Fightback members stand in solidarity with banners at a CUPE demoOn Monday, March 5th, teaching staff at York University organized in the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local 3903 will be on strike. This is the final outcome of months-long negotiations with an administration bent on forcing workers to accept concessions and trying to break the union. On Friday, March 2nd, the university workers took a vote confirming they are prepared to strike and reject an employer proposal which included austerity measures and ignored the demands made by the workers at the bargaining table.

The employer has attacked the union by cutting about 800 graduate assistant positions, and are refusing to restore those positions, or even to agree that no more cuts will be made. They are also putting forward wage increases below the inflation rate, an effective wage cut. They refuse to accept demands for childcare spaces, employment equity, and job security, countering with proposals that would reduce opportunities for contract faculty to attain secure employment.

The administration is running the university like a corporation. University workers must stand up against the attacks and fight back. As the administration refuses to budge, we say that the workers must strike to shut down operations at the university. Members of Fightback who are part of CUPE 3903 have been actively mobilizing their co-workers for the need for mass action and strikes to defeat cuts and union-busting.

Undergrads Must Support the Strike!

In this battle for better working conditions and to preserve union-organization, many undergraduates are wondering how the strike affects them and what side they should take. The York administration has been organizing a concerted media campaign to present themselves as the protector of undergraduates, claiming that they are trying to avoid a strike on their behalf.

This is totally hypocritical as this same administration has been pushing down the quality of education, in large part by attacking the working conditions of employees, while also hiking tuition fees for undergraduates. What the administration’s PR campaign also doesn’t mention is how the upper-management take home six-figure salaries and have direct links to big corporations.

Student protestor in support of CUPE3903 strike, @CUPE3903 Twitter
Student protestor in support of CUPE3903 strike, source: @cupe3903comms Twitter

Socialist Fightback is the predominant voice of left-wing undergraduates at York University. Our position is: a victory for CUPE 3903 is a victory for all students and for the broader working class! Undergraduates must mobilize to support CUPE 3903. Undergraduates have a direct stake in the struggle against the pro-corporate York administration and in the fight for increased education funding that would allow for better work conditions for work-study and graduate students, as well as the abolition of tuition fees.

On Saturday, the York administration released a statement indicating that the university will remain open, and that they will be trying to keep as many classes open as possible. This is being presented as a measure in the interest of students. This is a blatant lie.

This is an attempt to weaken the strike by undermining the bargaining power of CUPE 3903. The administration is already asking other teaching staff to take on certain tasks carried out by the CUPE 3903 members. Furthermore, keeping the university open with certain classes running will create a chaotic situation for undergraduates.

The administration is hoping this will cause anger among undergraduates. They will try to direct this backlash against striking TAs and contract faculty. The administration hopes that the provincial Liberal government will then step in with back-to-work legislation to would make strike action illegal, as we saw during the recent college workers strike. This is the classic tactic of divide and conquer.

Undergraduates should not become pawns of a millionaire, pro-corporate administration and their agenda of attacking our fellow graduate students and other academic workers. This is the same administration that hikes our tuition fees, residence and food costs and textbook expenses as part of their agenda of running the university like a for-profit corporation.

It should be noted that undergraduates are protected by a Senate policy that states that in the event of a labour dispute, they do not have to attend ANY classes, and accommodation will be made. The Socialist Fightback Club at York University are calling for undergraduates to refuse to attend any of their classes for the duration of the strike, and to instead come to the picket lines with us!

Socialist Fightback will be mobilizing undergraduates in support of CUPE 3903, and will be pushing the York Federation of Students (YFS), the union representing undergraduates, to mobilize students in support of the strike and call for undergraduates to refuse to attend all classes.

Militant Struggle is the Way Forward!

CUPE 3903 has historically been a very militant union, with a history of strike actions in 2000, 2008 and 2015. CUPE 3903 even faced back-to-work legislation and arrests during its 2008-2009 strike. Administration points to the fact the York University workers have a relatively better deal than other campuses. That is because workers have been willing to engage in collective strike action against low wages, lack of job security and against graduate tuition fee increases!

York University workers willingly engaging in collective strike action, source: @cupe3903comms Twitter
York University workers willingly engaging in collective strike action, source: @cupe3903comms Twitter

This is a model for all students and is a tradition that will be vital in the current strike. The administration aims to bring the workers to their knees and break the strike, with the assistance of the provincial Liberals. As a result of the administrations intentions  and the economic context since the 2008 financial collapse, this strike could be a particularly heated one. Workers often must fight militantly even to keep what they already have and fend off concessions.

If CUPE 3903, with its militant traditions, faces a defeat, it will prepare the ground for attacks on education workers on other campuses, and on the labour movement and the student movement more generally.

Undergraduates join the picket lines!

Students and workers unite against austerity!

For good jobs and free education!

Strike to win! Militant struggle is the way forward!

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