York University’s part-time instructors have voted to accept an offer and will return to work on Monday in the longest strike at an English-language university in Canada.
Only one unit among the three that were striking ratified the offer. Two others, representing teaching assistants and graduate assistants and researchers, remain on strike.
Unstable and part-time work for contract instructors, financial assistance for survivors of sexual violence and mistrust between the union, CUPE 3903, and the administration were among the issues at the heart of the protracted dispute. Classes will not resume immediately, but instructors will be back at work on Monday.
“The University recognizes and truly values the contributions that contract faculty make to teaching and learning at York,” the university said in a statement. “We are looking forward to working with Unit 2 members to provide the necessary remediation and enable our students to complete their courses from the 2017-18 academic year.”
Classes were suspended for thousands of undergraduate students, the dates of convocation ceremonies were changed and summer course offerings trimmed as a result of the strike.
“It is just unfortunate that a key element of our program that brings a nursing degree full circle was cut short,” said Carly Louise Howie, who received her diploma on Friday.
She and her fourth-year nursing classmates had lobbied the university to have their shortened co-op terms recognized as fulfilling the requirements for the degree. The nursing practicums use part-time instructors as liaisons between York and the hospitals where students are placed.
“I know classmates who cannot find jobs because we only had seven weeks [in co-op],” Ms. Howie said.
The part-time instructors’ decision to accept the deal came after two days of voting supervised by the national office of CUPE. An earlier vote on Wednesday was cancelled after voting irregularities.
Sixty-five per cent of those who cast ballots approved the offer even though the bargaining team’s executive committee had strongly recommended voting against it.
One of the key issues in the dispute, the number of tenure-track positions available to part-time instructors each year, will be determined in arbitration. It is not clear how or when issues with the other two units will be settled. There are 3,000 members in the union. “We ask the Bargaining Teams to consider taking our Unit 1 and Unit 3 offers to their members for ratification to bring all CUPE 3903 colleagues back allowing certainty for all students to complete their term,” York said in a statement.
The strike has caused tensions between on campus between the administration and CUPE 3903 and the York University Faculty Association, as well as many course unions that passed motions asking the university to settle.
A last-minute attempt in early May by the former Liberal government to end the dispute by bringing in back-to-work legislation failed. Progressive Conservative premier-designate Doug Ford has said that his majority government will pass the legislation quickly in a short summer session.
The ratification vote takes some of the most difficult issues off the table and could lead to deals with the other two units before legislation is introduced. The new cabinet is sworn in on June 29.