After an 11-month battle, on April 4, 2016, CUPE 3903 signed a settlement with York University which resolves the matter of tuition offset in the union’s favour. During the April 4 SGMM, the membership voted to accept the settlement offer. The settlement modifies the language of Letters of Intent 1 an 6 (in the Unit 3 and Unit 1 collective agreements, respectively) to reflect the union’s demands, guarantees that this language will apply to all incoming members, and sets out the means by which international members paying the increased tuition fees will be reimbursed. The text of the full settlement is available here: Memorandum of Settlement on Tuition Offset.
In March 2015, CUPE 3903 went on strike to secure — among other provisions — new language that would protect tuition indexation, which we have had in our collective agreements (CAs) since 2001. The intent of this language was to prevent tuition hikes from eroding our salaries by demanding that York increases our funding whenever they increase tuition. Mere months after returning back to work, York revealed that it was counting several different sources (scholarships, RAships, etc) towards the offset, resulting in a marked decrease in income for international members. The union has always maintained that if the offset is paid out through scholarships, for example, it should be through an increase in scholarships.
When the employer reached out about a settlement, they wanted to pay the offset through a fellowship, while the union wanted it paid through the GFA. The resulting compromise is that the offset will be paid through as a “dedicated amount” (i.e. not from other sources like scholarships or research assistantships) that will be treated as if it were the GFA (i.e. calculated and added to student account every semester). This resolves the conflict over which we applied for arbitration, namely that the employer would count non-salary funding towards the offset. Additionally, the settlement excludes increases in Graduate Financial Assistance (GFA) from counting towards the offset.
While this was a hard-fought win, we need to keep in mind that it took 11 months to secure a provision that had been in our collective agreements for years. In addition, the fight isn’t over; York’s next move is to decimate Unit 3, something we must oppose with all of our energy and creativity, just like we did to protect tuition indexation.
For more information on the settlement and the timeline of negotiations, check out the Tuition Offset Arbitration FAQ.