The Executive Committee of CUPE 3903 is recommending a yes vote at Monday’s ratification meeting. After carefully reviewing the Employer’s latest offer, we believe that it represents real and significant gains for all three units of the local.
During the last week in particular, our Bargaining Team made significant progress in negotiations. The Employer made real moves on Unit 2 job security, increasing the number of conversions from nine in its last offer to 24 in its current one (there were seven in the previous contract), upping the number of Long-Service Teaching Appointments (LSTAs) to 21 from 18 (there were 15 in the previous contract), and greatly improving its new Continuing Sessional Standing (CSS) program that will enhance job security for a significant number of members.
For Unit 3, the offer includes a major boost in summer minimum funding – $2,250 versus $2,000 in its last offer ($1,750 in the previous contract) – as well as significant enhancements to the domestic Graduate Financial Assistance (GFA) – a 20% increase versus a 5% increase in the last offer. Combined with wage increases, this means the Unit 3 minimum funding package will increase at a rate of about 4% per year, making it a strong settlement.
For Unit 1, we won enhanced funding increases to the summer minimum guarantee (2.5% per year versus 1.5% in the Employer’s last offer) as well as the domestic GFA (10% versus 5% in the Employer’s last offer), an international GFA increase of 40% in the second year rather than the third, and a ticket hiring process with equity language.
For all units, we won a $200,000 per year childcare fund – a major breakthrough. We also secured a “me too” clause on the question of making LGBTQ a designated equity group, meaning that if any other union on campus wins this provision, we will get it, too. These come on top of gains that were already present in the Employer’s last offer.
But despite our endorsement, we still know that the latest offer falls short of what our members deserve, and that we need to keep fighting beyond the bargaining table. This is perhaps most true for tuition fees.
On tuition indexation, we need to be clear that the current language in our contract, which we won in 2001, is still there. It has not been removed. But we did not win the stronger language that we proposed. However, we did force the Employer to agree to a full tuition fee freeze (which includes all ancillary fees) for both domestic and international students for the life of the proposed collective agreements.
It also sets a precedent for the entire academic sector in which we have managed to introduce the regulation of tuition fees into the bargaining process, a move that opens the door for other locals to exert similar pressure on their employers.
This puts on hold any further fee increases, which means that we buy ourselves time to build a serious fight for indexation beyond the bargaining table. In the meantime, we are still fighting through the arbitration process the Employer’s tuition fee increase for international students, with the goal of winning a full reversal of the hike.
Regardless of whether we win in arbitration, we need to take the struggle against tuition fees to other fronts, especially in between bargaining years. That means playing a leadership role in the academic sector and the wider labour movement, uniting with student unions on campus and across Ontario, and engaging parents and the general public as we build a province-wide movement against tuition fees and for properly funded post-secondary education.
This last point has to be part of the equation in how we calculate whether to accept or reject. We have to be sober about the bargaining climate across the sector and throughout the labour movement. What we have achieved in our latest offer far outstrips what other locals have won. Indeed, most public sector contracts these days include concessions. This context matters, as York does not exist in a bubble.
The rejection by our members of the Employer’s “final offer” at last week’s Special General Membership Meeting was an inspiring moment in the local, where we collectively demonstrated to the Employer that we are willing to fight – and go on strike – for a better York for everyone. The latest offer demonstrates the strength of the strike to get a better deal.
And part of getting a better deal is knowing when to take it. We believe that, given the current bargaining climate, and the high risk of sliding into a protracted, weeks-long stalemate with the Employer, we should accept the latest offer – and celebrate the victory that our strike has achieved. We must warn the membership that, if this offer is rejected, the deals will likely get worse before they get better – and there is no guarantee that they will get better at all.
Another part of getting a good deal is knowing how to use it – to build on it for future struggles, to build the confidence of our members to engage in collective struggle, and to help shape the way education workers fight back in the rest of the sector. A short but decisive strike at York would show what’s possible in our sector, and lay the foundation for bigger and more sustained struggles in the future.
Accepting this offer doesn’t mean giving up on all the things that are not in it. What it does mean is seizing on all the things that are in it – in order to make the broader fight a stronger one, and to put us in a better position for future struggles.
While a clear majority of the executive voted yes, we want to acknowledge that the vote was not unanimous. A few members voted no, and we think it is important to recognize that there is a variety of opinions and perspectives on the executive, and that we want to create an open and inclusive space for all points of view.
Similarly, at Monday’s ratification vote – especially during the discussion and debate – we want to create the same kind of open and inclusive space in which all members feel comfortable and confident to share their points-of-view, argue one position or another, or simply ask questions.
Ultimately, this decision rests with the membership, and we can all play a role in helping each other make as informed a decision as possible. Whatever the membership decides, the Executive Committee will back your decision and do our best to win the contract you deserve.
For more information about the ratification meeting, please click here.