Bargaining update #18

About 1,000 members of CUPE 3902 meeting in Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto, just before voting around 90% to reject their Employer's final offer

Hundreds of members of CUPE 3902 meet in Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto, just before voting 98% to reject their Employer’s final offer.

Items in this update: 

  • Bargaining news
  • Final bargaining meeting with the Employer & Conciliator

Bargaining news

On February 20, the Employer issued a bulletin about its ongoing negotiations with CUPE 3903. It is the opinion of the CUPE 3903 Bargaining Team (BT) that, while the Employer avoids saying anything that is outright factually wrong, it does not offer a full and accurate picture of its latest set of proposals.

This update goes through the Employer’s 12 bullet points item by item, adding the necessary contextual information, then follows with an overview of the key items missing from the Employer’s offer.

  1. The Employer has given a counter-offer to the Union’s proposal for a Continuing Sessional Standing (CSS) Program, but the details of the Employer’s counter leave much to be desired. Where the Union proposed that members would be given compensation if the number of courses they were offered fell below their historic average teaching load, the Employer wants to offer compensation only if it drops by 50% or more. Further, the Union argued for compensation of 70% of the regular rates for those not offered a sufficient number of courses, while the Employer is offering a payout of only 1/8 the Course Director (CD) rate. The Employer also set the eligibility requirements quite high, only offering compensation to members who have taught at least two Full Course Equivalents (FCEs) for the past eight consecutive years – the Union has proposed a lower requirement of 1.5 FCEs over the past three years. Finally, the Employer has suggested that the appointments in the CSS program would be outside the “traditional posting and appointment process,” a model the Union has refused.
  2. The Employer has offered an increase of up to $630 for the Graduate Financial Assistance (GFA) for international students by the end of the collective agreement – an upward revision from their earlier offer of $315. What the Employer neglects to mention is that as of 2014 it implemented increases to tuition fees for international graduate students in the range of $7,000, and is continuing to hike fees each year. In this context, the GFA increase appears much less substantial.
  3. The Employer has so far offered an across-the-board increase to wages and other compensation items of just 1% per year, with the raise in the first year to only be effective from the date of ratification, not the date of expiration of the last collective agreement. This amounts to a six-month wage freeze, and means wages and other compensation items will fall well below inflation over the life of the contract.
  4. The Employer points out that it has offered improved “offset” language to ensure increases in the GFA are passed along to students. What it fails to mention is that annual increases to the GFA for domestic students are only around $55-70 over the life of the collective agreement in its latest offer.
  5. The proposed new clause to ensure Unit 1s who teach “ticketed” course directorships get to keep the difference in compensation between a CD and a TA (just under $2,000) is a small step forward. What the Employer does not mention is that it wants to double the number of tickets from 35 to 70, threatening to erode the job security of Unit 2 members – a much larger step backward.
  6. The Employer’s offer to maintain fund indexation is merely an extension of the status quo. In a context where graduate enrolments are no longer increasing, it will not likely cost the Employer any money. The BT and Employer have agreed to modest increases in the Ways & Means and Extended Health Benefits Funds – $30,000 per year by the end of the collective agreement in both cases.
  7. On research leaves, the Employer is proposing two additional leaves over the last contract ten instead of eight. The outstanding issue on this matter is equity language the Union is seeking.
  8. The BT is pleased that the Employer has been willing to negotiate on postings and hiring processes for Graduate Assistants and “ticketed” course directorships. However, the Employer continues to inexplicably dig in its heels over the Union’s request that at least one third of “tickets” go to members of equity-seeking groups – a relatively modest requirement.
  9. The parties are close to agreement on course design language, though the Union continues to push for stronger incumbency protections.
  10. The BT and Employer are close to agreement on intellectual property language. This does not mean that contract faculty will gain greatly increased rights, but does clarify some ambiguities in the current language.
  11. Some progress has been made on post-retirement benefits, with some outstanding issues around the size of the fund and the individual benefit cap. The Union has won language that allows members to draw their pension but wait to start post-retirement benefits, should they choose to do so.
  12. On incumbency language, the Union and Employer are close to agreement on improvements.

The Employer also left some key issues out of its update where it has not responded to Union proposals. The Union is proposing strengthening tuition indexation language for Units 1 and 3, which is important to reversing the hikes the University recently enacted for international students, and ensuring there are no future hikes for domestic students. The Employer also continues to resist implementing a minimum funding guarantee for Unit 3 members.

For Unit 2, the Employer did not reveal that it is looking to reduce the number of conversions over the life of the collective agreement from seven to six. The Union’s current proposal is for five professorial stream and ten alternate stream conversions in each contract year, as well as one conversion for every ten hires in YUFA. The Employer also did not mention that it has failed to respond to the Union’s proposals around strengthened qualifications language, which is important to curtailing the Employer’s increasingly arbitrary use of qualifications to shape Unit 2 hiring. It has agreed to increase the annual number of new Long Service Teaching Appointment (LSTA) positions from five to six, while the Union is pushing for nine per year.

While progress continues to be made at the table on a range of issues, recent sign-offs have largely been on relatively minor proposals. The BT continues to urge the Employer to respond more seriously to the Union’s core demands if it wishes to avoid strike action by CUPE 3903 members.

Final bargaining meeting with the Employer & Conciliator

The final bargaining meeting with the Employer and Conciliator will take place on Sunday, March 1 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in 280N York Lanes.

This is the final bargaining meeting with the Employer and Conciliator. Members are strongly encouraged to attend the final meeting to show their support for the Bargaining Team and the bargaining process.

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.