The bargaining team of CUPE 3903, the union representing striking education workers at York University, has reached a tentative agreement with the YorkU administration. Here, we re-publish a statement by the Socialist Fightback club at YorkU/Seneca, which has been actively mobilizing support for the strike.

The Socialist Fightback club at York/Seneca has been actively mobilizing support to the York and UofT strikes, along with our sister clubs at the other Toronto campuses. We have been asked by workers and students what our opinion is on the tentative agreement.

We are concerned that we have heard that the new agreement contains concessions, and that tuition indexation has been removed. If this is true, we would have to recommend that the union membership votes “NO” and continues the strike.

Tuition indexation was won during the 2000/01 strike at York University. After 78 days on the picket lines, a historic victory was achieved. This served as a model for graduate employees across North America, which should not be thrown away so easily.

Tuition indexation means that if the administration increases tuition fees, there must be a corresponding dollar-per-dollar increase in wages. If tuition indexation is lost, it doesn’t matter what you negotiate in the rest of the agreement — it can all be clawed back through tuition hikes. 

We have heard that there may be a “Grandfather” clause protecting current workers, but new hires could lose the previously existing protection. This would serve to create a two-tiered membership, which undermines and disunites the union. 

The strike is holding strong

The university strikes on both campuses have been very strong during the first week. With each day, more and more workers are joining the picket lines. There is solid enthusiasm and energy on the lines, which have served to inspire the student, and broader labour, movement. There has been an outpouring of support, and solidarity efforts from the labour movement. Hundreds of undergraduates have joined the picket lines; meanwhile, York University classes continue to be shut down. 

The student union at UofT has openly declared in favour of the strike, as has the faculty at York University.  Even the mainstream bourgeois press has been forced to give favourable coverage thus far. This shows the enormous momentum and strength of the 10,000-strong university strike on the two campuses. 

Vote “NO” to concessions!

If it is true that the tentative deal being brought to the membership includes concessions, we have to ask, why accept concessions when the strike is strong and solidarity is growing? If the union continues the struggle, it can win a better deal. 

In the event that a concessionary deal is being brought to the membership, we encourage militants to challenge it from the floor. We understand that some members of the union executive are members of “Marxist” organizations. We consider it vital that anybody who considers themselves to be a Marxist to come out against a concessionary deal while the picket lines are strong and there is significant solidarity. It is beholden on Marxists to do this. 

We would also like to highlight the importance that the union remains united. When multiple unions are bargaining together, an important principle is, “We strike together, we return to work together.” In the case of the York strike, it is not even a matter of coordinating different unions or locals, but of bargaining units of the same union local. If some workers return to work while others remain on strike, it would undermine the unity of the union. 

There is no reason to accept concessions at this point. The strength, enthusiasm, and unity of university workers has not been this strong in at least a decade. This is the time to fight. If CUPE 3903 returns to work and accepts concessions while the lines are strong and solidarity is growing, it would be an incredible lost opportunity.

If CUPE 3903 continues to take its stand, it will have an inspiring and emboldening effect on the broader struggle of nurses, students, teachers, childcare workers, and civil servants against the provincial Liberal austerity agenda. 

No concessions! Strike to win!

Keep the union united! 

Don’t leave CUPE 3902 to fight alone!

Victory to the education workers!