January 15 Bargaining Report: Employer Tables Another Concession

On Monday, January 15, the bargaining team for CUPE 3903 Units 1, 2, and 3 met with the employer and the conciliator appointed by the Ministry of Labour, Greg Long.

The bargaining team has prepared a comparative table of the proposals: Bargaining Proposals and Responses up to January 15. All of the proposal documents which have been tabled so far are available on the Reports page.

We are very disappointed that no substantive bargaining has occurred since October. The employer seems to be investing more resources and energy into a misleading PR campaign than negotiating. It is becoming increasingly clear that without a show of strength, CUPE 3903 will be forced to accept concessionary contracts.

Employer Refuses to Provide Information

In the morning, the union’s bargaining team requested some data with which to evaluate the employer’s proposals: the median income for Unit 2 members, the number of Unit 2 members teaching at the cap, and the number of Master’s students with a TAship, all for last academic year. The employer’s response has been overall negative. As accurate information is an essential part of good faith bargaining, the union hopes that the employer will reconsider their stance.

Employer Counter Includes Concessions

The union’s bargaining team was informed that the employer would have comprehensive responses ready by 12:30. Not only was the document not provided until after 1:30, but the vast majority of the proposals within it had already been seen in previous meetings. No less than six of the proposals had already been signed off upon. The bargaining team characterized this as a complete waste of time. We need real substantive counters, not to wait endlessly for documents that are beefed up with matters that have already been settled.

The employer’s responses can be viewed by Unit: Unit 1, Unit 2, Unit 3.

The few new elements in the employer’s proposal include responses to wages, Nursing proposals, job security proposals, and Unit 3 funding.

Wages Under Inflation

After claiming for many weeks that the employer would offer “reasonable increases in keeping with provincial sector norms”, today they have confirmed that their offer is 1.55% per year. This is both below the Canadian inflation rate (which is currently around 2.1% ) and lower than other increases in the sector.

Deferring Issues in Nursing

On November 20, two members of the School of Nursing came to bargaining specifically to speak to their issues, which have been ongoing for years. The employer has finally responded by suggesting a Letter of Understanding to form a committee to discuss these problems. This is not enough; issues in Nursing have been discussed at length in Labour Management Committee and other official settings. The time to resolve these issues — which put patients at risk and exploit contract faculty members in the School of Nursing — is now, not at some unspecified time in the future.

Further Concessions to Job Security

From the start, as in all previous rounds, the Unit 2 bargaining team has clearly indicated that job security is of the utmost importance for contract faculty. This is why we oppose the reduction of Conversions from 8 to 1, as well as the doubling of the number of tickets. Concerns were also repeatedly raised regarding how York’s manipulation of qualifications is negatively impacting Unit 2 job security. The employer tabled new language for both the Continuing Sessional Standing Program (CSSP) and Long Service Teaching Appointments (LSTAs), neither of which addresses these concerns. In fact, the employer’s proposals would deepen precarity for contract faculty.

The employer proposes the possibility of extending some, but not all, LSTAs from 3 to 5 years, but at the discretion of the department, with no rules or guidelines which would indicate to members what they could expect. CUPE 3903 is proposing to increase the length of LSTAs, but this should not be left to the whims of individual hiring units.

For the CSSP, the employer has suggested “Right of First Refusal” language which would undermine the seniority system which underpins the entire Unit 2 collective agreement. For a program meant to increase job security to undermine the strongest guarantee of work for our members is contradictory to everything the union stands for. We consider this proposal to be concessionary, and not at all a constructive direction for further discussion.

Unit 3 Funding

The employer tabled some new language for Unit 3, in which they match the thrust of their Unit 1 funding proposal, removing the Grant-in-Aid from monthly pay so that it can be rolled into once-a-semester funding. The employer still has not engaged at all with the most important issue for Unit 3, mainly restoring the jobs that were cut in 2016. However, information gathered by the bargaining team through a Freedom of Information request shows that the number of non-unionized RAs skyrocketed the same year that York cut the unionized Graduate Assistant jobs.

Vote YES for a Strong Strike Mandate

The lack of movement and inadequate engagement with bargaining is why we need every member to vote YES in the upcoming Strike Mandate Vote, which will take place January 22-26. Without a strong strike mandate to motivate the employer to bargain, we will be forced to accept concessionary contracts.

We will be bargaining twice a week in January: Mondays and Thursdays. As always, members are welcome to attend, observe, pass notes to the bargaining team, and participate in caucuses.