November 14, 2008 9:46 am

Update: Talks between York and striking union break down

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"The mediator has advised both parties that in his assessment there would be no productive use of further meetings at this time," said Alex Bilyk, York's director of media relations, on Thursday evening.

According to Mr, Bilyk the union had not changed any of its demands for wage raises or contract terms despite asking for a meeting earlier in the week.

Christina Rousseau, chair of CUPE 3903, said the union didn't bring anything new to the table, but instead they were hoping to get a response to some of the smaller proposals the union had made and some of the things the union had not been able to discuss with the employer prior to the strike.

"We want to express our strong disappointment that the union falsely raised expectation among all parties," Mr. Bilyk said.

"Unfortunately they rejected the proposals we presented, and haven't offered us anything in terms of a counter-proposal or anything of a counter-proposal even from the last offer they gave us. They still haven't given us anything and it still looks like they are not willing to negotiate with us but we're working with the mediator to get something set up for earlier in the week," Ms. Rousseau said.

The union also continued to reject binding arbitration, something the university has been seeking. Ms. Rousseau hopes bargaining will begin again early next week. The union has a general membership meeting planned for this weekend according to its Web site.

Ms. Rousseau said no new talks are scheduled at this point and, while it is impossible to put a timeline on the strike, she said the soonest it could be over at this point is the middle of next week.

"It's really, really frustrating. I mean we've been asking for meetings with the administration all week and they kept on saying they didn't want to meet with us. And then finally yesterday evening or yesterday afternoon they did say yes and so we were really hopeful that they were ready to negotiate with us, but unfortunately that was not the case," she said.

"We continue to repeat our offer of binding arbitration as the quickest way to get our 50,000 students back to class," Mr. Bilyk added.

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York University and CUPE 3903, the union which represents teaching assistants, graduate assistants and contract faculty, are meeting on Thursday, one week after the strike began.

Alex Bilyk, York's director of media relations, confirmed the two parties were meeting.

CUPE 3903 voted in favour of a strike last Wednesday night after rejecting the university's most recent offer of a 9.25% raise over three years. The union wants their contract term brought down to two years and an 11% raise over that time. They are also looking for better job security for contract employees.

The university has repeatedly requested binding arbitration, which the union has turned down. Graham Potts, the union's chief negotiator, said the union would prefer to bargain with the university than go to binding arbitration.

When the union walked off the job, classes were cancelled for 50,000 York undergraduate students. If the strike lasts longer than two weeks, students could miss some of their Christmas break, reading week or summer holidays to make up the time.

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