In the wee hours of January 10, the Unit 4 bargaining team reached a tentative deal for their first collective agreement. Unit 4, a unit that represents part-time librarians and archivists, certified in January 2015 and began bargaining in November 2015. Details of the tentative agreement are forthcoming, and, as always, there is no deal unless the membership of Unit 4 votes to ratify it.
The Unit 4 bargaining team showed a truly impressive level of patience in the face of York’s intransigence. In the course of last night’s negotiations, on wages alone, Unit 4 moved by $8.06/h, while the employer’s total moves amount to $1.31/h. This shows not only how far apart the parties were, but also which side was most willing to truly negotiate to reach a settlement.
Aside from wages, the two largest remaining issues were the extension of health benefits to cover temporary gaps in a member’s contract and the duration of the agreement — the union wanted a two year contract, while the employer insisted on three years. We moved on the duration with the understanding that giving York something they wanted so much would cause them to be more reasonable on wages. These expectations of fair exchange was shattered when Barry “Three Strikes” Miller, Executive Director well-known for forcing the other three units of CUPE 3903 out on strike three times through his intransigence, replied by saying that they wouldn’t discuss wages unless the union side went down further first.
In the last three hours of bargaining, the difference in wages which was inched at slowly amounted to one dollar. Barry Miller insisted on haggling at pennies into the early hours of the morning, while paying the university’s lawyer exorbitant amounts. Bargaining has been going on for sixteen months. The total cost of a fair agreement for the 20 people in Unit 4 could easily have been covered by the legal fees expended to prevent them from being treated with the dignity and respect their profession warrants. Meanwhile, administrators like Barry Miller make excessive salaries of their own.
A tentative deal may have been reached, but this is a time to shame York for everything it took to get here: the time, energy, and amazing patience of the bargaining team; and the sacrifices made despite the fact that Unit 4 deserves so much more respect from the administration. There is nothing fair about putting the price of a first agreement so high.