CUPE 3903 Strike Update from Osgoode
The information I’ve compiled for this little blog entry may have come from CUPE 3903’s website, York’s press releases, updates from Osgoode staff and faculty, and random picketers on the picket lines as I make my way into school every day (two weeks into a strike and I’m still playing catch-up!). When heated disputes such as this one carry on, it’s important to keep in mind the extreme difficulty of finding unbiased information, no matter where it’s coming from.
As far as I know, CUPE 3903 has a scheduled meeting of its members to discuss all things strike-related today. Perhaps this means they’re willing to relax their demands a little bit in the hopes of bringing the university’s representatives back to the table to say anything other than, “Binding arbitration or the highway,” (I couldn’t think of a clever way to make that rhyme).
One worker informed me yesterday that if the union is willing to bring their demands down to a collective agreement valued at under $10 million, the university might be willing to negotiate. Perhaps the strike will come to an end sooner than later.
The reason I have been given for CUPE refusing binding arbitration, by the way, is that an arbitrator will likely apply industry standards in resolving the dispute which the union feels are significantly lower than what they’re bargaining for. A victory for the union, I think, might raise the standard and therefore have significant implications for similar workers and universities across the country.
Regarding Osgoode specifically, faculty and administration have to be commended for doing their best to explore as many options as possible in order to minimize the impacts of the collective action on students. However, the official policy of York’s senate states that no on- or off-campus activities are to occur during a strike and, while the staff are doing their best to convince the senate that this isn’t the best idea, CUPE 3903 will likely picket any off-campus location regardless.
So where do the students stand? According to a survey taken and released by Osgoode’s Student Caucus, the vast majority of students are in favour of classes resuming, which would likely require the school to either exploit a tiny little loophole (utilize the internet maybe?) and get away with it or go all out and frustrate the union.
A handful of students are enjoying the vacation, and a couple have insisted—including one personal letter to the Dean—that they will not cross a picket line no matter what the school’s status is. How such students will be impacted if the law school resumes classes is unclear.
People Negatively Impacted by the Strike
International students: These few students at Osgoode are guaranteed to have something better to do this December, such as, I don’t know, spending Christmas back home with their families. But an even more practical concern is the fact that they may have visas set to expire and plane tickets that can’t easily be changed.
Third-year students hoping to graduate: As far as I know, you have to have an LLB or JD before you can write the bar exam. Fortunately for these folks, though, Osgoode is not going to budge the original end date of the second semester next year so they should be alright.
First- and second-year students with summer jobs: A lot of people are ecstatic about the fact that they will be gainfully employed at law firms in the summer months. These students are also lucky that the university is going to hold onto the semester’s original end date. If the strike goes on long enough to force the school’s hand on that matter though, which is very unlikely, they face the frustration of renegotiation start dates with their employers.
Osgoode support staff and merchants: Support staff and merchants are bound to be equally affected across the entire campus. Custodial staff need filthy law students to clean up after and cafeteria staff need hungry law students to feed. I never thought I’d say it, but there aren’t enough filthy, starving law students at this place any more to keep Osgoode’s excellent support staff busy. Some of my favourite cafeteria workers have already been laid off until further notice.
Students Positively Impacted by the Strike
As nice as it is to have a little time to catch up on my readings, however, and although it’s even nicer to be excluded from those aforementioned groups, I have to sympathize with them because they, unlike myself, will have various aspects of their lives significantly interrupted by the strike.
I am a full supporter of collective action for workers to ensure fairness, equity and the like. I’m also a full supporter of an employer’s right to protect its own interests in the hopes of maximizing efficiency and productivity. The closest I’ve come to disapproving of either side in this dispute is my negative sentiment towards CUPE insultingly analogizing themselves to people suffering under the poverty line. For more on that, see an excellent post by a colleague of mine.
Even to date, I don’t lay blame or harvest ill will towards either side of this dispute. But it can’t be forgotten that parties are suffering, and will suffer, who aren’t party to the dispute at all, and both sides are as responsible for students being screwed over as two warring factions are for civilian casualties. And like warring factions, both sides will likely point their fingers at the other for it.