Bargaining update #12

Free education graffiti 1

“Education for the Masses” (Graffiti)

Items in this update: 

  • Bargaining news
  • Upcoming meetings

Bargaining news

The CUPE 3903 Bargaining Team (BT) met on Tuesday, November 18 with representatives from the Employer to continue collective bargaining negotiations. Rank-and-file members from several departments attended this bargaining session, with the Department of History mustering a particularly strong contingent of approximately a dozen members.

The BT’s first main focus for the day was continuing to present on Job Security items contained in the Union’s package of proposals. The BT began by explaining the rationale behind proposals relating to Unit 2 (contract faculty) qualifications language.

When Course Directorships (CDs) are posted, they contain “required,” “preferred,” and “desired” qualifications. There is a concern among Unit 2 members that the Employer is ratcheting up qualifications requirements. This means that members who have been teaching courses for many years may have difficulty maintaining incumbency in those courses. It also places unnecessarily high barriers in front of junior Unit 2 members who are trying to gain a stronger foothold within the bargaining unit and increase their teaching load.

The BT also pointed out how the Employer’s shift towards requiring completed PhDs, rather than the past practice of recognizing All But Dissertation (ABD) status as as a qualification sufficient for Unit 2 teaching positions, was intensifying barriers to obtaining work for junior and senior Unit 2 members alike.

The Union’s proposals respond to these concerns in a number of ways. One proposal strengthens incumbency language to ensure members – especially those from equity-seeking groups – who are already teaching courses can continue to do so. Several others aim to entrench the language of “bona fide occupational requirement” (BFOR) in the collective agreement. This phrase has a specific legal meaning that will ensure the Employer is held to a high standard in proving that qualification requirements listed in postings are actually necessary for posted teaching positions. Another proposal recognizes the value of teaching experience by asserting that qualifications for Unit 2 work will not exceed ABD status, or, in the case of Fine Arts, an MA degree (or equivalent) when candidates have a demonstrated university teaching record and/or performance record in their discipline(s).

The BT presented several other proposals in the Job Security and Workload category that are designed to limit arbitrary management decisions on things like course start dates. Members have reported that the Employer is frequently using various clauses allowing for “exceptional” circumstances more often than they feel is warranted. The Union’s proposals aim to increase procedural fairness.

Finally, the BT presented the entirety of its Pedagogy package. Key items in this section include proposals to put limits on class sizes, entrench improved copyright protections to match the sector-leading language contained in the York University Faculty Association’s (YUFA) collective agreement, and add equity considerations to Teaching Development and Research Grant competitions.

The Employer responded by acknowledging that it shared some of the Union’s concerns around certain administrative issues, and that it took seriously the intellectual property rights of contract faculty, but that it was not yet ready to agree to any of the Union’s proposed language. On a couple issues, the Employer indicated a wish to have discussions outside the collective bargaining process, where consultations could take place, but provisions could not be made legally binding.

On the question of class sizes, the Employer claimed that recent pedagogy research demonstrates that in many cases class sizes are “not a critical factor” in determining learning outcomes – an assertion many instructors and students would contest. The BT pointed out that ballooning class sizes happen to save the Employer quite a lot of money. For instance, if 100 students wish to enroll in a fourth-year course and there is a class size cap of 25, the Employer will have to hire four course directors at a cost of around $64,000, whereas, if it chooses to have one class with one course director assisted by members holding marker/grader positions, the cost would be just over $20,000. The BT also argued that undergraduate and graduate students alike prefer smaller classes, so increasing class sizes will only hinder student recruitment and retention.

While the Employer has indicated that it is leaving the door open to negotiation on a number of matters, it has so far advanced relatively few written counter-proposals, whereas the Union has had a robust proposal package on the table since September 26. The BT remains strongly committed to good faith negotiations with the Employer on all issues, but requires concrete counters from the Employer in order to advance the bargaining process.

Upcoming meetings

On Tuesday, November 25 from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. the BT and the Employer will meet to discuss the Union’s Job Security and Workload proposals.

On Tuesday, December 2 from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. the BT and the Employer will meet to discuss the Union’s Wages and Benefits proposals.

The BT encourages all members to attend bargaining sessions with Employer.

For meeting dates, times and locations, please see Events.

Please contact Sheila Wilmot at 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.