and the real victims are the students. The real issue is students getting screwed, but that simple, fundamental fact, doesn't seem to penetrate the ideologue mind. Applause for McGuinty on this one, enough is enough.

ADHR said...

Steve,

It seems that you are also ducking the real issue. As Hamptom points out, Ontario universities are chronically underfunded. If universities were adequately funded, then this strike would likely not have dragged on this long (and perhaps not even occurred). McGuinty had a choice here. He could have chosen to increase provincial transfers to universities, to help them create more full-time faculty positions, reduce class sizes, increase graduate student funding, improve facilities, and so on and so forth. He chose not to, time after time, and now is expecting academic workers to prop up the failing system once again.

You're wrong to call students "hostages", for two reasons. First, it's morally wrong to use the metaphor; it is an insult to real hostages, such as the unfortunately well-known Daniel Pearl, just to pick one. York students had the option of withdrawing from the university and going somewhere else. They may have chosen not to do this, but that was a choice that they made. No one is threatening to kill them or depriving them of the ability to make decisions regarding their own lives. They are hardly "hostages".

Second, I suspect that the students as hostages metaphor is actually intended to express a sort of paternalistic concern (which would explain the use of the word "victims", as well). But this is inappropriate. These students are, in all other respects of their lives, considered to be adults. Why alienate them from their ability to make decisions here? I'm not suggesting that it would be right or fair for students to need to choose between waiting out a strike and possibly starting their university careers again. But it's equally not right or fair for academic workers to not be paid adequately and to have no job security whatsoever. In this respect, the two groups are on all fours.

You express concern for the job prospects and debt of the undergraduate students. This is a reasonable concern, but it is curiously narrowed. Graduate students in CUPE 3903 are also facing ever-increasing debt and reduced job prospects, in large part because of the casualization of the academic labour market that CUPE 3903 was trying, in some small way, to correct here. Similarly, contract faculty members in CUPE 3903 also deserve some concern, as they have been trapped by the steadily-casualizing academic labour market, unable to devote sufficient time to research to capture one of the ever-shrinking pool of tenure-stream jobs. These are people, too, and thus also deserve concern.

The rest of your response doesn't seem well-considered. You don't explain why "stats about workers" are not relevant, when clearly workers are the ones being affected most seriously by this proposed legislation (the university administration curiously being let off the hook). Stats about workers would seem highly relevant when workers' interests are to be affected by legislation.

Your reference to an "ideologue mind" also seems ill-considered: it is surely just as ideological to unilaterally oppose workers advancing their own interests as it is to unilaterally support their doing so. It is also surely ideological to treat back to work legislation as anything less than the authoritarian removal of rights from a minority group in order to serve the interests of a majority. That's never justified; it's certainly not something to applaud.

Overall, it's quite strange to support legislation which gets the government off the hook for its involvement in creating this situation, and also protects the university from any responsibility in the failures of the negotiations. A measured approach would have been to remand the situation to "last best offer" arbitration, and seriously debate future legisation to repair the funding for Ontario universities, either by allowing them to increase tuition further or by providing public funds earmarked to improving the causalization of the labour market and improving the student experience as well. Instead, McGuinty is taking the politically expedient course that will reduce heat from the voters. Hence, he deserves contempt and condemnation.

Lizt. said...

I read that Secondary school is paid by the Province, while Universities have something to do with the Federal Government paying for them, as well.

ADHR said...

I'm not sure where you read that, Lizt. The province does transfer money to universities (and colleges, for that matter). I don't believe that the feds do the same, although they may give money to the province which is then given to universities -- I'm not sure on that point.

James Bowie said...

The NDP doesn't support students. Duck THAT issue! Even the NDP's own youth association at York won't support the NDP's position. Some of them have already gone back to class!

When your base supporters, your student volunteers who lick your envelopes, abandon you - consider what you're doing.

ADHR said...

James,

That argument simply doesn't follow. Whether or not the York NDP supports the NDP's position has nothing to do with whether the NDP supports students. It's a very obvious non sequitur. The fact is that the ONDP is the only party drawing attention to the underfunding of universities which degrades the quality of education students receive. That serves as pretty clear proof they are they only party that does support students.

I don't blame some York NDPers for going back to class. They're in a tough position, after all: either lose out on the education they've paid for or refuse to cross lines as a matter of principle. Personally, I wouldn't cross the lines, but I can see why they wouldn't want to sit around and wait for the taped lectures (or whatever other ridiculous accommodations are provided in accordance with York Senate policy).

Moreover, your claim that the York NDP doesn't support the ONDP's actions seems false. From the York NDP Facebook page:

"UPDATE: NDP@YORK POSITION on CUPE BARGAINING

"Automobile manufacturing, the foundation of Ontario's 20th-century economy, is in a state of decline. Factories are closing, and appears that some of them may never reopen. More than ever, we need new ideas, and we need researchers to develop them right here in Ontario.

"This is not the time to be 'nickel-and-dimeing' graduate students and contract faculty. However that is exactly what Dalton McGuinty and his Liberal government seem to be doing. The current CUPE 3903 strike is a by-product of years of provincial underfunding. While many graduate researchers rely on their teaching assistantships to fund their research, the package of wages and benefits being offered to CUPE 3903 is inadequate to keep them afloat. The administration's current proposals regarding contract lecturers would transform York University's body of tenured faculty into a collection of 'temps' without any semblance of job-security.

"If York and other Ontario Universities are unable to provide adequate funding, then better-funded competitors in other jurisdictions will be only too happy to take their place. Our best and brightest faculty and graduate students will vote with their feet, taking the opportunity for new jobs along with them. In short, paying "poverty wages" to innovators will make all of us poor.

"In this time of economic transformation, the government of Ontario must send a clear signal that it values innovation. It must equip Ontario universities to provide student and faculty working conditions commenserate with those at top-tier American and European institutions. In the interest of the province as a whole, it must start now, with immediate funding to end this strike by meeting the demands of CUPE 3903.

"Phil Pothen
"Policy Chair, New Democrats at York University
"Chair, Osgoode Hall New Democrats

"Jesse Zimmerman
"Membership and Outreach Chair, New Democrats at York University

"Stephen Spong
"Director of Communications, "Osgoode Hall New Democrats"

I would also seriously question any group claiming to be affiliated with the NDP that supported back to work legislation on any occasion. The ONDP clearly erred in supporting back to work legislation for the TTC; this time, they have acted in a way consistent with their stated principles.

ADHR said...

Ah, I see what you're talking about. This, right? Your presentation is a little disingenous, though.

As mentioned, half of the 50 Osgoode New Democrats -- not York NDP -- decided to go back to class. Again, that has nothing to do with back to work legislation. Furthermore, Phil Pothen tried to get back to work legislation that would impose the contract the union was asking for -- which I would generally be all right with as well; although I still have principled objections to back to work legislation, it'd be hard to complain about that outcome -- and would not say whether he supported back to work legislation without conditions.

So, we hardly have the York NDP refusing to support the ONDP's position. What you said is simply not supported.