February 5 Bargaining Report: Employer Tries to Divide Units

On Monday, February 5, the bargaining team for CUPE 3903 Units 1, 2, and 3 met with the employer. This was the first bargaining meeting we have had without the Ministry of Labour-appointed conciliator since we entered conciliation. The employer made us wait for three hours, and the conversations were sadly much less productive than last Thursday. Most alarmingly, the employer appears to be trying to separate the Units by being much more accommodating about Unit 1 than Units 2 and 3.

Most of the proposal documents which have been tabled so far are available on the Reports page.

Employer Proposal For Unit 1 Doesn’t Address Summer Funding

The employer tabled a proposal for Unit 1 funding that addresses some but not all of our concerns. It preserves the text of Letter of Intent 6 (tuition indexation) and most of the language of the Letter of Agreement: Additional Funding for Priority Pool Members (the minimum guarantee).

This is a step in the right direction, but the language still does not restore summer funding, nor does it include a Letter of Agreement which would set out the amounts and distribution of the York Fellowship.

Perhaps most importantly, the employer’s refusal to deal with Unit 2 and Unit 3 are part of a larger pattern to shift work out of the union. This will have serious impacts on Unit 1 work. The language that was tabled still does not prevent the employer from weakening the priority pool and therefore robbing PhD students of six years of funding. All three Units must present a united front against these changes, which our bargaining team continues to do.

Employer Insults Unit 2 Members

The bargaining team waited three hours for the employer to come to the bargaining table to discuss Unit 2 job security proposals. What resulted was a discussion which was deemed insulting by many of our members.

The employer’s justification for promoting Contractually-Limited Appointments (CLAs) over tenure-track conversions was that members of Unit 2 did not, in fact, desire tenure-stream appointments. When it was pointed out to the employer that our bargaining survey results indicated the opposite, they claimed to have determined this from the teaching intensity numbers. Teaching intensity, for most Unit 2s, is not a choice. Many members of Unit 2 would love to teach at a higher intensity, but York will not let them. Therefore, how this can be a measure of our members’ desired work is completely baffling.

The employer is also holding firm on their position on qualifications. When asked how it can be reasonable for the same position to have different qualifications when posted in Unit 1 and Unit 2, the employer encouraged the union to simply grieve and take these matters to arbitration. We have an opportunity to resolve these problems, right now at the bargaining table, instead of forcing individuals to go through a months-long legal process for a single teaching appointment. York needs to bargain, not defer responsibility.

Furthermore, when asked what makes a member of Unit 2 not qualified to teach a course after the 36 month period of incumbency has elapsed, while tenure-track professors would still be considered qualified, the employer made some disparaging statements regarding the commitment of our members to teaching. For someone to teach at the same university for often ten or fifteen years, always on a short-term contract, is a startling show of commitment. York should show more respect to the contract faculty who do a large portion of teaching.

Employer Willing to Talk Equity for Unit 3, Nothing on Jobs

In a previous meeting, the union asked the conciliator to communicate to the employer that we wanted hiring equity language to also apply to Unit 3 (Graduate Assistants). The employer was unwilling to do this, stating that there is no hiring unit from which to gather data. When presented with situations in which there can be said to be a hiring unit in Unit 3, the employer indicated that they will consider this and table equity language that could apply to Unit 3.

Hopefully the language tabled will be adequate. However, all of this is still skirting around the issue: the decimation of Unit 3, where more than 700 jobs were cut, depriving graduate students of access to funds, benefits, union protections, and job experience, as the work is being shifted into non-unionized labour. This has also freed up many Master’s students to take Teaching Assistantships which would previously have been taught by PhD students or members of contract faculty. Master’s students do not get the same minimum guarantee funding as PhD students, and are not entitled to more years of funding (whereas a PhD student who enters the priority pool by accepting a TA gets almost 6 years of funding, instead of 4). Fighting for Unit 3 is fighting for the integrity of jobs across the three units.

TODAY: ‘Red Lines’ General Membership Meeting: February 6

Following the 85% strike mandate vote, the bargaining team is asking CUPE 3903’s membership to give them more direction in the form of “red lines”, i.e. what we won’t settle without. This meeting will take place at 5:00 pm on February 6 in Vari Lecture Hall A.