Strike info centre born at York
By Brendan Howe
While York faculty and administration bicker over contract issues, a group of students has come together and formed a strike information centre to address the concerns of the rest of the university.
The centre is made up of several volunteers who are available to answer phone calls from students inquiring about what will happen to their school year. If the current faculty strike is not resolved by Friday, the university's Senate will have to extend the school year, pushing the exam period back into early May. Many students have valid concerns about this, some in the wee hours of the morning.
"Last night we had about 100 calls," said April Monds, one of the volunteers. "We were here until about five in the morning."
The information centre was opened March 20 by Vanier College Council president Michael Czitkovic and Jayson Chizick. The centre also handles calls from other students who want to know what is happening in the negotiations between the two sides.
The administration is attempting to hold as many classes as possible but with 60 per cent of the faculty part of the striking York University Faculty Association, only 40 per cent of classes can potentially be held. Of that minority there are some who are supporting the YUFA by not following their contracts and refusing to teach.
"The university is still open, students shouldn't assume their classes are cancelled," said Sine Mackinnon, senior advisor for media relations at York. "Unfortunately though, some students see this as a reason to miss class."
At the conclusion of the third day of picketing yesterday the strike was still extremely strong with both students and non-striking teachers and members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees joining the picket lines. Of the 1,072 members of YUFA, it is estimated only about 20 or 25 are crossing the picket lines.
"The students want the strike to be settled and their year to be finished," said strike organizer James Porter. "The stronger the strike is the faster it gets settled and the students know this."
Porter added currently there is not much happening in negotiations and he does not expect any major accomplishments to be made until at least this weekend. He said the administration is stonewalling the union on all of the issues. These include the amount of the proposed pay increase, retirement benefits and other issues such as compensation for social contract days and the size of classes.
Faculty have been on strike since March 20. The Senate plans to meet tomorrow night to discuss the strike while YUFA scheduled a meeting of its members for this afternoon.