Bargaining Team’s Response to Dan Bradshaw’s Public Letter

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CUPE 3903’s Bargaining Team’s Response to Dan Bradshaw’s public letter spreading misinformation on February 21st.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Dear Dan Bradshaw,

We are happy to hear that the university “remains committed to negotiating renewal collective agreements” with us.  We, too, are committed to the same; we submitted our full proposals package back in late October 2023 and presented many counter-proposals over the past months, including on February 15.  

We are disappointed that you have chosen to blatantly misrepresent the facts in your recent public letter instead of making meaningful movement at the table.   

First, you are intentionally sowing misinformation with regard to the final offer. Weeks before our Final Offer General Membership Meeting on Friday, February 16, we signaled to you and the Conciliator that we would need to see a final offer from the employer on February 15, our last bargaining session before that important meeting. At no point did you indicate to us that you would not be presenting a final offer to us on February 15, and at the end of that day’s bargaining session, you provided us with a new “Comprehensive Framework for Settlement” for each unit. While it’s great to hear you have more movement to make, this was not communicated to us prior to your public letter. We look forward to seeing your revised position in advance of our next GMM on the morning of February 23. 

Second, we have not cancelled bargaining on Friday, February 23, as you well know. Your letter omits that we will be bargaining with you for several hours that afternoon, after our membership meeting. If the exclusion of the morning is such a significant concern, we would welcome receiving revised counters in the meantime so that the afternoon session on February 23 can be as productive as possible. 

Your positions on wages, benefits, and our new equity initiatives suggest that you are not committed to averting a strike. We have all of our cards on the table. If the employer is ready to bargain, then give us an offer that will be fair and just to our members and that we can recommend they ratify. Until then, we await the employer at the bargaining table.

Sincerely, 

CUPE 3903 Bargaining Team

Final Offer SGMM Results and Emergency SGMM February 23rd

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The February 16th Final Offer Special Membership Meeting today certainly offered new challenges, but also offered some important progress in bargaining!

To begin, we want to sincerely apologize for the significant technological issues we faced. This was the first time in local history that the final offer SGMM was not held in-person, and the hybrid model posed some serious, and unexpected, challenges. This year we have been navigating and learning the dynamics of hybrid meetings in order to make meetings as accessible as possible, but today showed that we still have things to figure out, and for that, we truly apologize. We understand how important member’s time is and appreciate everyone’s patience.

On a high note, today was the best attended union meeting CUPE 3903 has had in many years! It is exciting to see so many members, new and familiar, getting involved in the bargaining process! Thank you to each and every member for your insights, questions, debates and guidance – We are our strongest when we are all organizing together.

We had nearly 600 votes, and there was a clear indication to reject to Employer’s final offer.

Unit 1
Voted to reject final offer: 288 (69%)
Voted to accepted final offer: 132  (31%)

Unit 2
Voted to reject final offer: 122 (73%)
Voted to accepted final offer: 44 (27%)

Unit 3
Voted to reject final offer: 4 (100.0%)

After an extremely long meeting membership moved to continue the conversation about next steps to an emergency SGMM in a week’s time.

In order to have more time to address members important questions about what a strike action could look we be holding a Strike Q&A over Zoom on Thursday the 22nd from 2-4pm. Zoom link:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87036429777?pwd=TjlFeGdVOXNnbVA3UTZGQVp5KzROUT09

Here is the STRIKE FAQ 2024 in preparation.

We will then be holding a Special General Membership Meeting to discuss next steps, and if it is so motioned by the membership, potentially voting on a strike motion next week on Friday the 23rd from 9am-12pm. All votes will take place in the meeting (no outside programs). Here is a registration link, please register in advance:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcudu-uqD0jGdX__c3OKXDCKrM6NXARNYTI#/registration

Thank you for your participation. We’re making progress!

Letter from the Bargaining Team on the Employer’s Final Offer

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Letter from the Bargaining Team on the Employer’s Final Offer

On February 16, CUPE 3903 will vote to decide on whether to accept or reject the final offer presented to us by the Employer on February 15. For the past eight months, we have engaged in rigorous negotiations with the Employer, advocating for meaningful improvements to the collective agreements of Unit 1, Unit 2, and Unit 3. In advance of today’s Joint Executive–Bargaining Team Meeting and Final Offer Special General Membership Meeting, we are additionally providing here a brief, updated comparison of the Employer’s final offer and our proposals in the four priority areas that we discussed in December in the lead-up to our Strike Mandate Vote.

The full, final offer packages for all three units can be found here:

You can also view our full proposals chart, which provides a side-by-side comparison of the last version of proposals exchanged by both sides during this round of bargaining. We are in the process of updating the chart with the many proposals exchanged on February 15, so some of these may still need to be reflected in the chart. However, you can view all the individual proposals exchanged during bargaining, including on February 15, in the Bargaining Proposals section of the CUPE 3903 Bargaining 2023 webpage. (Proposals are listed chronologically).

What Disappoints Us About the Employer’s Final Offer?

  1. It Fails to Adequately Address the Cost of Living Crisis

Winning significant improvements to salaries and benefits is a central issue, if not the central issue, in this round of negotiations. Members made that clear in the Bargaining Surveys conducted last summer and at the Red Lines GMM on January 19. Inflation sky-rocketed during the three years of our last collective agreement (2020–23) when the cost of living increased by 15.8%. At the same time, our wage gains were artificially suppressed at 1% per year due to the Ford government’s Bill 124, which has since been found unconstitutional. The cost of everything—food, housing, utilities, medical expenses—has increased dramatically. This is a reality highlighted in our bargaining surveys and, more recently, in the National Post (not usually known for its sympathetic treatment of our Union). We need to secure a better offer to ensure that increases to our salaries and benefits keep ahead of the rising cost of living so that we can afford the necessities of life.

The Employer’s final offer on salaries and benefits falls far short of even our lowest expectations. The retroactive wage offer is well below what other unions in our sector have received and far below what we need to keep pace with inflation. Similarly, we remain far apart on wages for the renewal collective agreement (2023–26). Perhaps even more exasperating are the Employer’s rejection of all 18 of our benefits proposals and its refusal to acknowledge that proposed salary increases should—as they always have in the past—apply to all parts of Unit 1 and Unit 3 remuneration. The Employer’s exclusion of the GFA (Graduate Financial Assistance) from any of the proposed increases and the GIA (Grant-in-Aid) from retroactive increases mean that the Employer’s paltry salary offer is even worse for Units 1 and 3 than it is for Unit 2.

  1. It Fails to Adequately Protect Our Members’ Rights

The Employer opened this round of bargaining with proposals to make it easier to discipline members and harder to file discrimination and harassment grievances. We experienced our first bargaining win when the Employer retracted a discipline proposal that would have made it easier to initiate disciplinary procedures against our members. And, we’ve reached some agreement on proposals to streamline the grievance process and institute (as a pilot project during the life of the renewal collective agreement) a new mediation-arbitration process for Unit 2 appointment grievances. Yet it’s clear that we still need better processes, protections, and supports for all members, especially those facing harassment and discrimination. This is evidenced by the Employer’s growing intransigence in dealing with policy and individual grievances—delaying their timely resolution by pushing them to arbitration—and York University’s recently demonstrated repression of academic freedom and trampling of due process rights

  1. It Ignores Most of Our Job Stability Proposals

The Employer’s final offers provide little to either Unit 2 (contract faculty) or Unit 3 (graduate and research assistants) that addresses our job stability needs. The Employer continues to ignore our Unit 2 job stability proposals. Instead, it offers marginal improvements to the flawed Job Stability Program (JSP) that we have repeatedly told them the membership is not interested in pursuing. (The JSP originated in the failed Job Stability Committee process that emerged from our last round of bargaining.) The Employer responded to neither our proposals to counter the union-busting tactics the Employer has been using to eliminate Unit 3 jobs nor our proposals to address future job losses (in all three units) due to restructuring. And, it has failed to respond to our proposals to prevent the imminent loss of work faced by instructors in the Department of Kinesiology due to arbitrary and egregious changes to job classifications and qualifications language.

  1. It Ignores Our Proposals to Protect and Improve Our Working Conditions

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we teach. New technologies and pedagogies, along with increasing student needs, have increased our workloads. Unfortunately, the employer does not agree and has responded very minimally to the proposals that would most directly impact undergraduate students. Our working conditions are students’ learning conditions!

When and How Will the Final Offer Vote Take Place?

On Friday morning, February 16, the Executive and Bargaining Team are meeting to discuss the Employer’s final offers and decide whether to recommend strike action. Like all BT and Executive meetings, our joint meeting is open to all members of CUPE 3903.

We will take our recommendation to members at the Final Offer Special General Membership Meeting later that afternoon. At this meeting, we’ll present and discuss the Employer’s final offers to the membership. Members will then vote on whether to accept or reject them. Should members reject the offers, we will then discuss and plan our next steps, including striking. In keeping with our local’s practices, the Executive will only call a strike when instructed to do so by a motion from the floor and the vote of the membership. If the membership deems the final offers acceptable, we will then hold a formal ratification vote.

Joint Executive and Bargaining Team Meeting (Online)

February 16, 2024 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm, online via Zoom

FINAL OFFER Special General Membership Meeting (Hybrid)

February 16, 2024 @ 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Where: In-person in ACE (Accolade East) 005 or on Zoom

To join us over Zoom, please register in advance for this meeting by clicking on the link above.

What Happens After the Final Offer Vote?

If the membership votes to accept the employer’s offers, they will go to a ratification vote. If ratified, these offers become the new collective agreements for Units 1, 2, and 3. If the membership votes to reject the final offers, members will immediately discuss the next steps, which may include returning to the bargaining table, initiating a strike, initiating other forms of job action, or any combination of these options. To find out more about what a strike could mean, all members are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Strike FAQ 2024.

PDF VERSION OF LETTER AVAILABLE HERE

Strike FAQ 2024

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Strike FAQ 2024

Members of CUPE 3903 Unit 1 (Teaching Assistants), Unit 2 (Contract Faculty) and Unit 3 (Graduate/Research Assistants) may vote to go on strike in February 2024. There are a lot of questions about what being on strike means and how it happens. This page attempts to answer all your burning questions! Of course, if there’s anything else you want to know, you can always reach out!

Please read this letter from the bargaining team to see what is at stake this round of bargaining.

Strike Basics

What does it mean to go on strike?

A strike is a legal step that unionized workers can choose to take when they can’t reach an agreement with their employer when bargaining new collective agreements. A strike is a strong leveraging tool for workers. Being on strike means withdrawing your labour to pressure the employer to move at the bargaining table. The withdrawal of labour means not doing any of the work associated with your contract, e.g. if you are a TA, you’re not running tutorials, not attending lectures, not grading assignments, not holding office hours, etc.

How is the decision to go on strike made?

The decision to go on strike comes from the membership – these are your contracts that are being negotiated, and you get to decide whether what’s being offered is good enough. The first step was to hold a strike mandate vote: this happened in December 2023, and 84% of members voted to authorize a strike if necessary. The next vote will happen on February 16th, when the membership will consider the employer’s “final offer” and decide to accept it or reject it. If it’s rejected, the membership can vote to direct the bargaining team to return to the table with specific directions, or to go on strike.

What do I need to do before going on strike?

There’s a few things members can do to prepare for a strike, and a few things that are not required to do. Before the strike begins you can sign up for picket pay! The registration form is forthcoming and will be distributed when ready! We encourage members to communicate with students about the likelihood of a strike, what may happen, and how this may (and may not) impact students so that students are not taken off guard. You can also communicate strike updates with students during a strike. You may also hide or remove course content or your own intellectual material from eclass.

During a strike action, the Union will be calling on members to withhold submission of grades as part of work-to-rule action. Despite recent communications from York administration, CUPE 3903 members are not required to upload any grade on eClass before a strike action.

As stated by YUFA: The request that YUFA members and/or their Teaching Assistants upload grades on eClass appears to be motivated by a desire of the Employer – currently in negotiation with CUPE 3903 – to undermine solidarity between campus unions. YUFA has expresses its support for CUPE 3903 in negotiations for a fair contract.

At the end of the year, course directors are required to upload final grades to the SIS Student Information System) portal once a course is completed. But a strike does not change timelines and there is no need for any of this additional workload being downloaded to course directors before reading week. That is the extent of what CUPE 3903 members have to do, and of how to do it.

What if I keep working at York University during the strike? 

Working during a strike is a form of strike breaking, also called scabbing, and it is against the CUPE National Constitution. This means that you could lose some or all of your union privileges or face fines.

Withholding your labour during a strike is crucial for two reasons: First, the stronger the strike, the more effective it will be, and the faster it will conclude. Therefore, by undermining the strike you are working against your own interests. Second, and most importantly, all members get the same contract. Undermining the efforts of those who are fighting for your rights alongside their own is counterproductive and disrespectful. All members get a say in whether there is a strike or not; once that decision is made, it’s to everyone’s benefit to work together towards a resolution of the strike.

Can I attend classes/use the library/work on my research during the strike? 

You are not strike breaking when you engage in activities that are not directly tied to the contract from which you are withdrawing your labour. However, members are encouraged to avoid crossing the picket lines as much as possible. That being said, no one will police you if you need to attend to time-sensitive experiments or otherwise use campus facilities.

If classes go ahead during the strike, all students, including graduate students, are protected by the Senate Policy regarding labour disruptions, which gives students who choose not to attend class during a strike “immunity from penalty, to reasonable alternative access to materials covered in their absence, to reasonable extensions of deadlines and to such other remedy as Senate deems necessary and consistent with the principle of academic integrity”.

How does a strike end//what happens after a strike ends?

Once the Bargaining Team achieves a tentative agreement, it will be brought to a ratification vote. If the membership votes to ratify the new agreement, the strike is over. During a strike, there are weekly general membership meetings, at which members can direct the bargaining team as necessary to reach a deal.

As part of the process of ending a strike, we negotiate back-to-work protocol – this will include plans for remediation of the work missed during the strike, including amended sessional dates and payroll dates. Members will get paid for all work done to remediate after the strike, up to 100% of your original contract depending on how many weeks of remediation there is to complete. Union officers and staff are here to fight for you if the Employer withholds work or pay after a strike.

Strike Finances

If there’s a strike, will I get paid? 

You will not receive employee pay* from York University because you are withdrawing your labour for the duration of the strike. All members who participate in approved strike duties are eligible to receive strike pay from CUPE National. For the first 7 weeks of a strike, strike pay is $300 per week, assuming five shifts of 4 hours each, for a maximum of 20 hours. Strike pay increases at the 8, 12, and 16 week mark.

*This is different from money associated with scholarships.

What if I need additional financial support?

CUPE 3903 will operate a Strike Hardship Fund (SHF) for members who are facing financial crises during the strike. The SHF is designed to assist CUPE 3903 members who are participating in the strike and is intended to supplement strike pay. The SHF supports members in purchasing items they need for picketing or alternate duty and in dealing with financial hardship resulting from reduced income during the strike.

To be eligible for the SHF, there is an expectation of strike participation: that people either picket, or register with the 8th line to arrange alternate duty strike work, unless they have exceptional circumstances.

A committee of members from the 8th line will adjudicate Hardship Fund requests on the basis of need and availability to help as many members as possible. The Hardship Fund is funded through a portion of the Strike Fund and also donations. More information on applying will be available as the committee prepares.

Strike Duties and Accommodations

What’s an approved strike duty?

For most members, strike duty means picketing, i.e. slowing down or stopping traffic coming onto York’s campuses. Physical picket lines need picket captains, people who move gates or pylons, people who keep time, people who talk to drivers, people who direct traffic, and of course, those who walk the picket line! There are also other necessary duties like strike coordinators (who coordinate between the lines), people responsible for loading and unloading equipment, people who are involved in processing strike pay, social media, coordinating supplies, soliciting donations, etc. Non-picket duties are reserved as much as possible for members who require accommodations.

What’s a Picket Line?

A picket line is a LEGAL blocking of roadways and entrances to the university, where traffic is slowed in order to disrupt the operation of the university.

Picket Lines Basics

  1. The most important thing about a picket is the safety of picketers and this is everyone’s responsibility. Be alert, look out for one another and do not put yourself or others in a dangerous situation. Do not begin to picket until the proper equipment is present and enough people to properly picket the street/entrance/area have assembled.
  2. Each picket line will have Picket Captains, who are in charge of safety on the line. All picketers are encouraged to work collectively with their line’s Picket Captains to ensure the safe and effective operation of the picket line.

How long are picket line shifts?

A picket line shift is four hours long. We will start with two shifts per day, a morning shift (7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.) and an afternoon shift (11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.). Please arrive before your scheduled start time and dress appropriately for the weather conditions.

How to prepare for daily shifts on the Picket Lines

  1. Dress warmly. Being outside for four hours in this weather is hard on bodies. Wear lots of layers. Also wear a toque, a scarf, and mitts or gloves. It sounds obvious, but it is amazing what we all forget!
  2. Feet can get wet pretty easily. Bring an extra pair of socks, stored in a plastic bag. Try to wear shoes/boots that keep your feet dry and prevent slipping/falling (strike hardship fund can help if you don’t have the right gear).
  3. Bring some snacks, and bring some water. Warm beverages like herbal tea are always nice too!
  4. If you are freezing cold, tell your picket captain. Depending on the size and location of your picket line, you may be able to take a 10-minute break to warm up inside somewhere nearby. It’s important to work together so everyone can take occasional breaks to warm up!
  5. Picket lines are as fun as you make them: bring some music and speakers, bring food to share if you can, bring games you can play while walking in a circle. Be creative!
  6. Picket lines are also serious: pay attention while you walk the line.
  7. Look after yourselves! Your safety and well-being are the most important things in this strike. If there are things we can do to help facilitate your safety and well-being, please let your picket captain know. They will communicate that information to the Strike Committee.

What measures are in place for picket line accessibility?

Each picket line will have a wheelchair accessible portapotty. Many lines are also close to businesses or other buildings where someone can use the washroom or take a quick break to warm up. Picket lines will have tables and chairs. While maintaining an active picket line is important for the strike, no one should police anyone who is sitting down or taking a break. All picketers should commit to being mindful that different people have different needs and can play different but equally important roles on the picket line.

Who is eligible for accommodations? 

All members who cannot picket for reasons covered by the Ontario Human Rights Code (e.g. disability, illness, caring responsibilities for an ill child, lactation, etc.) are eligible for alternate duties, also called the 8th Line. CUPE 3903 commits to strike pay for these members regardless of whether CUPE National approves them.

Accommodations for other reasons, e.g. living very far from campus, incompatible work schedules, etc. will be accommodated if possible; however, priority will be given to Ontario Human Rights Code-based accommodations.

How do I request an accommodation?

Members who need accommodations should indicate as much when they fill out the picket pay form. Members who have an Accommodated Work Plan through York will not be asked to provide additional documentation. However, we recognize that walking a picket line represents a different accessibility standard than teaching duties. You can request strike accommodations even if you don’t have formal accommodations through the employer.

More information on how to apply will be posted as soon as possible once the process has been approved by CUPE National.

What if I’m travelling/out of town during the strike?

There’s no punishment for just not being on the picket lines. If you’re travelling or away from town during the strike for any reason, that’s fine. However, if you’re not contributing to the strike by carrying out strike duties, you will not be eligible for picket pay during the period that you’re away. If you live far away and cannot reach the picket lines to complete regular duties, you can apply for accommodations and work alternative (“8th line”) duties. See above for more on accommodations.

I’m in International Student – what does a strike mean for me?

Not only is striking entirely legal for international students, it is a protected activity under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You cannot be punished for participating in a strike, performing strike duties, and/or showing support for the Union during contract negotiations. In additional, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) protects foreign workers’ right to lawfully strike and provides protections to study permits when international students are unable to complete their studies due to circumstances entirely beyond their control, such as a strike.

We’re created a specific Strike FAQ for International Students, please click here to find out more!

How do I get more involved?

The best way to make sure you hear all the latest news is the sign up for the weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/iFC9Oo

As per Article 19 of the bylaws, the Strike Committee is responsible for strike logistics, including things like strike policy, finances, choosing a strike headquarters, and more. There’s a lot of work to be done and we need many helping hands! We encourage all members to get involved as they can.

In particular, we need volunteers to help support strike action preparation and join various subcommittees. Some possible roles you can fill are picket captains and strike coordinators but a full list of subcommittees can be found in Article 10 of our Strike Policy. Please take a look and let us know what role excites you most!

Interested members should reach out to one of the lead stewards:
Unit 1 – Matt Lomas, cupe3903csu1@gmail.com
Unit 2 – Chris Bailey, cupe3903chiefstewardunit2@gmail.com
Unit 3 – Imran Syed, cupe3903csu3@gmail.com

Strike FAQ for International Students

Strike FAQ for International Students

I’m an international student member. Is it legal for me to participate in a strike?

Yes. Not only is striking entirely legal for international students, it is a protected activity under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You cannot be punished for participating in a strike, performing strike duties, and/or showing support for the Union during contract negotiations. You are allowed to receive strike pay and perform strike duties under your study permit to attend York University.  A strike doesn’t change the fact that York University is both your school and your employer.

Did you know? The International Tuition Offset was won in 2015, when Unit 1 and 3 members stayed on strike for a month to make sure international students wouldn’t have to pay a tuition increase of more than $7000. International students were a big part of that strike, but also all the domestic students who stood firm against this injustice!

Does a strike impact my study permit?

No. Your study permit is tied to your student enrolment, not your employment.

In addition, Ontario’s Labour Relations Act protects all workers’ rights, including international students, to participate in legal strikes and makes it unlawful for employers to intimidate employees into refusing to strike. You cannot lose your visa or work permit by voting in a strike, in a contract ratification vote, or by taking part in a strike. All votes are confidential.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) protects foreign workers’ right to lawfully strike and provides protections to study permits when international students are unable to complete their studies due to circumstances entirely beyond their control, such as a strike. Their website states:

“This situation is beyond your control, and your status as a study permit holder should not be affected. As a result of the strike, you will

  • not face any penalty or enforcement action because you can’t pursue your studies during this time
  • be able to work off campus for up to 20 hours per week if your study permit allows you to work (and also work full-time during regular breaks such as winter holidays and reading week)
  • still be eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program

You must continue to have valid status as a student in Canada to be able to return to class after the labour dispute is resolved. If you need to apply to extend your study permit during the strike, include a letter from the registrar of your designated learning institution that confirms that the strike has stopped you from attending school and pursuing your studies.”

https://ircc.canada.ca/english/helpcentre/answer.asp?qnum=1367&top=15

How will CUPE 3903 support me as an international student if there is employer backlash?

As addressed above, it is illegal for the university to punish you for strike participation. In the very unlikely event that the university engages in these illegal actions, CUPE 3903 will fully support you through the relevant legal processes.

What Happens to my Graduate Funding During a Strike? 

All funded grad students get funding from several sources. Some of these sources are directly tied to current employment (wages, Grant-in-Aid (GIA), vacation pay), some depend on the member having a contract at one point in the academic year (Graduate Financial Assistance (GFA), International Tuition Offset (ITO)), and some are received by virtue of being enrolled full-time or due to merit (fellowship, scholarships and grants).

Wages, vacation pay, and GIA stop immediately while we are on strike. If you participate in strike duties, you can receive up to $300/week in strike pay. After the strike ends, you will be paid to complete what is left of your contract through a process called remediation. You will receive wages, GIA, and GFA proportional to the work needed to finish your contract, up to 100% of what you would have received if there was no strike.

You will have already received your GFA and ITO for the winter, and therefore these will not be impacted. In the unlikely event that the strike were to extend into the summer semester, those payments may be delayed, but you would receive them once the strike is over.

Fellowship payments and other amounts not related to your employment (e.g. scholarships, grants) continue uninterrupted.

Can International Students Access the Hardship Fund?

CUPE 3903 will operate a Strike Hardship Fund (SHF) for members who are facing financial crises during the strike. This is a fund for CUPE 3903 members who are participating in the strike to receive money in addition to  strike pay. The hardship fund will prioritize international students.

To be eligible for the SHF, there is an expectation of strike participation: that people either picket, or request alternate duty strike work for those who cannot picket, unless they have exceptional circumstances.

What does a strike look like?

For a more questions related to the logistics of a strike, please visit our STRIKE FAQ 2024

What are we striking for? 

Please read this letter from the bargaining team to see what is at stake this round of bargaining.

Bargaining Team Report February 15–16, 2024

Bargaining Team Report February 15–16, 2024

Nothing New from Employer’s Final Offer

The bargaining meeting with the Employer and conciliator on February 15 began with the
Conciliator informing us that the Employer would not be making a new wage offer. Since our last bargaining meeting, the Ontario Superior Court denied the government’s appeal of Bill 124. This decision confirmed that it was unconstitutional to deny public-sector workers their right to collective bargaining and to limit us to a 1% increase per year during a time of record inflation.

Bargaining the rest of that day was eerily normal, with the Employer demonstrating none of the
urgency we expected given that this was potentially their last chance to avert a strike.  Rather
than negotiating late into the night, as happened during bargaining in 2020–21, bargaining
ended on schedule at 5 PM.

Proposals Exchanged But Little Progress Made

Both sides exchanged counter-proposals on previously discussed items. We did reach some
agreement on new Unit 2 language to provide members with seniority credit for participation in departmental and other university committees. Moreover,  we agreed to add a clarifying
definition of a day to all three collective agreements. But, we saw no new offers on the most significant issues, including salaries and benefits and job security. The Employer rejected Unit 3’s proposals to increase the GATF and to settle an outstanding grievance on the Employer’s admitted mismanagement of the GATF by paying an extra $50,000 into the fund and apologizing for its mismanagement.  Although they don’t dispute that they mismanaged the GATF, they described themselves as “insulted” by our proposals. None of this is surprising, given the Employer’s ongoing attempt to eliminate all Unit 3 jobs. The Employer also rebuffed our equity proposals to extend paid caregiver and adoption leaves.

At the end of the day, the updated “Comprehensive Framework for Settlement” documents
that the Employer provided to Unit 1, Unit 2, and Unit 3 were not substantially different from
the previous “comprehensive framework” documents we have already seen from the Employer. As we outlined in a Letter from the Bargaining team that evening, the two sides remain far apart on fundamental issues.

Final Offer Special General Membership Meeting (SGMM)

On the morning of February 16, the Bargaining Team and Executive Committee met and voted unanimously to recommend that members reject the “final offer.” Later that day, at the most well attended membership meeting  we’ve had in years, the Bargaining Team briefly reviewed the details of the Employers final offer, illustrating how far apart CUPE 3903 and the Employer are on all our red-line issues (wages, benefits, job stability, and equity).  The Bargaining Team fielded questions on the offer, and a lengthy debate was held on whether to accept it. Although the debate centered around the Employer’s final offer, many members, particularly several international students, expressed understandable worries about the impact of a potential strike and a possible repeat of our lengthy strike of 2018. Both the Bargaining Team and Executive heard these concerns and subsequently scheduled an additional Strike Q&A session on Thursday, February 22, from 2:00–4:00 p.m.

Despite technical problems that delayed the start of the meeting and voting on the Employer’s
offer, the nearly 600 votes cast clearly backed the Bargaining Team’s position. 

Strike Vote Postponed

The lengthy technical delays meant that the meeting was extended well beyond the scheduled end time, so the membership decided to put off a decision to call a strike until an Emergency Special General Membership Meeting on Friday,  February 23 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. All votes will take place in the meeting, without the use of outside programs, which should avoid a repeat of Friday’s lengthy delays. Since all registrations for our GMMs have to be manually verified before individual invitation links to the meeting can be sent out, please register in advance (well in advance!).

Get Involved! Upcoming Bargaining Meetings

Our union practices open bargaining, meaning all meetings of the Bargaining Team—including
our face-to-face meetings with the Employer’s bargaining team—are open to all members of
CUPE 3903. All members are encouraged to attend both our weekly Bargaining Team meetings, which take place online, and our meetings with the Employer, which usually take place in a hybrid format. As of this week, in-person bargaining meetings with the Employer will be held at Ministry of Labour offices downtown at 400 University Ave., which is a fully accessible location close to St. Patrick subway station. As members of CUPE 3903, you are free to come and go from any of our meetings as your schedules allow. Check the CUPE 3903 website’s calendar for any updates or changes.

Bargaining Meetings with the Employer (advance registration required ):

Wednesday, February 21, 10:00 AM–5:00 PM: Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.
Friday, February 23, 1:00–5:00 PM: Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.
Monday, February 26, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.
Wednesday, February 28, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

For all bargaining meetings with the Employer, CART closed captioning will be available. If you
require ASL interpretation or reimbursement for childcare/caregiver/attendant care or have
any other requests for accommodation, please contact our Equity Officer, Nadia Kanani, at
cupe3903equity@gmail.com.

Bargaining Team Meetings (no registration required):

Tuesday, February 20, 1:00–3:00 PM:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86147429020?pwd=ZlRzR1dpb0tjYWN5OWhrSGt6WFFQUT09

Thursday, February 22, 1:00–3:00 PM:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86828310546?pwd=TU5RMGpPaFErU0hpVGU5ZmtNY2d4UT09

Elections Officers Needed for TFAC Co-Chair and Trans Fund Elections

Elections Officers Needed for TFAC Co-Chair and Trans Fund Elections

TFAC is looking for election officers for the TFAC Co-Chair Election and the Trans Fund election. If you are interested in running for this position but cannot make the meeting, please feel free to email the co-chairs. You can also self nominate at the meeting on February 28th at 1pm. Nominations will be accepted in person at the meeting. Nominations received via email will be put forward by the TFAC co-chairs even if you do not attend the meeting. Please submit all nominations by 1pm on February 28th
 
TFAC Co-Chair Election Officers (2 needed)
The election officers are responsible for organizing the co-chair election (including scheduling the election time and facilitating the election at the TFAC AGM taking place on zoom in March).
An honoraria of $200 (per election officer) is provided for this work
Trans Fund Election Officer
Individuals wishing to self-nominate for the position of Trans Fund EO must be trans* identified. Responsibilities include issuing a call-out for Trans Fund Committee nominees and  holding an election via zoom at the TFAC AGM taking place in March.
An honoraria of $250 is provided for this work.
*We employ a broad definition of “trans”, including people who self-identify as Two Spirit, trans, transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, non-binary, gender variant, MTF, FTM, transwoman, transman, gender dysphoric and/or bi-gendered, de-gendered. This list is not exhaustive , nor should it imply that these groups necessarily embrace “trans*” terminology.

Nominations Open for Vacancies on Bargaining Team and Executive Committee

Nominations Open for Vacancies on Bargaining Team and Executive Committee

The Executive Committee has decided to open nominations for candidates to fill two vacancies on the Executive Committee and two vacancies on the Bargaining Team, as per Article 14 V.(b) of the bylaws.

The following positions are available to members in good standing of the relevant bargaining unit:

Lead Steward Unit 4
Bargaining Team Unit 2

The following positions are available to members in good standing of any CUPE 3903 bargaining unit:

Chairperson
Bargaining Team Recording Secretary

For more information or to nominate yourself, please email Imran Syed (Lead Steward Unit 3) at cupe3903csu3@gmail.com by February 26 at 5:00 p.m.

Bargaining Team Report February 5–9, 2024

Bargaining Team Report February 5–9, 2024

Courting a Strike, Employer Fails to Make Movement on Key Issues

As we approach a legal strike deadline of Feb. 22, the Employer’s actions at the bargaining table suggest a lack of serious commitment to finalizing new collective agreements for Units 1, 2, and 3.

A Strike Is Within Sight

On February 5, we received our No Board letter, which means we are in a legal strike position as of Thursday, February 22. We have indicated to the Employer that we need to see their final offer by February 15. The following day, we will hold our “Final Offer” SGMM where our membership will vote on whether the Employer’s Thursday offer is good enough to avert a strike. Unless we receive a substantially improved offer for all three units on February 15, a strike seems unavoidable. 

Employer’s Monetary Offers Continue to Leave Members Behind

The two sides remain far apart on many key issues, including salaries and benefits. On February 7, in our fourth bargaining session with government-appointed conciliator Erinn White, the Employer tabled an updated monetary proposal, including retroactive wage increases and increases in our next collective agreement (CA). The new offer marginally increased the retroactive salary increase for 2020–23 from 3% to 3.75%. For the next CA, the Employer moved from 3%, 2.5%, 2% to 3%, 2.75%, 2.25%. This would amount to a loss of real wages of 8.9% for September 2020 to September 2023, when we experienced inflation of 15.8%. And we would continue to lose ground relative to projected levels of inflation during the next three years.  The week before, the Bargaining Team was extremely disappointed but unsurprised by this anemic offer; on February 2, the Employer spent much of their time at the table trying to lower our expectations of their forthcoming offer by giving us a presentation that showed that our salaries and benefits are sector-leading. We reminded them that our organizing and militancy had achieved these outcomes. 

An equal indication of the Employer’s lack of seriousness to avert a strike can be seen in their complete lack of engagement with our fifteen benefits proposals (#22–36), some of which we presented last August. (Numbers in parentheses refer to the proposal numbers in our Bargaining Proposals chart.) These range from increasing the amount of overall coverage, to removing the internal cap on individual services, to new coverage for healthcare expenses not covered by OHIP. After a pandemic that has left many members struggling more than ever and with inflation reducing the value of the benefits available to us, the Employer’s actions show a callous disregard for our members’ well-being.

Employer Fails to Act against Racial Discrimination

The disregard for our members’ well-being was also reflected in the Employer’s rejection of our proposals for accommodations and support for members who experience racial harassment, discrimination, and violence in the workplace (#1, 42). The Employer responded, instead, with a letter touting the university’s existing equity commitments and initiatives, most of which offer members no real protections. Ironically, one of the initiatives cited is the Security Services Review, which members of the joint Employment Equity Committee (EEC) were told revealed the lack of accommodations and support for members who experience workplace racial harassment, discrimination, and violence. Either the Employer is not aware of the results of their own review or such reviews are meant to give the appearance of taking action without doing so.

Some Positive Movement on Union Rights

Our strong rejection of the Employer’s proposals to increase management rights—to amend Articles 8 and 6 to make it easier to discipline our members and to initiate “Employer grievances” against our Union, respectively—led them to finally withdraw these proposals. 

We have reached substantial agreement on streamlining the grievance process by reducing the number of steps (#55) and on a new mediation-arbitration process to speed up the resolution of Unit 2 appointment grievances (#57). We remain steadfastly opposed, however, to the Employer’s proposal to channel all cases of harassment and discrimination into the university’s complaints process rather than through the grievance process (#107), which offers members much better protection and agency.

Employer’s Refusal to Engage Key CUPE Priorities Leaves Us Far Apart

As in the case of benefits, the Employer’s refusal to even engage with or respond to many key priorities means that we remain far apart, making a strike seem increasingly inevitable. Although we’ve reached agreement on some minor issues, the Employer has been largely or entirely unresponsive to our proposals to 

  • Ensure all aspects of remuneration for graduate-student members are included in across-the-board salary increases—in particular, Grant-In-Aid (GIA) and Graduate Financial Assistance (GFA) (#46, 48)*
  • Increase the amount of the York Graduate Fellowship and reduce the frequency and severity of “clawbacks” (#53, 54)*
  • Secure and enhance our existing job stability programs for contract faculty (#74)
  • Protect Unit 2 members in the Kinesiology Department from being put out of work by the restructuring of courses and arbitrary changes to job qualifications (#92, 95, 96) 
  • Increase post-retirement benefits to make it easier for senior contract faculty to retire with dignity (#89)
  • Increase the number of Graduate Assistants hired through the GA Training Fund (GATF) from 40 to 80**
  • Prioritize hiring of Master’s students for GA positions**
  • Increase the pool of money the Employer provides to cover Executive honorariums, which has remained stagnant since before Units 3 and 4 representatives were added (#60)
  • Allow members to retain email and library access beyond the end of their contracts or retirement (#62) 
  • Protect the work in all bargaining units against technological change (#61) 
  • Clarify the workload, hours, and remuneration of Tutor 3 contracts (#63) 
  • Reduce tutorial class size limits and the triggers for obtaining marker/grader assistance (#64, 65)
  • Provide a minimum 10-day turnaround time for the grading of assignments, exams, and midterms. 

Much as the Bargaining Team hopes to avoid a strike, with their insulting wage offer and failure to engage with our priorities, the Employer seems to be courting one.

* The Employer has not engaged at all with Unit 1 proposals to increase the York Graduate Fellowship, reduce the frequency and severity of “clawbacks,” and increase Graduate Financial Assistance (GFA). Both GFA and Grant-In-Aid (GIA) are key pieces of graduate student funding that were capped at 1% in annual increases from 2020 to 2023 because of Bill 124. To address this, we have proposed retroactive increases and increases in the next CA for all these funding pieces. While the Employer has proposed some increases to GIA for the next CA, they are proposing no retroactive increases and no increases at all for GFA (retroactive or otherwise). 

** So far, the Employer has engaged minimally with Unit 3 proposals on the GATF, showing zero engagement on increasing the GATF from 40 GAships to 80 or prioritizing MA students for GA positions. The bargaining team is currently working on a further Unit 3 counterproposal on the GATF, along with an answer to the Employer’s proposed memorandum of settlement in regard to their mismanagement of the GATF funds during the 2017–20 and 2020–23 collective agreements.

Get Involved! Upcoming Bargaining Meetings

Our union practices open bargaining, meaning all meetings of the Bargaining Team—including our face-to-face meetings with the Employer’s bargaining team—are open to all members of CUPE 3903. All members are encouraged to attend both our weekly Bargaining Team meetings, which take place online, and our meetings with the Employer, which usually take place in a hybrid format (in person in 519 Kaneff Tower). As members of CUPE 3903, you are free to come and go from any of our meetings as your schedules allow. Check the CUPE 3903 website’s calendar for any updates.

Bargaining Meetings with the Employer (advance registration required):

Thursday, February 15, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

Wednesday, February 21, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

Friday, February 23, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

Monday, February 26, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

Wednesday, February 28, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

For all bargaining meetings with the Employer, CART closed captioning will be available. If you require ASL interpretation or reimbursement for childcare/caregiver/attendant care or have any other requests for accommodation, please contact our Equity Officer, Nadia Kanani, at cupe3903equity@gmail.com.

Bargaining Team Meetings (no registration required):

Monday, February 19, 1:00-3:00 PM: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86147429020?pwd=ZlRzR1dpb0tjYWN5OWhrSGt6WFFQUT09

Thursday, February 22, 1:00-3:00 PM: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86828310546?pwd=TU5RMGpPaFErU0hpVGU5ZmtNY2d4UT09

 

Bargaining Team Report: January 29-February 2

Employer’s Silence Speaks Volumes as Strike Deadline Looms

January 29-February 2 Bargaining Team Report

As negotiations go into their eighth month, the Union’s bargaining team is frustrated to hear no clear offers or answers from the Employer.

Union requests No Board report from conciliators, initiating strike countdown

The Bargaining Team for Units 1, 2, and 3 closed out January by formally requesting a “no board” report from the conciliator. This report from the Ministry of Labour initiates a 17-day countdown to a strike deadline, at which point the Union can take strike action or the Employer can lock out its workers. The no board has since been issued on February 5th, marking February 22nd as the first possible legal strike date. 

As we enter this next stage, the Bargaining Team has been remotivating our key priorities at the table in the hopes that we can get an acceptable offer from the Employer by mid-February. To be ready if our best efforts do not yield an offer we would recommend to the membership for ratification, we are working alongside the executive committee and the rank-and-file membership to be able to initiate a strike.

Mark your calendar for upcoming membership meetings to determine how and when we escalate. Meeting dates and links can be found on the CUPE 3903 website calendar.

Minimal Engagement on Equity Proposals

On Friday, February 2, the Union brought counter proposals on Articles 4, 6, and 7. Articles 6 and 7 concern the grievance and arbitration processes. The employer wanted to lower the number of steps in the grievance process as well as shorten timelines. the union agreed to the former, but absolutely refuses to shorten the already tight timelines within which member can grieve. Article 4 is concerned with discrimination and harassment. The counter includes some agreed-upon language between the Employer and Union, but it rejects the Employer’s proposal to replace any reference to “grievances” with “complaints.” Through the grievance process, 3903 members have many protections that would be lost with a shift to a “complaints” model. We also pushed the employer to respond to our proposals related to (1) accommodations for members who experience racial discrimination, harassment, and violence and (2) funds for those members, both of which are to provide immediate and meaningful support(s) to racialized members. These proposals were originally presented to the Employer on November 7, 2023, and this week we re-emphasized their importance to take into consideration how everyday violence, both covert and overt, can negatively affect members. The lack of on-campus safety for racialized members and the importance of remedies was illustrated at the table this week when we received news, while we were at the table with the Employer, that the Toronto Police were disrupting a talk on Palestinian liberation given by an invited guest.

Employer continues to stall on monetary offer

Since the outset of this round of bargaining, members have been clear about the vital importance of real wage increases for all three units. We first presented proposals on this point in August 2023. Under pressure from a coalition of unions on campus to renegotiate wages for the Bill 124 moderation period (for CUPE 3903, the 2020–21 to 2022–23 contract years), the Employer responded two months later with a starting offer. We expressed then that their offer didn’t meet the deep needs of members. Nevertheless, in December we presented a counter that brought our retroactive wage demand down to the minimum increase needed to prevent our real wages from being eroded by inflation.

This week, the Employer wrote to union leaders citing the estimated cost of implementing such a wage increase but committing to bringing forward a new offer soon. When we met on Friday, the bargaining team was thus disappointed to discover that the Employer had, instead of spending their time preparing a meaningful offer on salaries and benefits, been preoccupied with researching the salary rates and benefits packages for contract faculty and teaching assistants at other Ontario Universities. The Employer spent most of its allotted time during bargaining on Friday presenting us with the results of this university-sector-wide comparison, the point of which was to highlight that we are at or near the top in both salaries and benefits and to (we presume) lower our expectations of the offer they have now committed to presenting on February 7.

Our team responded that, while we share the Employer’s pride in leading the sector for contract academic workers, their presentation was irrelevant. We only lead the sector thanks to the steadfast organizing and militancy of many generations of CUPE 3903 members! Clearly, we need to redouble our efforts if we want to bring that lead closer to the livable standard we deserve. 

New Job Stability Proposal Reverts to Rejected Framework

The Employer’s response to the slate of Unit 2 ‘status quo’ job stability proposals the Union tabled on January 17 was to completely ignore them. Instead, the Employer re-presented a (slightly altered) version of the Job Stability Program (JSP) that they first presented in response to our (now-withdrawn) Graduated Job Stability Program. The Employer’s proposal is based on their final version of the job stability program from the joint Job Stability Committee (JSC) process, which ended in failure in November 2023 when the Employer left the table for another engagement. Although we have made clear that members do not trust that an entirely new model like the JSP can improve existing conditions of precarious employment,  the Employer continues to insist on nothing else. We remain at an impasse on job stability, with the two sides speaking past each other.   

No clear answers for members displaced through restructuring

After receiving some significant new information that the roll-out of the restructuring of Practicum Kinesiology (PKIN) courses and the introduction of the Integrated Physical Activity for Life (IPAL) program would be much faster than we were previously told, the Union re-motivated four relevant proposals it brought to the table on November 17. The proposals are a credentials leave, compensation for restructuring, a Letter of Intent on IPAL job descriptions, and a Letter of Understanding deeming existing instructors qualified for similar work. Our credentials leave proposal would afford PKINs the opportunity to update their qualifications. This would protect all members of Unit 2 who face changing qualifications requirements as a result of academic restructuring. Previously, members had been assured that there would be a three to five year roll-out of the IPAL program. This time would be required to accommodate existing students, but most crucially, it would allow members to update their credentials should they wish to. A new posting criterion of a Master’s degree or higher for this movement-based program would mean that many members who have been teaching PKIN courses for years (for many, 15-25 years!) would suddenly be deemed unqualified, a position the Union vehemently disagrees with. This change in roll-out, which came without warning, is causing an immediate and drastic reduction of jobs for our members. Our questions to the Employer centered around two issues: first, why the abrupt change in rollout speed? What does this do to the democratic, collegial process? What does this do to equity protections, particularly when members are noticing favouritism in the PKIN courses that are and aren’t continuing to be offered? And second, we asked the Employer why PKIN instructors (especially those with 15-25 years of experience teaching in Kinesiology) are required to have a Master’s degree or a PhD to teach in IPAL, especially if the Employer’s proposed IPAL job classification is Tutor 2-Lab Demonstrator? If additional qualifications are needed, they should be directly relevant to the type of instruction. The Employer offered no response to any of our questions. We will continue to push for the explanations and actions 3903 members need.

The Union also questioned the Employer about why they won’t commit to including the Graduate Assistant Training Fund (GATF) in the body of the Collective Agreement and why they will not commit to prioritizing Master’s students for Graduate Assistantships, especially when there is no cost to the Employer associated with either proposal. Aside from the Employer’s mismanagement of GATF, the program is also running well in that both members and Principal Investigators (i.e., faculty members who hire GAs) have welcomed it. We also pushed the Employer to clarify why they continue to provide funds only to a select group of Principal Investigators who apply to the program rather than open it up to all interested faculty. Instead of responding to our questions, the Employer falsely suggested that the Union has not responded to their Letter of Understanding and Minutes of Settlement from January 17, when, in fact, we have made it clear that their proposal does not in any way adequately make up for their mismanagement of the fund or their misrepresentation of the facts over the last two rounds of bargaining, nor does it address or take into consideration any significant proposals (e.g., increasing the number of GA positions or getting the GATF into the Collective Agreement) that the Union has brought forth since bargaining began.

The Employer’s silence on these matters does not inspire confidence for CUPE 3903 members who are already precariously employed. The Bargaining Team will continue to push for clarity and protection for members concerned about job losses.

Get Involved! Upcoming Bargaining Meetings

Our union practices open bargaining, meaning all meetings of the Bargaining Team—including our face-to-face meetings with the Employer’s bargaining team—are open to all members of CUPE 3903. All members are encouraged to attend both our weekly Bargaining Team meetings, which take place online, and our meetings with the Employer, which usually take place in a hybrid format (in person in 519 Kaneff Tower). As members of CUPE 3903, you are free to come and go from any of our meetings as your schedules allow. Check the CUPE 3903 website’s calendar for any updates.

Bargaining Meetings with the Employer

Register in advance using the links below.

Wednesday, February 7, 11:00 AM-5:00 PM (ONLINE ONLY): 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

Thursday, February 15, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

Wednesday, February 21, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

Friday, February 23, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

Monday, February 26, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

Wednesday, February 28, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

For all bargaining meetings with the Employer, CART closed captioning will be available. If you require ASL interpretation or reimbursement for childcare/caregiver/attendant care or have any other requests for accommodation, please contact our Equity Officer, Nadia Kanani, at cupe3903equity@gmail.com.

Bargaining Team Meetings (no registration required):

Monday, February 5, 12:00-2:00 PM: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86056814105?pwd=eU9BWlRPWVdJdDBVeWVrbENBeTl6UT09

Monday, February 12, 1:00-3:00 PM: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82686988222?pwd=WXdTV0xsWlNsUTBMYnJhYm85aTRmdz09

Monday, February 19, 1:00-3:00 PM: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86147429020?pwd=ZlRzR1dpb0tjYWN5OWhrSGt6WFFQUT09

Thursday, February 22, 1:00-3:00 PM: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86828310546?pwd=TU5RMGpPaFErU0hpVGU5ZmtNY2d4UT09