There is no end in sight for the strike at York University but a last-minute decision by the school's senate is sending thousands of Ontario students back to class after an 11-week lockout.

The senate's executive committee decided late Wednesday that students in the following four study areas will be allowed to return to class:

  • students in the School of Administrative Studies in the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies
  • undergraduates in the Schulich School of Business
  • students in the Faculty of Education's Pre-Service Full Time Consecutive Program, for which the Ontario Teachers' Federation has lifted its suspension of practica
  • students in the Master of Public Policy, Administration & Law Program in Atkinson

About 5,000 students are enrolled in these programs. About 50,000 students have been forced out of class since the strike began on Nov. 6.

However, all work that is usually done by members of CUPE 3903 will not be conducted by the tenured instructors teaching the classes.

"Units involved have given undertakings that there will be no replacement of work done by CUPE 3903 instructors, and in the case of the Education students, that remediation will provide for the later resumption of courses taught by CUPE 3903 instructors," says a notice in York's newsletter for students.

"Students who choose not to participate in resumed classes will continue to receive the protections and accommodations set out in Senate legislation."

The senate's decision comes just days after 63 per cent of union members voted against the university's latest contract offer. The union represents about 3,300 contract staff members as well as teaching and graduate assistants.

The main point of contention surrounds job security for faculty members who work on a contractual basis.

Premier Dalton McGuinty's top negotiator is set to meet with York's administration Thursday in an effort to end the months-long strike.

The move to bring in a negotiator went against the wishes of the Opposition who have been urging McGuinty to pass legislation forcing union members back to work.

"He should send a strong signal to these people and everybody else (that) we're going to put the public and students first, and we're going to take account of the fact that taxpayers are struggling to pay their taxes now, let alone finance generous increases that are offered to people who turn them down," said John Tory, leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservative party.

With files from The Canadian Press