York U strike is a power struggle, not about wages

CUPE and Ontario universities face off. Students suffer the consequences.

Students at York University should expect a long strike, as both sides have a lot to lose if the other side gets what it wants in the single issue that actually matters in this dispute: the length of the contract.

See also: 2008 York University strike is CUPE’s Waterloo

See also: Ont. dismisses combined bargaining for university unions

See also: GO Transit refunds for York students?

CUPE 3903, which represents 3,400 contract faculty, teaching assistants and graduate assistants at the university, wants a two-year contract. The Canadian Union of Public Employees is attempting to negotiate a contract end date of 2010 at all universities, where it has members in Ontario.

The reason for this is simple. The union’s hand is stronger if it’s able to shutdown every university in Ontario than if it’s trying to negotiate dozens of different contracts with various colleges and universities. The union also has dreams of proving its relevance by having what would amount to a general strike.

The union’s dream is the nightmare of university administrations across the province. This strike is not really about York University. This strike is about CUPE and the Council of Ontario Universities. It is a struggle for control of the universities themselves.

Neither side, from their perspective, can afford to give ground in this struggle.

CUPE needs to be able shut down York University in 2010 for its plan to work. The COU needs to prevent CUPE from being able to shut down Ontario’s universities if it hopes to avoid a mass disruption in 2010 that will damage the inter-provincial and international reputations of Ontario’s higher education brand.

This strike is not about wages, benefits, or job security. The only issue is what happens in 2010, and the rest of the rhetoric is just smoke and mirrors.

As for students, you might want to prepare for exams in the new year and regret buying your transit pass for the month.