The CUPE 3903 Bargaining Team is still waiting for York University to return to the bargaining table. On Tuesday, March 20, the two sides, working through the provincially appointed mediator, had a productive day of bargaining. This is the path toward a settlement. Despite the movement made by both parties, however, the York administration has reverted back to their stance of refusing to bargain. We believe that the York community is looking for both sides to bargain and reach a compromise solution in a timely fashion.
Therefore, despite York’s unwillingness to bargain in good faith, we once again call on York to return to the table. We invite York to do so by March 28. The pass we have made is contingent on York’s return to the table.
We started the process of bargaining three new Collective Agreements last Fall. At that time, our local presented over 100 proposals that were ratified and endorsed by our membership. Bargaining has been slow but progress has been made. Some issues have been agreed upon by the two sides. A few key issues remain outstanding.
CUPE 3903 has repeatedly withdrawn and amended proposals and we have significantly moderated our demands in an attempt to reach a settlement, most recently on March 5 and March 20. Today, we have sent the mediator a revised package of proposals that, again, focus our demands. We feel that York has not demonstrated the same degree of flexibility.
CUPE 3903 has intentionally worked to remove certain proposals which York identified as barriers to a deal. We dropped our proposal to increase to the number of Employment Insurance-recognized hours of work per contract even though many of our members struggle to qualify for Employment Insurance benefits during their frequent periods of unemployment. Despite York’s concern regarding the legality of our proposal for summer access to campus services for Contract Faculty holding Long-Service Teaching Appointments (LSTAs), we worked out a compromise to which both sides have agreed.
CUPE 3903 has repeatedly underlined the key issues that need to be addressed to reach a settlement for all three units in our local. We need stable funding for Unit 1 (Teaching Assistants). We need to maintain and improve elements of job security and work stabilization for Unit 2 (Contract Faculty). We need to address the loss of union rights and protections for graduate students caused by the unilateral elimination of over 800 jobs in Unit 3 (Graduate Assistants). We need to address Equity and Accessibility concerns. We need modest improvements in wages and benefits.
Key Outstanding Issues
Unit 1: Last summer, many Unit 1s went without any funding when York implemented their fellowship funding model without going through the bargaining process. If the fellowship model is how York wants to pay our funding, this model must be included in our collective agreement so that it cannot be unilaterally changed again. Because of the fellowship, for PhD students who are Unit 1s, York can take back the entirety of their minimum guarantee (around $5400) from money earned through scholarships, research assistantships, or other forms of funding. Master’s students who are Unit 1 members get their fellowship funding cut by almost half. The union wants to enshrine protections into our collective agreement so that what you earn, you get to keep. Despite York saying they have restored the possibility of monthly summer funding, they introduced language that excluded summer funding from the forms of funding that are protected from being applied to tuition without the member’s consent. This means York could claw back parts of monthly summer funding and use it to pay tuition.
Unit 2: In the current Unit 2 Collective Agreement there are various elements that deal with our members’ job security. As precarious contract workers we are seeking some modest improvements. The issues of qualifications language, the Continuing Sessional Standing Program, Conversions, Long-Service Teaching Appointments and Special Renewable Contracts all relate to the stabilization of work for Contract Faculty. York’s insistence on attacking the existing Conversion program (from 8 a year down to 2) is a major barrier to a deal. We have significantly reduced our Conversion proposal from automatic Conversions to 20 Conversions (or 20% of the tenure-track hires) per year to 15 (or 15% of tenure track hires) per year. These job security issues are complex. Conversions are one issue, but they are not the only issue. We are seeking to build upon existing programs in our Collective Agreement to provide a degree of stability and predictability in our members’ teaching workloads.
Unit 3: We believe the union’s proposal 48 (Graduate Assistant jobs) is absolutely appropriate and within scope. This is a core issue the union identified to the employer several months ago. The union believes it must be bargained at the table, as the employer’s last counter does not address any of the key issues.
Equity: Our members have identified the need to achieve a Sexual Violence Survivor Fund. We have significantly reduced the financial component of this proposal from $100,000 to $50,000. We are seeking an Anti-Racism Fund and data collection to work toward equity, diversity, anti-racism, and inclusion at York University. We are also trying to obtain a much-needed increase to the operating funds for the Lee Wiggins (Student Centre) Childcare Centre. Our members also identified the need for breastfeeding facilities, accommodations procedures for all members, and up to a two-year of priority pool extension for PhD students based on all Ontario Human Rights Code-based grounds.
Benefits: We have significantly reduced our demands around improving benefits. At this point, we are seeking to include up to $1000 coverage for orthodontics and modest improvements to vision care and paramedical benefits. These are changes that would bring our members up to parity with other employees at York.
On a number of issues, the two sides are not far apart. Where significant distance exists between the two parties, we believe that both sides must be willing to reach compromise solutions. CUPE 3903 would be willing to discuss such compromises if York returns to the table and demonstrates a willingness to work toward a settlement.
We believe that if the two sides return to bargaining determined to work out a deal to return undergraduate students to the classroom, we can do it. We invite the York administration to return to the bargaining table as soon as possible to work with us to reach a fair deal.