A Brief Guide to 3903-Speak!

The CUPE 3903 red-star logo

The CUPE 3903 red-star logo


A Short Primer on 3903-speak and acronyms

Prepared by Gregory C. Flemming, Grievance Officer

October, 2014


APE – Applicable Prior Experience. This is the measure of seniority used by 3903 and the Employer. The standard of measure is one full-year course directorship, which is comprised of three lecture hours. So, if your APE is 1, it means you’ve taught 1 course directorships or it’s equivalent, which could be (for example) three one-hour tutorial sections.

AAPR – Academic and Administrative Prioritization Review. This is a systems-review process being conducted by a private firm. It has been criticized by YUFA/OCUFA’s Craig Heron as being fundamentally flawed and a potential threat to higher education in Ontarion. http://ocufa.on.ca/assets/Dickeson-Right-for-Ontario-Craig-Heron.pdf


Bargaining Unit – A group of workers defined by a common set of criteria. Each bargaining unit has to be certified by the Ministry of Labour, and each has its Member’s work governed by a Collective Agreement (see CA). 3903 represents three bargaining units: graduate students (typically PhD students) who teach tutorials, director courses, and more (Unit 1); contract faculty who course-direct, mark/grade, teaching assist, and more, and who are not graduate students (Unit 2); graduate students (typically MA/MSc students) who do RAships and GAships (Unit 3).

Barry Miller – see Faculty Relations

BMC – Bargaining Mobilization Committee. This is simply the Stewards Council, renamed during negotiations because its central focus is mobilizing Members in order to ensure a successful round of negotiations.

BOG (“the bog”) – York University’s Board of Governors, primarily concerned with the finances of the University. For example, it was the BOG that okayed raising tuition for international students. Primarily made up of business leaders, lawyers, and other professionals. CUPE 3903 does not have representation on this body.

BT – CUPE 3903’s Bargaining Team, which negotiates new contracts (see CAs) with the Employer. When fully constituted, the BT consists of three representatives per bargaining unit and a non-voting recording secretary.


CA – short for Collective Agreement. These are the legal documents that outline the working conditions bargained for, and accepted by, an Employer and a Union. AKA “the contracts.” 3903 has three contracts, one for each bargaining unit.

Cap (“the Cap”) – Part of the seniority system. No 3903er can work more than a total of 5.5 courses per year. There is an additional maximum set, however, in that one can not teach more than 4.5 courses in the Fall/Winter semester. While one may work at 5.5, on can only accrue 3.0 worth of APE.

CD – Course Directorship. 3903ers are contracted to design and deliver courses at York, and are called ‘course directors’ (rather than, for example, professors or lecturers) in our CAs. ‘CD’ is shorthand for both the course that is taught and the person who teaches it.

CLA – Contractually Limited Appointment. This is a form of contract work that is offered under YUFA’s umbrella. It is a full time research and/or teaching position that is guaranteed for between 9 months and three years.

COLA (‘cola’) – the Cost of Living Allowance/Adjustment. Based on changes in the Consumer Price Index (something akin to the inflation rate), this is a number expressed as a percentage that represents increases in the costs associated with a pre-defined standard of living. To ask for COLA in a Collective Agreement (see CA) is to ask for increases to the worth of the contract that match increases in the cost of living.

CFS – the Canadian Federation of Students. A nationally based organization that advocates for students, represented on York’s campus by the YFS and YUGSA.

CUEW (“Cue double-u”) – acronym standing for the Canadian University Education Workers, a union to which 3903 was once affiliated. This union ceased to exist when the unions affiliated with it joined CUPE. See also Thirty-Nine Hundred Locals.

CUPE (‘q-p’) – The Canadian Union of Public Employees, a national union that represents over 500,000 public-sector workers across Canada. 3903 is a local union or branch of CUPE. See Local, Thirty-Nine Hundred Locals.

CUPE 1356 (‘q-p 13-56’) – a CUPE local on York Campus that represents janitorial, security, maintenance, and other staff in contract negotiations and grievance proceedings.


EHB – Extended Health Benefits Fund. This is a pool of money allotted to 3903 to allocate to Members who have medical needs above and beyond those covered by our benefits package.

“The Employer” – We are all members of the community called York University. In a labour context, “the University” doesn’t refer to the academic community, but to the representatives of the BOG. These representatives are employees of York’s Faculty Relations department. It is these reps particularly, and the University administration more generally, to which “the Employer” refers.

EO – stands for both Elections Officer and Equity Officer. The former is a 3903er elected to run elections and by-elections of the Executive Committee and the Bargaining Team. The latter is a part-time employee of the local who specializes in fighting for equity at the University.


Faculty Relations (FR) – essentially the HR department of York University. These are York Employees who represent the Board of Governors (see BOG) in negotiations with 3903, CUPE 1356, YUSA, YUFA, and other worker-representatives at York. They also handle grievances and disciplinary proceedings when these processes get to a late stage. The three people 3903 deals with most often from FR are Barry Miller, Rob Lawson, and their aid, Charles Bisram.

Federal Contractors Program (FCP) – A federal program, created in 1986, that requires provincially-regulated employers with 100 or more employees bidding on federal contracts of $1,000,000 (originally $200,000) or more to certify that they will implement employment equity measures.

FGS – Faculty of Graduate Studies. The University body that oversees rules and regulations having to do with graduate education at York.

FNSWG (“Fin-swig”) – The First-Nations Solidarity Working Group. This is a body within 3903 that organizes actions, does advocacy, etc., around issues of colonialism in Ontario, and is open to all members of 3903.


GFA – Graduate Financial Assistance. Money given to students to offset the cost of tuition, and guaranteed by clauses in the Unit 1 and Unit 3 CAs. See also Bargaining Unit.

GMM – General Membership Meeting. This is a forum in which 3903 Members make formal decisions about budgets, bargaining demands and strategy, and almost anything else that 3903 does. See also SGMM.

GA/GAship – a Graduate Assistant/ship. Typically, a masters student who aids in administrative or other work as a part of their funding package. See also RA, Bargaining Unit.


LMC – the Labour-Management Committee. This is a committee made up of representatives of the Union (3903) and representatives of the Employer (representing the University’s BOG). It meets monthly between bargaining rounds to discuss various issues as they arise. It also includes several sub-committees, including those on employment equity and racial discrimination. Because 3903’s four staff members are unionized as CUPE Local 1281, there is also an LMC between Local 3903 and Local 1281.

Local – short for “Local Union.” Local 3903 is affiliated with CUPE, and stands as a “Local Union” as opposed to the National Union (See CUPE). 3903 was once affiliated with the Canadian University Education Workers (CUEW), and known as Local 3.

LSTA – Long Service Teaching Appointment. This is a job security program that guarantees a certain level of work and compensation for a certain number of years. It is awarded to some, but not all, 3903ers who have worked at the University for a certain number of years and taught a certain number of courses.


NRA – Not only does the employer have to ensure that all work is publicly posted for a certain amount of time and at certain times of year. They also have to publicly name the person they’ve selected to take on a contract. This statement is known as a “Notice of Recommended Appointment.” This is to ensure that people who may have a rightful claim to that work have time to assert that claim.


OCAP (‘O-Cap’) – the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. This is an activist organization that has, over the years, enjoyed much support from 3903 and its Members. 3903 currently donates funds to OCAP that are used to cover the cost of renting their office space.

OCUFA (‘o-coo-fa’) – The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations is an organization that represents 17,000 university faculty and academic librarians across Ontario. YUFA, at York, is a member.

OUWCC – Ontario University Workers Co-ordinating Committee. This is a committee attached to CUPE Ontario and made up of members from CUPE locals across the university sector, including 3903 and CUPE 1356. It is a forum in which co-ordinated bargaining proposals are discussed, research conducted and shared, etc.


PER – Professional Expense Reimbursement. An Employer-administered fund used to reimburse 3903ers for materials necessary for teaching. For example, it can be accessed by Members of Unit 2 (see bargaining unit) for electronics, and Members of Unit 1 for books required for TAships when books are not provided.

PDF – Professional Development Fund. This is a pool of money allotted to the Union to allocate to Union Members who undergo various forms of professional development, including presenting at/attending conferences, and taking classes.

“Point of Order” – said at a meeting of the Local by a Member when they feel that process is not being properly followed. Once said, the chair of the meeting must decide if process has in fact been contravened.


RA/RAship – refers to a Research Assistant, typically a Masters Student who is asked to do various forms of research for pay as part of their funding package. See GA, Bargaining Unit.

Rob Lawson – See Faculty Relations.


Seniority – A means of ensuring that people who have given the most service to the University are first in line to receive work. 3903’s seniority system is made up of at least 3 parts: APE, Incumbency, and years of service. “Incumbency” means that if you’ve taught a course once, you’re deemed qualified to teach it again for three years. Years of service are simply the number of years a 3903er has worked at the University at a certain teaching intensity, and can make one eligible for certain job security provisions of the CA.

SC – Refers to both Stewards Council and Strike Committee.

SGMM – Special General Membership Meeting. A GMM, but called for a specific topic of discussion. SGMMs can be called by the Executive Committee, or demanded by petition by the General Membership.

SRC – Special Renewable Contract. This was a job security program that gave 3903ers with many years of service at the University some measure of job security by guaranteeing them work. This program no longer exists.

Stewards Council – a Union body made up of Members interested in spreading information to other Members, organizing actions, helping Members through the grievance process, etc. During contract negotiations it is renamed the BMC. During a strike it is renamed the Strike Committee.

Strike Committee – if a strike is called, the Bargaining Mobilization Committee is renamed the Strike Committee to reflect its new focus: organizing the daily activities associated with a strike.


TFAC (“Tee-fac”) – the Trans-Feminist Action Caucus. All Trans, Woman Identified, Gender Queer and Gender Variant CUPE 3903 Members are automatically considered members of TFAC, and can attend meetings. The Caucus is used to plan actions, generate bargaining proposals, do advocacy, etc.

“3900 (thirty-nine hundred) Locals” – All the CUPE Locals in Ontario that represent academic workers at Ontario universities. CUPE 3902 represents workers at U of T, 3906 workers at McMaster, etc. See also CUPE, Local, CUEW.

‘Tickets’ – Also called ‘teaching tickets’ and ‘ticketed CDs’. This refers to Course Directorships done by 3903ers in Unit 1 (i.e. grad students). The Unit 1 CA allows for 35 of these positions across the University each academic year, with some addition positions in certain departments.


Unit – see Bargaining Unit.


YFS – York Federation of Students. An organization that advocates for undergraduate students at York, affiliated with the Canadian Federation of Students. See also CFS.

YUFA (“You-fa”) – York University Faculty Association. The professional association that represents some classifications of librarians, York’s tenured faculty, and certain contract faculty, in contract negotiations with the Employer.

YUGSA (“Youg-sa”, “The GSA”) – the York University Graduate Students’ Association. An advocacy body that represents graduate students on campus. The YUGSA is affiliated with the Canadian Federation of Students.

YUSA (“You-sa”) – York University Staff Association. The professional association that represents York’s administrative assistants in contract negotiations.