Tuition Offset Language Withstands First Test

CUPE 3903 members holding picket signs in support of tuition indexation in March 2015.

CUPE 3903 members holding picket signs in support of tuition indexation in March 2015.

On April 1, 2016, CUPE 3903 signed a settlement with the employer to preserve tuition indexation (now called tuition offset). This settlement was the result of eleven months of protest and negotiation, following the employer’s refusal to respect the brand new tuition offset language, which was the result of a one-month strike in March 2015. The new settlement language was recently put to the test, and proved to be solid. However, we must all remain vigilant to avoid continued erosion of graduate funding.

This long battle had one goal from the start: ensuring that our members’ income is not eroded through increases in tuition. In April, we believed we had finally come to an agreement. However, over the summer, York announced to international students at the Lassonde School of Engineering that they could expect to have their yearly tuition offset payment ($6709.62 for PhD students and $7,534.62 for Master’s students) counted against other sources of funding, such as RAships. This claw-back violates the Memorandum of Settlement agreed upon in April, which states that the offset must be “a dedicated amount of additional funding” that “shall not be offset by a decrease in any other monies otherwise payable to an employee”. Beyond legalities, this attempt to erode funding for international students, again, is reprehensible. While this $6000-$7000 makes a significant difference in our members’ lives, it is but a negligible part of York’s budget. These continued attempts show the employer’s disrespect for its workers and negotiations with CUPE 3903, which were arrived at in good faith on the union side.

The employer delayed for months after the clear violation of the agreement was discovered. The threat of returning to the arbitrator was necessary to get Barry Miller, Executive Director of Faculty Relations, to agree that “for these cohorts of students, they should receive no less than the minimum funding commitment set out in the funding letter provided at the time of their admission to their graduate program plus an amount equivalent to the value of the tuition offset”. This preserves the offset as additional funding to cover tuition increases.

This is good news, but we are not done yet. For one, the employer is delaying yet again on revealing when and how they will release these additional payments. This is despite the provision of a list of affected members within Lassonde on October 19. For another, reports of similar claw-backs in other faculties have begun to trickle in.

If you are an international student member paying higher tuition fees (i.e. cohorts from 2013 and above), please check the amount of funding you project to receive for this year. Any scholarship or RAships you have earned should not be decreased or combined with your tuition offset. Your total funding for the year should, at a minimum, be equal to the sum of your minimum funding guaranteed in your offer letter, salary increases (1.5% per year for 2014 to 2016), and the tuition offset.

If you believe your funding has been clawed back or you have any questions, contact