The Ontario government is passing up a chance to improve teaching conditions at York University by legislating an end to the strike by the university’s contract faculty and teaching, research and graduate assistants, says Ronald Cameron, the president of the Fédération national des enseignantes et enseignants du Québec (CSN), which represents both sessional lecturers and teaching assistants in Quebec.
“Instead of back-to-work legislation, Ontario should address the underlying issues that caused the strike at York by Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3903, issues which are increasingly prevalent at university campuses across Canada”, said Mr. Cameron.
Richard Hink, president of the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM), noted that students at Canadian universities are now just as likely to be taught by contract faculty or by other students working as teaching assistants as they are by tenured professors.
“These groups are fast becoming the cheap labour pool for post-secondary education in Canada” said Mr. Hink. “But they often perform the same work as their tenured counterparts and merit better treatment by their employers.” AGSEM, which is affiliated with the FNEEQ, represents teaching assistants at McGill University. The union’s 2,000 members underwent a successful 11-week strike for better pay and working conditions last spring.
FNEEQ vice-president Marie Blais observed that the situation at York is similar to universities in Quebec, where many «temporary» sessional lecturers have been teaching for periods of 10 to 25 years, without job security or recognition of their contribution to the university.
“People who make their career teaching at one institution should benefit from stable and predictable working conditions”, said Ms. Blais. “If it does not deal with this problem, the government of Ontario will not settle anything by interfering in the collective bargaining process.”
Finally, the McGill union denounced the savage police repression of a peaceful demonstration by York strikers at the Ontario Legislature Tuesday. “The violent arrests of peaceful protesters yesterday mirror the arrogance of the York University administration in its treatment of their staff through these negotiations. Aided and abetted by the Ontario government, the employer has displayed bad faith since the beginning of this conflict”, said Mr. Hink. Mr. Hink notes that it was York University which decided to cancel all classes – not only those taught by contract faculty or teaching assistants – when the strike was declared 12 weeks ago. “Once again, a university administration is using collective punishment for all students as a club to wield against its own employees”, noted Mr. Hink.
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