Employer Finally Answers on Fellowship Model

On Friday, November 25, members of the executive committee met with the Employer. The purpose of this meeting was to get answers about the fellowship model. This meeting came after months of unresponsiveness and intransigence on the part of the Employer, who refused to answer our emails in the wake of the crisis situation the fellowship model had unleashed.

A list of questions was compiled in consultation with the membership, and shared with the Employer in advance of the meeting. The presentation prepared by the Employer went through these questions one by one. The employer’s presentation slides are available in full.

Funding and Teaching Assistantships (TAs)

We were assured that getting a TA in the summer semester would not be clawed-back in any way, constituting additional funding. In the past, those who worked a 0.5 TA in the summer semester did not receiving the minimum guarantee in the summer. This sudden generosity makes us suspicious that they may be reducing or altogether eliminating summer TAs.

We confirmed that for Master’s students who are offered a TA, their fellowship is reduced to $5403, regardless of the size of the assignment. We pointed out that this is unfair, especially for those who are offered a 0.5 or smaller TA. The employer promised to see how many 0.25 TAs exist, but did not respond to the fact that Master’s students are being asked to work for barely more funding than their classmates who have no work assignment. This speaks volumes to the value York puts on our labour.

Funding and Scholarships

For matching fund awards, we were told that the portion of the award matched by York will be clawed back from the fellowship. The most common example is the $15,000 OGS, where $5000 is paid by York. For a domestic PhD student who is owed a $5403 fellowship, they would only receive the $403. We were assured that an exhaustive list of matching fund awards and their interaction with the fellowship is forthcoming. However, it is unacceptable that this list does not yet exist, three months after the rollout of this funding model.

Funding and Research Assistantships (RAs)

We were told that RAs will not count against the fellowship. This is in direct contradiction to earlier communications; we were told back in the spring that RA income could count against the fellowship model. When pressed to say whether this answer holds going forward, the Employer claimed they have no plans to change it “right now”, but refused to guarantee this, which does not inspire confidence.

Process for Hiring Graduate Assistants (GAs)

Perhaps most baffling was the Employer’s insistence that the process for hiring GAs has not been changed by the new funding model. We were told that all applications for GAs have been approved. An example was given of a specific department that lost all of its GAs — the employer assured us that this department had not applied to hire any GAs, which is demonstrably false. If the Employer is to be believed on this point, it would mean the loss of GA jobs – 691 jobs, according to our most recent count – is due to a lack of applications for those jobs. We know that this is patently untrue.

We encourage every department to apply for GAs for the winter and summer semesters. Since FGS is now claiming they will approve and fund GAs, there’s nothing to lose!

The Employer Reveals “Resources” for Grad Students

The Employer continues to refuse to acknowledge the most dangerous implication of this funding model, namely the loss of disability protections and health benefits for many graduate students. They continue to insist that the $1000 benefits plan available through YUGSA makes up for this loss, reflecting a gross misunderstanding or outright indifference to what the difference between this plan and the CUPE 3903’s benefits plan means in our everyday lives. As one executive member pointed out, in some situations medications alone can exceed the $1000 mark in a single month, which is to say nothing of dental, vision, and paramedical services. The Employer’s side of the table was unmoved.

They closed their presentation by offering a list of resources available to members. They are working on a funding calculator. Several websites are also in the works to help better clarify the funding model. While these are welcome developments, it is unclear why they could not have been put in place for the old funding model and saved everyone the turmoil of this overhaul. Nor is it clear how a funding model that requires multiple explanatory websites can possibly be called “simpler”.

We Need Better Funding, not “Financial Literacy”

The Employer continues to insist that the new funding model is in place to simplify things, and to ensure that students can comfortably pay their tuition. We do not understand how doing away with a system that ensured 12 months of fairly regular income is supposed to make it easier to manage our finances. To this, the Employer plans to respond by introducing a “Financial Literacy” program, entitled “Own your financial future: Managing debt and making credit work for you”, a solution that is as condescending as it is ineffectual. The message here is clear: be independently wealthy or go into debt to complete your graduate studies. This attitude disproportionately impacts those who are already the most marginalized, reinforcing the race, ability, gender, and class disadvantages endemic to the university in general and graduate studies in particular.

While there was greater transparency at this meeting than in the past, the massive delay in setting a date as well as persistent disregard for the well-being of members leaves us skeptical at best. York shows no signs of backing down from this union-busting funding model, and no amount of consultation will make it tolerable to the union. It is critical that we keep the pressure up and make it clear that we will accept nothing less than the reversal of this model and the restoration of nearly 700 lost jobs and all the attached benefits and protections.

Committee Election and Bylaw Amendment Results

During the November 25 General Membership Meeting, committee election and bylaw amendment votes were held by closed ballots. The results of those votes are below.

Committee Elections

Ways and Mean Committee (3 positions)

Hossein Banitabaei: 19 votes
Tracy Mack: 17 votes
Johanna May Black: 14 votes
Sujanthan Sriskandarajah: 13 votes
Kyle Belozerov: 11 votes
Evelyn Kissi: 11 votes

Posting officer (1 position)

Kyle Belozerov: 16 votes
Tracy Mack: 15 votes

Senate Rep (Alternate) (1 position)

Rupi Minhas: 17
Julie Allen: 12

Professional Development Fund Committee

Rob Leblanc – acclaimed
Rupi Minhas – acclaimed

Professional Development Fund Coordinator

Michael Laurentius – acclaimed

Toronto and York Labour Region Council

Denis Adigamov – acclaimed

Joint Health and Safety Committee

Iouldouz Raguimov – acclaimed

Bylaw Amendments

Article 8 (k): Executive Honoraria

Yes: 20
No: 4

Text of the amendment:

(k) Each member of the Executive Committee shall make a report of their activities to the general membership, in writing and communicated through union channels, and in person at General Membership Meetings, one (1) time per month. Monthly honoraria for Executive service will only be released by the Treasurer upon receipt of these reports, and by the Recording Secretary and after they were presented to the general membership.

Article 10: Election Committee

Yes: 24
No: 2

Text of the amendment:

(iii) There shall be a base honoraria of $750 to conduct the annual Executive elections. An additional $500 shall be added to the honoraria for the election of the Bargaining Team. For each subsequent by-election throughout the year, $150 shall be added to the honoraria. The dates and the duration of each by-election shall be included in the committee report.

TFAC statement on our withdrawal from the Sexual Violence Policy Working Group

The TFAC logo, a graphic image of a black cat.

The TFAC logo, a graphic image of a black cat.

On September 30th, TFAC was invited by CUPE 3903’s Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) to participate in York University’s Sexual Assault Policy Working Group. Prior to this invitation, JHSC had been pressuring York for over a year to properly consult CUPE 3903 on their sexual assault policy. After months of being denied information, of being told that there was no written policy or procedures, and of ignoring our feedback, York invited CUPE 3903’s JHSC to sit on their Sexual Assault Policy Working Group. Upon entering this working group and attending meetings in November, TFAC has discovered that York has already drafted a policy, a policy that does not respond to the criticisms CUPE 3903 has raised, and that its policy is not being used as a basis for informed consultations with community members.

For all of these reasons, TFAC is withdrawing from York’s sexual assault policy working group. TFAC is disappointed in the policy that York seems determined to push through the Board of Governors. And we call on CUPE 3903 to push back against the employer and demand a survivor-centric policy in replace of the poor substitute that York is determined to offer.

The Process

Before this chair at the table had been offered, CUPE 3903 raised issues with York regarding the need for substantive consultations, not just with CUPE 3903 but with various student, staff, faculty and community groups, that will be affected by this policy and who have been active in fighting sexism and rape culture within the York community. To date this form of substantial consultation has not taken place. Instead, York continues to sideline these groups while pointing to the inclusion of singular representatives from a few student groups on the working committee as constituting proper consultation.

Consultations with staff, faculty, and community groups have only recently been initiated. These consultations are taking place too late in the process as York is planning to pass their policy through the Board of Governors in December and to release a policy by January 1st as Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, mandates. By only being invited to participate in this process when the policy’s due date is mere weeks away, it is clear that input on this policy is not actually desired.
Furthermore, it was only after entering the working group and attending meetings that TFAC was told by the administration that all information pertaining to the working group (including both discussion in meetings and the policy itself) was to be kept strictly confidential. This is something that TFAC never agreed to, and in fact spoke up against in a meeting with the employer when conditionally accepting a spot on the working group. TFAC rejects the false confidentiality that is given to this policy process. We see this as a tool to keep dissent hidden, to avoid open and substantial consultation, and as a mechanism for pushing through a problematic sexual assault policy against the interest of our members.

The Policy

TFAC has pushed back against both the interim policy released by York on September 20th, and the draft policy which is being kept secret behind the closed doors of the working group. TFAC has insisted that any policy must be survivor-centric, which means active, informed, and engaged consultation with survivors at every stage of the process. Nothing in the process indicates that survivors have been actively engaged. While York continues to use the language of ‘survivor-centric’ throughout all documents that have been made public thus far, this has been merely a rhetorical device. TFAC condemns this rhetorical sleight of hand.

The interim guidelines (in themselves and as an example of the policy to come) continue to be perpetrator-centric. Further concerns that TFAC have raised include (but are by no means limited to) calling attention to the needs of survivors to take a lead role in all processes and allowing survivors to be the primary decision makers. York interim guidelines fail these suggestions in many ways; for example, in not being committed to keeping survivor confidentiality when requested. These criticisms of York’s interim guidelines, and the policy yet to be released, have been brought to York’s attention for over a year, and yet the administration continues to ignore the voices raising these concerns and instead continues to misleadingly use the language of survivor-centric. York’s refusal to acknowledge the shortcoming that CUPE 3903 continue to raise not only leaves this criticism unaddressed, it gives off a false sense of confidence in the policy to provide proper assistance. For all of these reasons, TFAC is withdrawing from York’s sexual assault policy working group.

What do we want?

A Survivor-Centric Sexual Assault Support Centre and Policy. A survivor-centric sexual assault support centre would be open 24 hours a day, staffed with specially trained nurses and counselors who are available to help survivors with whatever it is the survivor needs: medical care, emergency housing, how to navigate establishing a safety plan at the university etc. The staff will be under no obligation to break the survivor’s confidentiality in any way at any time. A survivor-centric policy puts the needs of the survivor first because it is developed and written by survivors and clearly incorporates research on survivor-centric responses and the testimonials of survivors. It is neither concerned with protecting the university nor protecting the assailant. Instead, it demands survivors be heard, respected and believed.

In the Interest of Transparency; York’s Sexual Assault Policy Documents

Because you can’t have open consultation without transparency, here is the Draft Sexual Violence Policy, v.7, October 26, 2016

Statement to accompany the release of York’s Draft Sexual Violence Awareness Policy

Upon attending the Open Consultation called by the York Sexual Assault Policy Working Group, CUPE 3903 feels that we have a duty to immediately release York’s Draft Sexual Violence Awareness, Prevention, and Response Policy, Version 7, which has so far only been released to the Working Group and not the wider York community or the public. We are releasing this now for a number of reasons:

1. There is no reason for this document to be hidden from the broader York community. In order for this document to be representative of the interests of the whole York community, it needs to be widely available in its fullest form at all stages of the consultation process. This has not happened at any point in the process.

2. York has stated that they will be releasing an updated version of the draft to the public on Friday December 2nd , which will encompass all feedback from consultations thus far. CUPE 3903’s experience with Rob Castle (the head of the working group) is that none of our feedback, comments, or critiques have been seriously taken up or integrated in the policy. Releasing this version allows community groups to determine if York is listening to and incorporating their feedback.

3. As far as we can tell, to date, only student groups have been involved and/or consulted in the process. It was only after two years of agitation, on September 30th, 2016, that CUPE 3903 was finally included in the Working Group. However, after only two meetings, we were given no choice but to withdraw our support and our bodies. Details here: ‪CUPE 3903 press release. Furthermore, today at the open consultation it was confirmed that other groups have also been actively excluded. YUSA spoke to this eloquently today at the consultation. We acknowledge that groups like YUSA have so much to add to this process and this policy, and it is both disappointing and discouraging to see their voices silenced.

4. This policy is going to be presented to the Board of Governors for approval in less than a month (mid-to-late December, as yet the meeting is unscheduled). The legislation that is driving this process (Bill 132) requires that a policy be in place by January 1st. Withholding consultations on the most complete document until the 11th hour ensures that vital feedback will not be genuinely incorporated into the policy. Nor is this fair to the Board of Governors who will, due to the legislative demands, be force to rubber stamp whatever policy falls before them.

The urgency of this issue requires the immediate release of the document. A more detailed analysis and response to the policy will be provided by CUPE 3903 shortly.


November GMM: Tentative Agenda

General Membership Meeting
Friday, November 25
Harry Crowe Room
109 Atkinson

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Tentative agenda:

  1. Roll call of officers (5 mins)
  2. Reading of the Equality Statement (3 mins)
  3. Reading of the Mississauga Land Acknowledgement (2 mins)
  4. Approval of Agenda (5 mins)
  5. Reading and Approval of minutes (15 mins)
  6. Notices (5 mins)
    1. Rhythms of Resistance donation request ($1000)
  7. Treasurer’s Report (10 mins)
  8. Nominations, Elections or Installations (15 mins)
    1. Committee elections
    2. Conference delegate elections (CUPE Ontario Women’s Conference)
  9. Unfinished Business
    1. Motion to destroy the ballots from CO by-election
    2. Motion to destroy the ballots from GO and VP3 by-election
    3. Donation to Citizen film project ($1000)
    4. Donation to OPIRG at U of T Disorientation 2016
    5. Donation to Justice for Migrant Workers’ Long March
    6. Donation to Regenesis York affordable housing project ($500)
    7. Donation to 15 Years of War in Afghanistan ($500)
    8. Endorsement for 15 Years of War in Afghanistan
    9. Endorsement for Justice for Migrant Workers Long March
    10. Endorsement for The Real Food Real Jobs Coalition
    11. Donation to “CHILE: SEPTEMBER 11TH, 1973– Black Bird Liberation Cinema Film Screenings”
    12. Donation to TAO ($1000)
  10. Matters Arising
    1. Donation to Briarpatch labour magazine (Amount to be determined by the membership)
    2. Donation to Toronto350 for the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation Fighting Line 9 ($2000)
    3. Donation to War Resisters ($750)
  11. New Business
  12. Reports of committees and delegates
  13. Executive Reports
  14. Good of the Union
  15. Adjournment

Please contact Sheila Wilmot at CUPE3903.equity.officer@gmail.com or at 416-736-5154 ext. 3 if you require any of the following: ASL interpretation, reimbursement for childcare/caregiver/attendant care, and/or transportation costs for members who are unable to secure Wheel-Trans, or other requests for accommodation.

Tuition Offset Language Withstands First Test

CUPE 3903 members holding picket signs in support of tuition indexation in March 2015.

CUPE 3903 members holding picket signs in support of tuition indexation in March 2015.

On April 1, 2016, CUPE 3903 signed a settlement with the employer to preserve tuition indexation (now called tuition offset). This settlement was the result of eleven months of protest and negotiation, following the employer’s refusal to respect the brand new tuition offset language, which was the result of a one-month strike in March 2015. The new settlement language was recently put to the test, and proved to be solid. However, we must all remain vigilant to avoid continued erosion of graduate funding.

This long battle had one goal from the start: ensuring that our members’ income is not eroded through increases in tuition. In April, we believed we had finally come to an agreement. However, over the summer, York announced to international students at the Lassonde School of Engineering that they could expect to have their yearly tuition offset payment ($6709.62 for PhD students and $7,534.62 for Master’s students) counted against other sources of funding, such as RAships. This claw-back violates the Memorandum of Settlement agreed upon in April, which states that the offset must be “a dedicated amount of additional funding” that “shall not be offset by a decrease in any other monies otherwise payable to an employee”. Beyond legalities, this attempt to erode funding for international students, again, is reprehensible. While this $6000-$7000 makes a significant difference in our members’ lives, it is but a negligible part of York’s budget. These continued attempts show the employer’s disrespect for its workers and negotiations with CUPE 3903, which were arrived at in good faith on the union side.

The employer delayed for months after the clear violation of the agreement was discovered. The threat of returning to the arbitrator was necessary to get Barry Miller, Executive Director of Faculty Relations, to agree that “for these cohorts of students, they should receive no less than the minimum funding commitment set out in the funding letter provided at the time of their admission to their graduate program plus an amount equivalent to the value of the tuition offset”. This preserves the offset as additional funding to cover tuition increases.

This is good news, but we are not done yet. For one, the employer is delaying yet again on revealing when and how they will release these additional payments. This is despite the provision of a list of affected members within Lassonde on October 19. For another, reports of similar claw-backs in other faculties have begun to trickle in.

If you are an international student member paying higher tuition fees (i.e. cohorts from 2013 and above), please check the amount of funding you project to receive for this year. Any scholarship or RAships you have earned should not be decreased or combined with your tuition offset. Your total funding for the year should, at a minimum, be equal to the sum of your minimum funding guaranteed in your offer letter, salary increases (1.5% per year for 2014 to 2016), and the tuition offset.

If you believe your funding has been clawed back or you have any questions, contact cupe3903comms@gmail.com.

Committee Vacancies

The activity of union committees, caucuses and working groups is essential to the success of CUPE 3903. Committee members help enforce and implement the gains that the local has made in past rounds of collective bargaining. Getting involved in a committee is a great way to contribute to the local and meet other members.

There are currently several committee vacancies. They will be elected at the November 25 GMM. In order to nominate yourself, please email Sara at cupe3903vpu1@gmail.com by 5 pm on Thursday, November 24. You may provide a short statement if you choose. Details for the open committee positions are below.

The Accessibility Committee (2 vacancies) was organized in 2005 to improve the Union’s work on accessibility issues at York University and to ensure that Union spaces and meetings are accessible. Four members are elected for a one-year term. Honorarium: $250 per year per member.

The Communications Committee (1 vacancy) is responsible for coordinating CUPE 3903 communications, including maintaining and updating the CUPE 3903 website, maintaining a social media presence, and taking on communications projects and campaigns. The Communications Committee meets at least once per month. Honorarium: $750 per year.

The Health and Safety Committee (1 vacancy) has six representatives. They act as advocates for members on all health and safety matters, investigate accidents and work stoppages involving our members, inspect the entire workplace annually, meet with management every two months to discuss all of the above, and make sure everything is followed up. Honorarium: there is no direct honorarium, although the employer sets aside money annually to pay committee members an hourly wage for work done, paid at the marker/grader rate.

The Labour-Management Committee  (1 vacancy UNIT 3 ONLY) consists of one representative from each Unit. This committee meets with management about once a month and is charged with facilitating the implementation and interpretation of the Collective Agreements. Honorarium:  $750 per position per year.

The Posting Officers (1 vacancy) review all job postings for conformity with the Collective Agreements (e.g., qualifications required and preferred by the employer, description of duties, pay rate). Where postings do not conform with the Collective Agreements, the Postings Officers discusses them with the Employer’s postings officer to attempt to remedy the situation. If discussion does not result in a prompt remedy, the Postings Officer initiates grievances through the Grievance Committee and/or Stewards’ Council. Honorarium: $2,500 per member per year.

The PDF Coordinator (1 vacancy) administers the Professional Development Fund (PDF) throughout the contract year in accordance with established guidelines, and is the primary contact person for members. One of the Coordinator’s tasks is to chair four meetings (September, January, March, and June). The purpose of each meeting is to adjudicate the distribution of PDF funds, the Teaching Development Fund, and the Tuition Costs Fund. The PDF Coordinator is also responsible for the actual disbursement of funds and for the general upkeep of the PDF account. The PDF Coordinator is also a member of the Center for the Support of Teaching (CST) Executive Board, and is CUPE 3903’s primary and ongoing connection to the CST. Honorarium: $1,500, paid in three equal installments during the year.

The PDF Committee (2 vacancies) attend four meetings a year (September, January, March, and June) to adjudicate the distribution of PDF funds, the Teaching Development Fund, and the Tuition Costs Fund. Honorarium: $200, paid out as $50 per meeting.

The Senate Representative (1 vacancy – alternate rep) represents the interests of CUPE 3903 at the York University Senate. This body includes representatives from all faculties, librarians, students, and other unions, and usually meets once a month. CUPE 3903 has one seat, elected for a one-year term.

CSSP Eligibility List – Application Deadline November 7

**Due to technical difficulties, the CSSP deadline has been extended to November 7**

Please consult the 2016-17 Continuing Sessional Status Programme (CSSP) eligibility list from the employer for the upcoming CSSP application round. CSSP blanket applications are due on November 7, 2016.

As per the Unit 2 Collective Agreement (Art. 12 CSSP section, p. 33), the employer is required to provide us with this eligibility list on Oct. 1st, so that members have an opportunity to address any list anomalies.

If you think you should be included in the eligibility list, but your name is not listed, please contact Rob Lawson (rlawson@yorku.ca) in the Faculty Relations Office. The CSSP eligibility criteria are as follows: you need to have taught an average annual minimum of 2.0 over the past three years. That is, when you add up all of the teaching you have done in the past three years, your total needs to be at least 6.0, even if you have some years when you taught less than 2.0. As an example, if you taught 1.5, 1.5, and then 3.0, your average annual minimum would be 2.0 (total of 6 divided by 3 years = 2.0 average).

Very important notes:

1) Even if you were in the CSSP last year (2015-16), you still need to submit a blanket application on Nov. 7 to be considered for positions in the summer 2017 and fall/winter 2017-18 sessions.

2) In order to be eligible for the CSSP Guarantee or “payout,” in the event that you end up receiving less than your past 5 year average amount of work, you need to adhere to the following:

2a) Continue to apply to the same department(s) that you have in the past, even if you do not expect to get work in that department (maintaining your “historical application profile”). Make sure to keep good records of the application receipts you receive from departments.

2b) Be mindful of turning down work that is offered to you, as this might be used by the employer down the road to deny you a CSSP payout, if you ever find yourself in that situation. If you do turn down work (there could be any number of reasons for doing so), I would advise writing and keeping a short justification for possible future reference.

The employer has been stalling on our repeated requests for a Labour Management Committee (LMC) meeting, where we need to review all of the elements in 2) above.

Finally, there are 432 members on the 2016-17 CSSP eligibility list, which is an increase of 98 members (or about 29% from 334 CSSP members in 2015-16).

Unit 2 Townhall

A picture of a microphone in front of a large audience

A picture of a microphone in front of a large audience

Please join us for a Unit II townhall

Date: November 3, 2016
Time: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Location: Harry Crowe Room, 109 Atkinson building

On May 14, 2015, LAPS Council approved the creation of an Ad Hoc Committee on Governance within the Faculty of LA&PS. The objective of this Ad Hoc Committee is to recommend to Council how best to strengthen democratic, inclusive, accountable and collegial governance within the Faculty. Members of the Ad Hoc committee include:

  • Ricardo Grinspun, Department of Economics
  • Terry Maley, Department of Political Science (Chair)
  • Merouan Mekouar, Department of Social Science
  • Anne O’Connell, School of Social Work
  • Victor Shea, Department of Humanities
  • Penni Stewart, Department of Sociology
  • Lykke de la Cour, Department of Social Science (Contract Faculty Representative)
  • Robyn Verley, Communication & Culture (Graduate Student Representative)
  • Brandon Hart, Political Science (Undergraduate Student Representative)

The Ad Hoc Committee believes that an important aspect of its mandate is to develop recommendations with respect to Contract Faculty at York University and their participation in departmental, faculty, and university decision-making bodies. This report builds on the “Report to the Governance Committee of the Faculty of Arts: Contract Faculty Role,” that was prepared by Dr. Lélia Young, French Studies, back in 1998. You can read this report here.

To develop recommendations for the 2017 report, we need your input!

There are two ways you can have input:

  1. Attend the CUPE 3903 Unit 2 Townhall on Thursday Nov. 3rd where members of the Ad Hoc Governance Committee will be in attendance to discuss with Contract Faculty concerns regarding their inclusion in governance structures at York University and hear recommendations.
  2. If you cannot make this meeting, please send comments directly to the committee at: u2yorkgovernance@gmail.com.

Please come out and be sure to contribute to this important issue!
Other items on the agenda include updates on:

  1. LSTAs
  2. Conversions
  3. CSSP
  4. Preparing for 2017 Bargaining

Reminder: the deadline for members of the CSSP Pool to submit an Application is Tuesday, November 1, 2016.