Students in a time of uncertainty as York University strike continues

Picketer at Seneca@York

The York University strike has left many students' futures on the line, as agreements haven’t been met between the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 3903 and the university’s instructors, teaching and graduate assistants.

Majority of the TAs at the university have voiced their frustration of only being given roughly forty dollars a week. 

They have demanded that they want an increase in minimum wages so that they can be compensated for the additional hours they are working, outside of the ten hours they are currently working.

As they have been receiving low income, it has been hard for many educational workers to afford basic needs such as housing, food and water. 

“There’s estimates that up to 70% of us in terms of unit 1 grad students are currently regularly using food banks, our demands aren’t very high,” said teaching assistant, Braedon Balko.

The York Federation of Students (YFS) has been running the YFS Food Support Centre to help students who have been experiencing financial difficulties and aren’t able to afford food, by providing them healthy, nutritious meals. 

Balko had also told S@Y News that in documents, all students would be referred to as “basic income units” which is a unit that is utilized by the Ministry of Education and Training  operating grants to universities.

The strike has also led to many professors shifting their lectures to an online teaching environment or postponing their classes.

“I feel like it was the right thing to do for my professors to suspend in-person classes, to show their solidarity with TAs,” said CJ Mezin, a fifth-year York University student.

Graduating students were most affected by the strike, the semester was soon coming to an end. There was uncertainty if  students had met all their requirements and were eligible for graduation, or they would have to take some courses in the summer. 

With the ongoing labour disruptions, the York’s Senate Executive had addressed the number of options that can help students complete their courses and get the credentials they need to graduate.

One of the options being offered was the use of assessed grades.

According to the York University website, assessed grades meant that a student’s current grade would become their final grade, and that would be determined based on completed and graded coursework.

They had stated that if a student received grades for 70 percent of their coursework, they might choose an assessed grade, but this option would not be available for all programs. It would then be determined by the faculty if a student’s request would be passed or failed.

Mezin had filled in the request form for assessed grades, but to him the application process wasn’t that easy.

“There has been a bit of a backlog in trying to get guidance, and sometimes they can be a bit vague with the instructions.”

After the application process had gone by, he was able to receive all his assessed grades that had indicated that he had met all his requirements, and was set to graduate this year.

As the strike is in its eighth week, it is unclear when the negotiations will be settled between the union and the teaching assistants. The York minster has also been scheduling the negotiations and then cancelling them. 

Even before the strike had happened, for eight months there had been ongoing tension between the university and the union, as both parties had failed to reach an agreement which had led to the TAs walking off the job.

York University TAs strike TV Report

What is the York University TA Strike About?

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