York University says it will return to bargaining table Tuesday

York University informed CUPE 3903 on Sunday that they are willing to return to the bargaining table Tuesday.

The news comes in the third week of the university strike, which started on March 5, when about 3,000 teaching staff members walked off the job.

“In the best interests of our students and the York community, the University, through the mediator, informed CUPE 3903 that it is prepared to return to the bargaining table with the mediator’s assistance on Tuesday, March 20th,” said a statement from the university Sunday afternoon.

The statement said there had been no movement by CUPE 3903 since it rejected three proposals from the university on March 13.

“In the interest of our students, York believes it is important to return to the table to hear CUPE’s proposals to reach a resolution,” said Barbara Joy, spokesperson for York University, in an email Sunday.

In the weeks since the strike began, the second in three years, students have been vocal about fearing the effects of the delay on their career opportunities and graduation prospects.

The striking teachers handle about 60 per cent of the coursework, but the university has not cancelled classes in the interest of minimizing the impact on student, Lisa Phillips, interim vice-president academic and provost, told the Star in an interview Friday.

But some students have said the arrangement is creating confusion and frustration, and CUPE 3903 said the plan is putting “unfair stress” on students.

“The claim of ‘business as usual’ is clearly a fiction,” CUPE 3903 vice-president Julian Arend said in an email to the Star Friday.

“The decision not to suspend all classes is an attempt to “divide and conquer by deliberately producing an environment of tension and hostility on campus,” he said.

The union represents contract faculty members, teaching assistants, graduate assistants, research assistants and part-time librarians and archivists.

The union and school said in early March that their position on a number of problems was too far apart to reach an agreement, following six months of negotiations.

“The current collective agreement with CUPE 3903 is the best overall pay and benefits package of its kind in Ontario,” said Joy.

But the union said they received a “no” from the university on issues such as guaranteed funding for teaching assistants, job security for contract faculty, restoring 800 eliminated graduate assistant jobs, and prioritizing equity, anti-racism and anti-sexual violence on campus.

“Despite CUPE 3903’s willingness to bargain, the York Administration has made it clear that they are not interested in improving the working conditions of its workers, or the learning conditions of its students,” the union posted on its Facebook page in the early days of the strike.

With files from Andrea Gordon and Jayme Poisson.

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