After many months of negotiations following the April 11 mediation date, CUPE 3903’s Unfair Labour Practice (ULP) suit has been placed in abeyance. This means that the Ontario Labour Board, as well as both parties, have agreed not to hold hearings on this matter for the time being, so that we can focus on bargaining. As per the agreement, once we are in a strike or lock-out position, the matter can be brought before the Board once again. This means that York is on notice: bargain in good faith or this ULP will return, right as tensions are highest.
More information on the ULP is available below.
What is an Unfair Labour Practices (ULP) complaint?
A ULP is filed by either party in a labour dispute (i.e. either the union or the employer) to allege a violation of the Labour Relations Act, which is provincial legislation. Whereas a grievance is filed against an employer when a breach of the collective agreement occurs, a ULP is much more serious. It means that one of the parties is acting in bad faith and in an illegal manner. Both parties in such a complaint make submissions to the Labour Relations Board to show (or disprove) the allegations. There are usually hearings following the provision of written submissions. The Board then rules on the merits of the case, i.e. whether any of the parties have in fact violated the Labour Relations Act. The Board also decides on the remedy that is appropriate.
The CUPE 3903 ULP complaint
In September 2016, York rolled out their new funding model, thereby eliminating approximately 690 jobs from Unit 3 (Graduate Assistants) (around 90% of the unit). This move robbed hundreds of graduate students of our excellent health benefits package, as well as access to many funds (e.g. Ways and Means Fund, Professional Development Fund, Childcare Fund, Trans Fund, etc.) and valuable work experience. Following a rigorous process of consultations with lawyers and information gathering, CUPE National filed the ULP on February 15, 2017.The main points of the ULP as it was filed are:
- Cutting 90% of the bargaining unit is specifically meant to weaken the union (i.e. union-busting)
- The shift from 15% to 80% surcharge to hire a Graduate Assistant is designed to discourage faculty from hiring graduate students in unionized positions.
- The changes are arbitrary and unilateral, showing disregard for good-faith bargaining.
On June 1, CUPE 3903 served Notice to Bargain to the employer, which means we are officially in bargaining. The bargaining team has been working hard compiling data from bargaining surveys, and framing bargaining proposals, the second set of which will be approved at the July 26 GMM.
This is not to say that we should or will let the ULP drop. It is one of many tools with which to pressure the employer to treat our members and the York community at large equitably. But it does mean that these two processes can and should influence each other: the more powerful our bargaining presence, the more political power we have to bear overall, including in legal processes like the ULP.