Dozens of York University students descended on the Ontario legislature today to demand government intervention to end a nearly month-old strike by York’s teaching assistants, graduate assistants, and contract faculty.
See also: Mediator suspends York talks
The strike, which began Nov. 6, has left 50,000 students out of class and concerned how they will be affected by the strike. As the dispute drags on, students are concerned about the school year extending into May and costing them summer employment opportunities.
The protest comes at a critical impasse in the dispute with the provincial mediator saying the two sides are not close to an agreement and less than two weeks before the provincial legislature recesses for a two-month winter break.
“We’re hoping to get the premier’s attention with this,” said York student Catherine Divaris, a member of the group YorkNotHostage.com, which organized today’s event. She spoke to CityNews while protesting in front of Queen’s Park.
“We need the legislature to enact back-to-work legislation for this strike because it’s entering the fourth week now and there’s been no action from either side… this is unacceptable.”
The government has refuted demands for back-to-work legislation but an opposition member, Progressive Conservative MPP Peter Shurman (Thornhill) introduced a private member’s bill to force an end to the strike.
Bill 135, Back to Work Act (York University), 2008 calls, “on the Minister of Labour to table back-to-work legislation.” Shurman told the legislative assembly, that if passed, it will impose a three-year contract on the union.
One of the key demands of CUPE 3903 is a two-year contract. Provincially, CUPE is preparing for a possible provincial-wide strike in 2010 to push demands for more government funding to increase pay and benefits for CUPE members at Ontario’s public universities.
“This government can no longer stand by as CUPE 3903 continues to blatantly disregard the consequences of their irresponsible strike. I’ve asked the McGuinty government to step in and show decisive leadership on this issue, but time is running out and they’ve done nothing,” Shurman said after Question Period today.
“When will the McGuinty Liberals realize that the ‘wait and see’ approach is not the way to govern? It didn’t work for the economy and it isn’t working for York U. students,” .