Premier Dalton McGuinty is resisting pressure to recall the legislature to end the 11-week-old York University strike because the government believes such a move would be challenged in court.
With the provincial Liberals being battered in the court of public opinion, McGuinty yesterday appointed Reg Pearson, Ontario’s chief mediator, to “to bang a few heads together” and resolve the dispute.
But if Pearson fails to get both sides back to the bargaining table, the job action risks dragging on indefinitely because the government has few realistic weapons in its arsenal.
While the Ontario government intervened in college strikes in 1984 and 1989, it has not done so for a university labour dispute. Senior government officials confide that even though McGuinty ended last April’s Toronto Transit Commission walkout in less than two days by convening a rare Sunday session of the legislature to table back-to-work legislation, that’s unlikely in the case of York.
That’s because of a precedent-setting 2007 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in a dispute between the province of British Columbia and unionized health services support workers that limits government’s ability to impose back-to-work legislation.
“We’ll give this one more shot,” a visibly concerned McGuinty told reporters. “We think it’s the fastest way to bring this home, which is to send in a mediator to bang a few heads together and ideally lead to a speedy resolution,” he said, pointedly refusing to set a deadline for the non-binding mediation.
His comments came the morning after 63 per cent of the Canadian Union of Public Employees 3903 rejected the university’s latest contract offer of 9.25 per cent wage hikes over three years, improved benefits, and job security in a forced vote Tuesday.