york university toronto wages

Toronto university's proposed pay raise below minimum wage prompts strike calls

Staff at York University in Toronto are holding a strike vote after they say it proposed pay increases that would make their hourly rate below minimum wage, but the school is denying these allegations.

Unit 2 members of the York University Staff Association (YUSA) say their contract expired in February 2022, but negotiations only began in February of this year.

According to a news release from YUSA, currently, the lowest pay rate for Unit 2 members starts at minimum wage, which is well below a living wage in Ontario.

With the minimum wage in Ontario set to increase in October to $16.55, YUSA says York's proposed pay raise would set the entry rate for an employee's income at less than minimum wage.

"It's shameful that the third largest university in Canada, which currently has a $30 million budget surplus, is tabling an offer that would set hourly rates for workers at less than minimum wage," said Sonny Day, president of YUSA, in a statement. "All workers at York University deserve fair pay and decent working conditions."

The staff association says the university is offering wage increases of 2.25 per cent and 2.20 per cent a year for the employees.

In an email statement to Daily Hive on Friday afternoon, a York University spokesperson refuted these claims and said the school is currently engaged in collective bargaining with YUSA.

"Although the negotiation has not yet been completed, at a bargaining meeting on May 31, the University took the opportunity to affirm unequivocally that any wages negotiated into the collective agreement will meet minimum wage standards as set by the Employment Standards Act in Ontario, including the upcoming minimum wage increase expected to take effect in October," stated the spokesperson.

York has also requested that Ontario's Ministry of Labour issue a no-board notice to establish a deadline the parties can work toward.

Unit 2 members perform administrative and technical work on a contract basis at York. 

According to YUSA, they are the "lowest paid and most precarious" workers at the school, but aren't provided benefits, paid sick leave, or job security.

The association says these employees are seeking "modest" dental and health benefits similar to those provided to students. It adds that the cost to provide every member with these benefits would be $150,000 per year, which is comparable to the salary of one management position at York.

"I believe that the university is having trouble attracting and retaining staff because of the abysmally low wages on offer," stated Day.

"We hear often about the phenomenon 'quiet quitting' but with York University offering staff total compensation lower than what many workers at Starbucks or McDonalds receive, our members are quite loudly demanding a fair wage."

YUSA will be holding a strike vote in the coming weeks, which could see hundreds of workers walk off the job before the end of June if an agreement is not reached.

York University says the next bargaining meeting is set for Monday, June 5.

Lead photo by

Terry Alexander

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