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CUPE members cast ballots in forced vote

Teaching assistants, contract faculty and graduate assistants vote on York University's latest contract offer

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

CUPE Local 3903 members flooded into the Novotel Hotel near Toronto's Mel Lastman Square yesterday to cast their ballots in a forced vote on York University's latest contract offer.

With an impromptu CUPE choir belting out odes to the union in the lobby and other members fanned out in the area to sway undecided voters, there was a lively atmosphere on the first of two days of balloting. Both CUPE and York officials said turnout appeared high.

"We're confident that our members will reject this offer," union spokesman Tyler Shipley said. If so, "the pressure would finally be on the university to sit at the bargaining table," he added.

Some CUPE members echoed that sentiment.

"Voting no will bring it to the end probably just as quickly as a yes vote and will get us a far better deal," said CUPE member Peter Trainor, 26.

But York rebuffed the idea that it would be forced back to the bargaining table.

"We have put a settlement offer forward that in these deteriorating economic times is very generous," York spokesman Alex Bilyk said. He added that he believed the offer might be accepted by a "silent majority" of CUPE members and urged "all employees to come out and vote" in the second round of voting today.

Some who shared that sentiment weren't so silent yesterday.

"Once January rolled around, I just thought this is enough," said Lisa Hopkins, a union member who voted to accept the university's offer. "I think that it's time to go back. ... I've been a supporter from the beginning, but now it's just affecting too many people's lives."

Others agreed. "This has gone on too long," doctoral student Barbara Skrela, 26, said of the strike that began on Nov. 6. "This is actually the first time that I'm voting, unfortunately. I know that a lot of people who are against the strike are coming out today," she said.

Voting by paper ballot, conducted by the Ontario Labour Relations Board, continues today until 7 p.m.

Results are expected to follow within hours.

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