Tuesday, January 27, 2009

CUPE 4163 Supports York University Workers' Right to Bargain

CUPE 4163 Supports York University Workers' Right to Bargain -
Calls Proposed Back-to-Work Legislation an Attack on Workers' Rights
Victoria, B.C.

At this moment the government of Ontario is taking steps to pass
back-to-work legislation aimed at undercutting the rights of workers,
ordering the members of CUPE 3903 to return to work and refusing them the
right to bargain. The members of CUPE 4163 stand by these workers in calling
on the government of Ontario to allow the constitutionally protected
tradition of collective bargaining to continue, and to instead require the
administration of York University to return to the bargaining table in good
We live in a time of economic uncertainty. As belts tighten, corporations
and governments are looking for ways to save money, to cut corners, and to
trim costs. We must resist the urge to let them do so over the bodies of
workers and that is exactly what this legislation supports. By undercutting
the rights of these workers to utilize their only tool of negotiation, that
of withholding their labour power in the absence of a just contract, this
back-to-work legislation threatens all workers.

The argument is being made that it is the rights of students which should be
thought of in this case. Students have been out of the classroom for 77
days, and the Ontario government is arguing that they must not be made to
pay the price of this conflict. This is obviously true, yet if the
university administration was truly concerned with the rights of students,
why is it that this administration couldn't be bothered to negotiate with
the union for 65 days out of that 77 day span, meeting on only 12 occasions?
The best interests of students must indeed be held foremost by all parties,
but to return them to classes without a resolution is not in their interests
at all. The fact that this resolution does not place students first is
further reinforced by the reality that graduate student TAs, who are also
being prevented from attending class as a result of this strike, voted
almost 2 to 1 to support the union in continuing this action in the absence
of a just offer.

The truth of the matter is that there is a growing crisis in our university
system. We face what has been described as an attempt to introduce the
policies of Walmart to our system of higher education. Each year, a larger
proportion of the teaching and research at universities is undertaken by
workers who are given little pay, and even less security. These contract
faculty do not know, from one term to the next, whether or not they will
even be teaching. This situation is not in the interest of these workers,
and it is certainly not in the interest of students.

It is this crisis which is at the heart of the struggle at York, and it is
an issue which back-to-work legislation will attempt to force out of sight,
and out of mind. For the sake of the workers and students currently at York,
and for the sake of future workers and students at universities across this
country, this crisis needs to be addressed. It needs to be addressed through
the system of collective bargaining, a system which the Supreme Court of
Canada has ruled is a constitutionally protected practice, in a ruling which
came in response to the last attempt, here in BC, by a provincial government
to enforce back-to-work legislation.

This attack on workers' right to bargain must be fought. If this
back-to-work legislation is allowed to pass unchallenged, it will have
far-reaching consequences for all workers. The university's knowledge that
they may have final recourse to back-to-work legislation in the face of
determined workers allows them to avoid negotiating entirely, and simply
wait for an imposed settlement. We stand in solidarity with CUPE 3903 in
opposing this tactic, and call for the administration of York University to
return to the bargaining table in good faith.


Educational Employees Union, CUPE 4163
University of Victoria
Technology Enterprise Facility, room 217
Box 1700, Stn. CSC
Victoria, BC
V8W 2Y2
Phone: (250) 472-4778; Fax: (250) 472-4806

No comments: