Report from the First Bargaining Meeting

Members of CUPE 3903 stand with a banner reading "York Works Because We Do" at the September 25 bargaining meeting.

On Monday, September 25, the CUPE 3903 bargaining team representing Unit 1 (Teaching Assistants), Unit 2 (Contract Faculty), and Unit 3 (Graduate Assistants) met with the employer for the first bargaining meeting. Prior, the bargaining team (BT) and employer had an introductory meeting on August 29.

Present for the employer were Simon Mortimer (legal counsel), Rob Lawson (Associate Director, Faculty Relations), Noura Shaw (Associate Director, Faculty Relations), Lyndon Martin (Dean, Faculty of Education), Kate McPherson (Associate Dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies) and Mario Verrilli (Executive Officer, Faculty of Graduate Studies). The employer appears to have contracted out the role of lead negotiator to the lawyer, Simon Mortimer. This role used to belong to Barry Miller, who is still calling the shots from his new position as Senior Policy Advisor. As of yet, the other members of the employer’s bargaining team do not appear to have much say.

The employer’s team was vastly outnumbered by the approximately 37 CUPE 3903 members in the room. Thank you to everyone who attended! Open bargaining is our biggest strength. All members are encouraged to attend bargaining meetings.

Presentation of Priorities

The BT had prepared a slideshow laying out the results of our bargaining surveys, and the priorities and issues that emerged from them. Some highlights include:

  • A heavy emphasis on the need for job security and its effect on undergraduate educational outcomes.
  • Over 70% of respondents feel that the lack of summer funding causes them hardship. The fellowship funding model must be brought into the collective agreement.
  • Communications between the employer and membership is broken.
  • Unit 3 jobs must be restored to ensure accessible and equitable graduate education.
  • Equity and accessibility must be treated more seriously by the university.
  • Increases to the cost of living have outpaced the salary increases negotiated in the last contract.
  • In the last year, York has posted a surplus of $23.3 Million, and can clearly afford a fair deal.

You can see the full presentation here: CUPE 3903 bargaining opening presentation.

The BT had invited rank-and-file members to help present the slides. We are disappointed that the employer felt that this was inappropriate. As the new contracts will apply to all members, it is a matter of course that all members have a say. We remain committed to the principles of open bargaining and the presentation was delivered by the membership as planned.

Markham Campus

The employer continues to insist that union representation at the planned Markham Campus is not an issue on which we should bargain. We respectfully disagree and the issue will be brought the membership for further planning and discussion.

For a full explanation of the issue surrounding the Markham Campus, please see the report from the August 29 meeting.

Disclosure Requests

As it had been clearly stated at the August 29 introductory meeting, the BT does not feel it can present concrete proposals until the employer has provided the full disclosure request. This information is needed in order to formulate coherent, fact-based bargaining proposals. Therefore, no proposals were presented at this meeting. This should not have been a surprise to the employer, who had been warned back in August that we could not proceed without this information.

Overall, we are disappointed with the aggressive and uncooperative tone that the employer has taken from the outset. While it is no secret that the union and the university’s positions are far apart, and that disagreements will likely be intense, that is no reason to begin by disrespecting rank-and-file membership involvement, talking down to members of the bargaining team, and obfuscating the issue of the Markham Campus and disclosures. We remain hopeful that the next meeting can set a more cooperative tone going forward.

The next bargaining meeting will be Monday, October 16, Location TBA.