York U strike mediator to hold first meeting
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's top mediator will meet with York University's administration Thursday in hopes of ending a three-month strike by the university's contract staff members.
Earlier on Wednesday, McGuinty announced that Ontario's chief negotiator, Reg Pearson, would intervene in the negotiations between the two sides.
"We'll give this one more shot. We think it's the fastest way to bring this home, which is to send in a mediator to bang a few heads together and ideally lead to a speedy resolution," he told a news conference.
McGuinty's move comes a day after 63 per cent of union members rejected the school's latest contract offer.
The main issue of contention surrounds job security for faculty working on a contractual basis. About 3,300 contract staff, teaching assistants and graduate assistants have been on strike since Nov. 6 at Canada's third-largest university, forcing about 50,000 students out of class.
"There are some heads at that table that need to be knocked," said CUPE Local 3903 spokesperson Tyler Shipley. "We've been trying with this university to bargain for not just the two-and-a-half months that we've been on strike, but six months. We started this process in July."
While the union has said it is willing to return to the bargaining table this afternoon, the university says it has made its final offer.
York President Mamdouh Shoukri said the school will not resume negotiating for the "sake of appearances."
The university also says that the school year may have to be extended to June or July to save the semester.
McGuinty called the vote "disappointing" but refused to speculate on whether students should be offered a refund on their tuition.
"I'm going to stay focused on getting the young people back in the classes," he said.
He urged both sides to think about the students' interests rather than their own.
"My message is not so much for the students as much as the two sides," he said. "It's for them to understand why they're there to begin with -- to meet the interest of their students.
"This has gone on for so long," he continued. "One can be forgiven for the impression that the two sides have lost sight of the interest of students. We'll do what we can to bring this home."
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader John Tory said there should be back-to-work legislation mandating CUPE members back to work.
Tory said if McGuinty calls back the legislature, classes could resume by Monday morning.
However, McGuinty rejected that notion, saying the two sides would likely not negotiate a deal under those circumstances.
"If I say we got a week to get this done, both sides will sit it out for a week," he said. "Let's not pretend that's not the case. That's the way these things work."
Thornhill PC MPP Peter Shurman called the premier's actions "irresponsible."
"This is the action of an irresponsible government and an irresponsible premier," he told reporters following McGuinty's announcement. "To say he wants a speedy solution at this point, at 11 weeks into the strike, by bringing in a mediator is disingenuous to say the least. He can't look into a camera and talk about speed."
With report from CTV's Paul Bliss and James MacDonald plus files from The Canadian Press