November 27 Bargaining Report: Graduate Funding and Health & Safety

On Monday, November 27, the bargaining team for CUPE 3903 Units 1, 2, and 3 met with the employer. Overall, it was a disappointing session, with more bad behaviour from the employer’s bargaining team, and a complete refusal to deal with Unit 3.

Unfortunately, we must begin yet another bargaining report by condemning the behaviour of York’s lawyer, Simon Mortimer. Since we began bargaining, he has been reminded on several occasions not to interrupt members of our bargaining team — specifically women. This week, he took it a step further, arguing vehemently for his right to interrupt. When the BT chair did not allow it, the employer called the conversation to a halt and left the room. Mortimer later explicitly refused to apologize for his behaviour.

This behaviour is obviously unacceptable. The employer keeps emphasizing “respect”, yet can’t seem to follow basic rules of respectful conversation. How much is York paying this man to disrespect our bargaining team and waste our time? Enough theatrics; let’s bargain.

A comparative table of proposals and responses has been prepared by the bargaining team: Bargaining Proposals and Responses up to November 27. All of the proposal documents which have been tabled so far are available on the Reports page, with the exception of employer proposals from the last meeting, which will be added as soon as we receive digital copies.

Unit 1 Funding: A Solution to the Fellowship Model

The Unit 1 bargaining team presented the union’s proposal for Unit 1 funding. The intent of this proposal is to find a workable compromise with York’s Fellowship funding model. The proposal reaffirms the language of the minimum guarantee, limits the clawing-back of scholarships and funding from additional work into the fellowship model, and explicitly includes the fellowship model in the Unit 1 collective agreement. The employer has made it exceedingly clear that they want to go forward with their funding model; to meet them halfway, the union insists that funding must be guaranteed in the collective agreement so that it cannot be arbitrarily changed.

Most importantly, the union’s proposal would secure year-round funding, paid monthly, with an exception clause for members who benefit from receiving the fellowship funding model in three installments.

Unfortunately, it was while discussing Unit 1 funding that the employer opted to leave the room rather than wait for their turn to speak. Nonetheless, it appears that York will continue to push for their own Unit 1 funding proposal. Considering the many problems with their proposal, we encourage the employer to seriously consider the union’s Unit 1 funding proposal.

Employer Continues to Disrespect Unit 3

The Unit 3 bargaining team presented a proposal which would reverse the decimation of the Unit. In 2016, York unilaterally cut almost 700 jobs — or 90% of the unit — by detaching funding from work, shifting jobs into volunteer positions or non-unionized RAs, and actively discouraging faculty from hiring GAs out of their own grants by artificially inflating the benefits cost to 80% of the contract. This is a clear case of union-busting, and an Unfair Labour Practices suit has been filed with the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

The proposal asks for a minimum of 700 Unit 3 positions, which would be less than what was routinely available prior to the fellowship model. It would also apply penalties when the employer is caught paying out GA work as a non-unionized RA, and would cap the benefit surcharge to reflect the actual costs of benefits.

While we were not expecting the employer to agree wholeheartedly with this proposal, they did not ask questions or even acknowledge that they had heard it. Our bargaining team was met with silence and blank stares — an obvious power play. Rather than play this disrespectful game, York should keep in mind that the Unfair Labour Practice suit is currently in abeyance specifically so that we could come to a bargained agreement. If York continues to refuse to engage, the union will have no choice but to explore various other pressure methods.

Health and Safety Proposals

The union’s Co-Chair to the Joint Health and Safety Committee presented proposals to include guaranteed timelines and penalties for late responses to health and safety issues, as well as training and payment of Health and Safety Committee members. The Joint Health and Safety Committee is not meeting the minimum number of times every year and health and safety issues are not addressed in a timely manner. Keeping our workplaces safe should be a high priority for any employer.

Next Meeting

The next bargaining meeting will take place on Monday, December 4, beginning at 10 am in the Harry Crowe room (109 Atkinson). CUPE 3903 operates under the principles of open bargaining, which means members are always welcome to attend whenever and for however long they can, participate in caucuses, and pass notes to the bargaining team. You can also follow our live-tweets of bargaining on Twitter.