BT Response to the Employer’s Latest Offer

Unit 1 and 3 representatives of the CUPE 3903 bargaining team have rejected the employer’s latest offer. The following sets out the reasons for this decision, which are in keeping with the direction that the bargaining team has so far received from the membership.

1. Is this a new offer?

This offer is simply a reiteration of past offers which were ultimately rejected by the bargaining team and membership. Re-sending the same offer with changed deadlines does not mean York is sending new offers. The employer’s strategy appears to be trying to overwhelm the membership with information while also forcing the bargaining team to re-engage with previously rejected offers. On June 2, the bargaining team worked relentlessly to provide the employer with a framework for settlement that removed what they had identified as barriers to settlement. This sizeable movement was not answered in kind by the employer.

2. Inclusion of the Fellowship Model in the Collective Agreement

The employer continues to refuse to include a Letter of Intent which would enshrine the Graduate Fellowship funding model into the collective agreement (CA). This Letter would clarify the amounts of the Fellowship payments, establish protections for Master’s students who are also Unit 1 members, and provide protections from clawbacks. York’s refusal to include the Fellowship model in the CA is very concerning because it means they can continue to make arbitrary changes to our funding without consultation. We are not willing to let a third-party arbitrator decide on this matter. In similar arbitrated decisions, such as the CUPE 3902 (University of Toronto) strike in 2015, third-party arbitrators normally uphold the employer’s position, which is that student and employment funding are two separate matters. The employer’s perspective on graduate student funding is exceptionally problematic considering that our status in the priority pool, which guarantees our six years of student funding, is guaranteed through the acceptance of a TAship and inherently tied to work.

3. Priority-Pool Extensions on all Human Rights Code-Based Grounds

The bargaining team is not willing to send the issue of 2-year priority pool extensions based on all code-based grounds to a third-party arbitrator. Unit 1 members used to receive 2-year priority pool extensions on disability-based grounds. The employer began denying these extensions to members during the last contract period and have refused to address it in this round of bargaining. The bargaining team will not tolerate this blatant attack on some of the union’s most vulnerable members and we are absolutely astounded the employer would not agree to something they had done previously.

4. Graduate Assistant Protections

The bargaining team is not willing to send Proposal 48, which is the proposal meant to establish some protections for Unit 3, to arbitration. The removal of Graduate Assistant and Research Assistant opportunities was a strategic move by the employer to reduce administrative costings. We have not had any meaningful dialogue or seen movement on the subject of Proposal 48 from York this bargaining round. Instead, the continual obfuscation of the subject by claiming that bargaining for Unit 3 members via graduate and research assistant opportunities is out of scope has been a barrier to settlement for Unit 3.

5. Technology Language

This employer is still proposing to delete paragraphs from the CA which give tutorial leaders autonomy over technology and the usage of email as a mode of communication with students. Deleting clauses from the CA is a concession plain and simple and while the bargaining team is aware that many TAs do use email extensively, we wish to reserve the right to set the email policy and not face disciplinary action for engaging with technology in a way that the tutorial leader deems makes pedagogical sense. The bargaining team is not willing to let a third-party arbitrator decide whether or not to delete clauses from the CA.

6. Reprisals and Remediation

The offer does not adequately protect our members and allies from reprisals from the employer. Members have already been contacted about Code of Conduct violations for sending mildly mean tweets to a public figure’s public Twitter account, an action construed as contributing to an ‘unsafe’ workplace. If this is the line York is willing to draw, anyone who participated in any kind of strike duty or strike support (on the picket line or online) is open to employer reprisals under the return-to-work protocol in this offer. The employer’s inclusion of reprisal language for undergraduates in this offer does not offer any real protection but instead should be read as a guarantee that they will persecute undergraduates and York employees under York Policy who have shown the union solidarity during the strike. Additionally, the employer has refused to clarify whether or not Unit 1 members will receive remediation pay if their courses continued and were completed during the strike. Since Unit 2 ratified, we now can confirm that remediation will not begin until July 23, which negates the employer’s threats of diminishing returns in relation to remediation.