Friday, January 23, 2009

I Meet York's Chief Negotiator

Last night I met York's chief negotiator. I won't mention his name, but he represented himself as a very fine, able, upstanding man. The knees of his pants worn shiny by trips to the Communion rail, the felt of his hat clean and black with an orange feather tucked into the band.

I asked him what the university had to lose by giving contract faculty, say, five-year appointments.

"Nothing. They're working there; who cares if we hire them every year, every other year, or every five years. We wouldn't be employing them if they didn't do a good job."

I asked him why the university wouldn't agree to small changes in its health and childcare plans.

"We'll do that. It'll cost some money, but nothing serious. Same with the pay raise. Is tuition frozen? So we charge fifteen bucks more for a full-year class. It's no big deal."

"So," I said, "what the hell's going on?"

"A few grand a year we can handle, David," he said. "But tenure-stream jobs? No way. Not with our funding scheme. Where are we supposed to come up with millions?"

"Raise tuition."

"People are already screaming that it's too high."

"So they'll scream a little louder."

"Do you know how much it costs to go to school in the States? Tuition's high here? What does it cost? Five, six grand? They're paying three, four, five times that. No, we can't do that. And, by the way, those kids celebrating after that vote. Big mistake. Big, big mistake. I don't know how they let that happen. You're alienating an awful lot of people. An awful lot. This isn't the time to ask for anything from an employer, not to mention celebrating when you vote down a raise...Wait! I know what you're going to say: It's not about money. Fine. I know that, you know that. But does a guy picking up the Sun know that? He sees people cheering down a 10% raise. They look like a bunch of fucking spoiled brats. No public relations from that union. None at all. And they think that people are going to have sympathy after being held up in their cars, trying to get to Osgoode or wherever they're going? Trying to go to the library, and being stuck between a gate for ten minutes. Then being lectured?"

"But something has to change. You can't have people with PhDs working for you for twenty years without being given a shot at a steady job. It's obscene."

"That's the way it is. If the government gives us more money, we'll spend more money. But did you see the story: $100 billion in deficit spending over the next two years. You think they're going to give us a cheque? I don't think so."

"It's a bit of problem, isn't it."

"David, it's bullshit. I'll say that: it's bullshit. Kids want to pay less to go to school; kids want to be paid more to teach at school. What are we supposed to do for money? Grow it? David, the world's turning to shit. I don't know what to tell you. But if I make a good deal for the university, do you think that I get to take home the cash I saved? No. So why wouldn't we offer our best deal? It's not our money. We don't get to keep it. It's not coming out of our pockets. We're giving what we can give."

"And what about the president's salary? And his perks?"

"What does he get that Dick Fuld didn't, or John Thain didn't? He's a fundraiser. He raises money. Ok, he makes a nice buck, but he's the fucking president of the university. There's kind of an industry standard that we have to abide by. I may not agree with it, but that's reality."

"So what else can you do?"


"So what's going to happen?"

"I don't know. I guess we wait."

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