On Tuesday, March 24, the mediator handed the Bargaining Team (BT) a set of counters from the Employer.
The Employer’s counters make significant moves on our key issues of tuition indexation and the LGBTQ proposal. While these represent improvements over the Employer’s previous position, more must be done.
The Employer proposed new tuition indexation language in our Letter of Intent 6. Their language has two main differences from ours. Our proposal is for a dollar-for-dollar increase in which tuition increases are matched by funding increases. York’s proposal is that, if tuition increases, then funding becomes available, but it could come either from more work or from Graduate Financial Assistance (GFA). Given that we are still protected by our current Collective Agreement language ensuring we do no more than 10 hours of work a week, it seems likely that this extra work would be attached to summer funding.
The second difference between the Employer’s counter and our indexation proposal is that the language will protect visa and domestic students from tuition hikes from the rates of September 1, 2014 instead of going back to 2005. While the counter presented by the Employer is significant insofar as it will protect both incoming and current students from tuition increases, their current counter also requires that we accept the huge hike in international students tuition fees that they unilaterally imposed on our members in 2013.
This is problematic as it does not address the situation that many international students now face: $0 pay cheques. This goes against the principle of indexation that CUPE 3903 has been fighting for in arbitration and on the picket lines. If international student tuition fees remain at their current levels, York will be able to attract wealthy international students, but we must ask what this will mean for the diversity of our membership. As class, race, and gender intersect, this aspect of the Employer’s counter represents a serious equity concern for CUPE 3903.
In regards to our LGBTQ proposal, the Employer has countered with the following:
“5.03.1 No later than 6 months following the ratification of the 2014-17 collective agreement a subcommittee of the Joint Labour Management equity group under the collective agreement and the CUPE 3903 Employment Equity Plan, taking into account the absence of reliable external representational data. The Plan to include LGBTQ as an employment equity group will be recommended to the parties and the agreed upon plan will be promptly implemented.”
The Bargaining Team is pleased with the Employer’s movement in this area and is working on a counter to address a few remaining issues.
Lastly, although tuition indexation and our LGBTQ proposal are also included in the Unit 3 collective agreement, there was no movement from the Employer on the issue of Unit 3 minimum funding. We are very disappointed that the Employer continues to ignore the concerns and needs of our Unit 3 members.
The Employer’s counter on tuition indexation and the Employer’s refusal to address the issue of Unit 3 funding will be discussed at the Special General Membership Meeting on Thursday, March 26. The BT is seeking direction from the membership prior to presenting a counter to the Employer on Friday, March 27.
The dedication of our members on the picket lines and in other essential strike duties over the last three weeks is working, and we have finally seen real movement from the Employer on the principle of indexation. But they must do more to address the issues facing Unit 3 and international students. We thank members for their hard work and support on the picket lines and we ask that you continue to stand with us as we bargain for a better deal.