Ontario government launches commission to look into York University strike

By The Canadian Press

The Ontario government has launched a commission to look into a contract faculty strike at Toronto’s York University that has left tens of thousands students out of class for more than a month.

Labour Minister Kevin Flynn says an industrial inquiry commission will examine the remaining issues in the dispute and report on any steps that can be taken to address them.

More than 3,000 York graduate teaching assistants, contract faculty and graduate research assistants walked off the job March 5 in a dispute over wages and job security.

All three bargaining units of the Canadian Union of Public Employees local 3903 rejected the university’s latest offer in what the union called a “forced ratification vote” earlier this month.

The university this week called for binding arbitration, but the union refused, saying it wanted to negotiate a deal and move to arbitration only as a last resort.

York has argued the two sides have reached an impasse and that they are, in fact, at the point of last resort.

Flynn said the government understands that parties sometimes need support beyond the bargaining table, and the commission will look into the strike impartially.

William Kaplan has been chosen as the commission’s sole member and will report back to the minister.

York University released a statement saying they welcome the decision by the government and invited striking faculty to return to work why the inquiry process is underway.

York University welcomes the decision by the provincial government to appoint William Kaplan, a highly regarded labour relations expert with significant experience in the university sector, as the sole member of an Industrial Inquiry Commission to look into the issues of the strike by CUPE 3903.

Following more than six months of negotiating at the bargaining table, including 26 separate sessions, this appointment offers a new path forward to overcoming our significant differences and resolving the strike, which will soon be entering its seventh week.

York is looking forward to working with Mr. Kaplan as soon as possible and hopes that this will lead to an expeditious settlement.

With this decision, York is inviting the Union leadership to ask their members in CUPE 3903 to return to work so that our students can successfully complete their winter terms while the Inquiry process is underway. We make this invitation on the understanding that CUPE would retain the ability to withdraw its members’ services during the summer term if a settlement is not reached.

“All of us share a commitment to our students’ academic success and understand the uncertainty that the strike has created. We absolutely respect the labour rights of our CUPE 3903 instructors. By returning to work while both parties make a sincere effort to work with the Commissioner to find a resolution, we can ensure that our students can complete their year,” Interim Provost Lisa Philipps said.

York will cooperate fully with the Industrial Inquiry Commission.

The government said the last industrial inquiry commission was called in 2015 to examine a dispute between the United Steelworkers union and Crown Metal Packaging Canada.

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