York Walks Out of Funding Model Meeting

On April 13, 2016, CUPE 3903 attended a meeting requested by the employer to discuss the new “fellowship” funding model. Despite our considerable disagreements, we are disappointed and disturbed that the employer, led by Provost Rhonda Lenton, felt it was appropriate to walk out of the meeting after little more than 20 minutes when members got upset that she was unable to answer hard questions about this fellowship plan.

The crux of the issue is the gutting of Unit 3. Under the new model, funding requirements would be met through a fellowship, and the vast majority of Graduate Assistantships (GAs) would be eliminated. This means that hundreds of graduate students, especially Masters students, would be forcibly removed from the bargaining unit and unable to access our health benefits, funds for emergencies, conferences, and childcare, program extensions for students with disabilities, and much more. It is difficult to understand how the employer thinks that this would “enhance the graduate experience”, their stated goal.

This union-busting is cause enough to be unhappy with the employer. To add insult to injury, the employer arrived late to the meeting and were not at all prepared to discuss the details of how the plan will be implemented in just four months. It became clear very quickly that Lenton, who was leading the meeting, does not understand how the CUPE 3903 and YUGSA health care plans work, despite the fact that we have been demanding answers regarding alternate health care since January. York appears so confident that Graduate Assistants will be effectively eliminated that they did not provide a single scenario to show how their new model will fit with these positions. The Provost proceeded to insult the work that our members do for this university by calling them “make work” projects (and yet they still claim that this work is onerous enough to impede academic progress) and yell at our Chairperson to “control” rank-and-file members.

Due to the employer’s attempt to avoid answering the hard questions, we are raising some of our key questions and concerns publicly:

  1. Who will perform the work that over 800 Graduate Assistants currently provide?
  2. Will Faculty members be solely responsible for funding GAs in the future? Why are such positions being subject to an additional 80% surcharge on top of any wages?
  3. How will the fellowship model provide students with adequate healthcare coverage?
  4. Our minimum guarantee exists to ensure that U1 members in the priority pool receive income throughout the year. The fellowship model would leave members with no income in the summer months. How will York meet its collective agreement obligation to provide a minimum guaranteed income for the summer months?
  5. What provisions will be made for students with disabilities who would be entitled to a funded extension of program time limits under our collective agreements?

We impatiently wait for the employer to answer our questions and take responsibility for the consequences of their funding model without fleeing the scene once more.