York University Strike

Strikers on a legal strike ordered back to work by Queens Park 

MPPs were called back to Queens Park a month early on Sunday af

MPPs were called back to Queens Park a month early on Sunday after the provincial government decided to end the 11 week CUPE 3903 strike at York University. Labour Minister Peter Fonseca introduced Bill 145 to compel a return to work and send negotiations to an Arbitrator. It could be over a week before the Liberal’s Bill becomes law.

Arguing that bargaining should continue and that the employer has failed to bargain fairly, the NDP withheld their consent for passage a government motion to dispense with the normal orders of business at the Leg. The NDP also called for action on post secondary funding given that Ontario ranks 10th of the 10 provinces. At York, said the NDP, CUPE’s contract teachers do 54% of all teaching and receive about 7% of the University budget.

First Reading of Bill 145 includes the following:

  • it applies if there is no agreement before it becomes law (ie York could start to bargain if it chose to with a about a week to go before the hammer drops)

  • this Act supersedes the OLRA

  • all strike activities must stop

  • non-compliance will cost the union $25,000 a day and individuals $2,000 a day

  • all matters are to be referred to a mutually agreed mediator-arbitrator within 5 days for a decision within 90 days

  • the Arbitrator is to use these criteria:

1. The employer's ability to pay in light of its fiscal situation.

2. The extent to which services may have to be reduced, in light of the award, if current funding and taxation levels are not increased.

3. The economic situation in Ontario and in the Greater Toronto Area.

4. A comparison, as between the employees and comparable employees in the public and private sectors, of the nature of the work performed and of the terms and conditions of employment.

5. The employer's ability to attract and retain qualified employees.

6. The purposes of the Public Sector Dispute Resolution Act, 1997.

If the union and employer reach an agreement before an award is made, the med-arb process ends.

Normally, the rules of order at the Leg. provide for extensive debate on each separate stage of debate on a government Bill. In fact a Bill cannot normally go through more than First, Second or Third Reading in one day - to say nothing of committee hearing which usually follow Second Reading. These measures ensure at least some role for the Opposition. So, we saw Bill 145 gain First Reading only Sunday as the NDP did not agree to suspend the Standing Order that stipulates a pause for a day prior to Second Reading. This tactic and others such as motions for amendments can keep debate rolling for days.

The government can resort to time allocation motions to impose special time limits on debate. But each such motion, given we live in a democracy, requires debate.

The obvious question for the NDP is how long to prevent passage of a Bill that will become law one way or the other.

York upped the ante Sunday by announcing that, should classes not resume by Wednesday January 28th, the summer term will be lost.