Thousands of academic workers at York University go on strike

Thousands of contract instructors, teaching assistants, and graduate assistants at York University will walk off the job if a new deal isn’t reached with the school’s administration.

About 3,000 academic workers at York University have gone on strike after their union said the university didn’t meet their demand to “address the affordability crisis.”

A rally kicked off at 11 a.m. on Monday outside the York University subway station as striking workers were joined by faculty, students, and labour leaders.

“Strikes are struggles, they are a fight for the wages and collective agreements we deserve. Knowing this, we want to start the strike off in the spirit of community and solidarity,” wrote a CUPE Local 3903 spokesperson.

The walkout comes five years after academic workers went on strike only to be legislated back to work by the Ford government with no resolution to the issues that led to the strike. At that time, the government passed Bill 124, which limited public sector wage increases to one per cent.

The province’s top court ruled recently that the law violated collective bargaining rights. The government announced Friday that it has repealed Bill 124 in its entirety through an order in council.

Academic workers at York say the university has yet to address the imbalance created by the former law.

“We’re struggling to make ends meet. Basic needs like housing and food have skyrocketed in price, but the wages for people who do the majority of teaching at York have been falling further and further behind,” Erin McIntosh, a Ph.D. student and CUPE Local 3903 spokesperson said in a statement.

“The employer is still making an offer that is far below the rising cost of living. Who can afford to work at York anymore?”

McIntosh added that affordability issues are affecting the quality of education as workers are forced to live further and further away from campus while taking on second or third jobs, meaning less time to work with students.

“For workers who are also students, it’s making York unaffordable. It’s putting a university education out of the reach of people. This is a question about equity and access,” said McIntosh.

York University said talks between the union and administrators were expected to continue and that contingency plans are in place to continue university operations.

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