Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

April 24, 2009 13:14 ET

Fight for the Right to Strike-CUPE 3903 Returns to Queen's Park to Protest Back to Work Legislation

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 24, 2009) - Nearly two months ago, the McGuinty government legislated CUPE 3903 back to work after an 85 day strike during which their employer had only bargained for 11 days. Though classes at York University have resumed, many members of the Union are still infuriated by the fact that their right to strike was taken away and will be demonstrating at Queen's Park today, April 24 at 5:00 p.m.

"Our members are guaranteed certain legal rights including the right to a fair collective bargaining process and the right to a legal strike. We followed those laws, and yet our rights were taken away when our employer didn't get its way," said Chelsea Flook, a graduate assistant. "It is important that we continue to remind Premier McGuinty that legislating us back to work does not solve the problems at York-it only aggravates them."

The Union worked diligently for over six months to find creative solutions to the deep problems associated with a perennially underfunded institution, including demands for better support for graduate students and improvements to the working conditions of contract professors. CUPE 3903 members do over five per cent of the teaching at York and, yet, many of them live below Ontario's poverty line and have very slim prospects for improving their conditions under the current system.

After months of being told that the university could not afford their demands, members were outraged to learn that the institution's top earners continue to squander limited government support on their own salaries. "President Shoukri earns over $450,000 per year-that's a 152 per cent increase in the President's salary in the past decade," noted Christina Rousseau, a Chief Steward in the local. "We were forced back to work when we asked for just a sliver of that wealth. Everyone knows that universities are underfunded, but it is clear that, the funding they do have, is also mismanaged."

Brad Bauerly, a Teaching Assistant at York, was outspoken about the injustice of back to work legislation, saying, "I've got a two-year-old daughter and I don't know how I'm going to pay our rent this summer. I only had one way of improving my situation and that was to go on strike-when the province took that away, they also took away my right to fight for a better life for my daughter. I won't forget that anytime soon."

CUPE 3903 members will hold a symbolic vote today at Queen's Park on their rights as public employees in Ontario. It is expected that an overwhelming majority of those present-CUPE 3903 members and community allies-will vote in favour of the right to fair collective bargaining and the right to strike.

Contact Information

  • CUPE 3903
    Chelsea Flook
    CUPE 3903
    Christina Rousseau