A student group in support of striking York University contract workers has staged a sit-in at the school’s senate chamber and is calling for the university to cancel classes.
“We are reclaiming the space which our tuition has funded. We are students occupying this space … We demand the Senate cancel all classes by Friday, March 23rd at 11:59 p.m. until the strike is over,” a statement issued Thursday evening by a group called Students for CUPE 3903.
“Continuing classes undermines the academic integrity of courses. York continuing classes is meant to destabilize our contract faculty and our TAs’ bargaining power. Continuing classes has caused mental and emotional distress for students.”
The group also called for the university to refund students’ tuitions for the winter term and for the school to return to the bargaining table “without proposing concessions.”
Inside the senate chamber, there were a handful of individuals as of Thursday night.
Barbara Joy, director of media relations for York University, said in a brief written statement late Thursday that school officials were aware of the sit-in.
“Currently, members of the University campus safety team are on the scene and will continue to monitor the situation,” she said.
CUPE Local 3903 represents more than 3,000 contract faculty and teaching assistants. The union, which has been on strike since March 5, has said the key issues include wages and job security.
Contract talks resumed on Tuesday with the help of a mediator, but those discussions broke down.
The union said the university’s bargaining team “issued an ultimatum” and refused requests to continue negotiations while the university issued its own statement stating the union “had nothing new to offer” and there is “no path forward to a settlement.”
The university said that while a number of issues were settled, they remain far apart on wages and on the number of conversions of contract faculty to full-time positions and funding for graduate students.
CUPE has said picket lines will remain up at all York University entrances and more than half the classroom instruction on campus will continue to be disrupted due to the strike.
The workers have been without a contract since it expired on Aug. 31.
— With files from The Canadian Press