Talks between YorkU, union called off Saturday as strike drags on
Maurice Cacho, cp24.com
Published Sunday, November 30, 2008 2:44PM EST
Talks between York University administration, CUPE negotiators and a mediator were suspended Saturday as a strike cancelling classes for nearly 50,000 students drags into its fourth week, the school says.
The university and striking union met on Thursday for the first time since the strike began, but the talks have been called off.
"We understood that CUPE 3903 had a new framework to reach a settlement, but in the end their monetary demands were 28 per cent over two years with more than 120 proposals still on the table," university spokesperson Alex Bilyk said in a statement on the school's website.
"Their demands are not realistic and they are not affordable, especially in a worsening economy."
However, the striking union says talks were never suspended and the union is hoping to meet again on Tuesday.
"We care about our students," says CUPE 3903 spokesperson Rafeef Ziadah. "We are the ones who teach the students, so we really care about getting them back into the classroom."
Frustration amongst students is growing, however, with some planning a rally at Queens Park Tuesday aiming to encourage the provincial government to force binding arbitration.
One student, who was initially in support of the striking teaching assistants, contract faculty and researchers, says she is now withdrawing her support.
"I'm not against the individuals themselves, but I'm upset at the situation," says final-year York student Jody Heffernan.
She says the ongoing strike is ridiculous and frustrating. "It's totally not fair," she says. "We're just left in limbo."
While Ziadah says one of the main issues is the hiring of contract faculty, she concedes that the union is also pushing for a two year contract instead of a three-year contact, which the university is offering and the union has accepted in the past.
She says a two-year contract would expire at a time when several other unions would be able to negotiate a province-wide contract with other universities.
"It is one of our key priority demands," she told CP24.COM.
The union says it is now "streamlining" some of its demands in anticipation of further discussions with the university.
"We keep taking what the employer says and (are) working with it to bring negotiations closer," Ziadah says.