Thursday, January 22, 2009

Striking York U Spoiled Rotten

My old alma matter is on strike – has been for over three-months. Teaching assistants, graduate assistants and contract faculty at York University have been on strike since November 6, 2008, knocking out classes for over 50,000 full and part-time students.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) which represents the striking workers wants the same as most labour unions do for their members during work stoppages – bigger pay cheques, better working conditions, and guarantees of job security.

Problem is, in these tough economic times, most of us non-union stiffs – which makes up the bulk of the Canadian work force – are just lucky to have a job, any job. Wage increases, a bigger office and some hocus-pocus document providing job security are the stuff of dreams.

Most of the auto sector is unionized, and suffering because of those so-called job security measures. The big three automakers, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler all closed their plants earlier than normal for Christmas break, and kept them closed longer than normal over that break, to cut costs. Sure, it means those that work at those places have jobs to go to, but they won’t have a salary over the holidays.

And even extended holidays won’t save the dying automobile companies – the big three are still closing plants, which will cut many unionized employees.

Striking faculty at York University must live in a pretty cozy and isolated glass cube, because they have failed to see what happens to unionized employees who make unreasonable demands of their employers. Eventually, they may get what they want – bigger pay, better working conditions, and job security guarantees. But none of that will matter if their employer doesn’t exist anymore.

York University is a long way from folding – and so far no Canadian university has ever gone out of business. But as this strike continues, despite the university’s very generous counter-offers, it suffers the consequences.

Applications to York University are down – the first time any Canadian university’s applications have been down in over two-decades. As government funding is closely linked to the number of total students, this will have a sharp and negative impact on how much money York University gets in years to come.

Current students may drop too – who’s to stop ‘em from going to another university to finish their education. And those that can’t get credits for courses already completed at York University may also be forced out by the strike, for financial reasons. Many students earn their tuition money by working summer jobs – and as it stands now, if the strike were to end, the academic year would have to be extended well into July.

Not to mention all the businesses in the area which cater to the 50,000 students – as the strike continues, these businesses suffer, because there simply aren’t any customers.

All of this because of a handful of spoiled employees, that just don’t live in reality. Aren’t universities supposed to be places of higher education?

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