Report Back – First Bargaining Meeting with the Employer on October 30th (2–5pm)

On Friday, October 30, the CUPE 3903 Bargaining Team (BT) representing Unit 1 (Teaching Assistants, Marker/Graders, Lab Assistants, Tutors), Unit 2 (Contract Faculty), and Unit 3 (Graduate and Research Assistants) met with the Employer for the first time to discuss bargaining content. The meeting took place online on Zoom between 2pm-5pm. Prior to this meeting with the employer, the BT held a meeting on Zoom between 10am-1pm.

At this first bargaining meeting, present for the employer were Dan Bradshaw, (Assistant Vice-President, Faculty Relations), Diane Pestrin (Senior Advisor, Faculty Relations), Gerald Audette (Professor, Chemistry Department), Lyndon Martin (Vice-Provost Academic, Professor, Faculty of Education), Ran Lewin (Assistant Vice-President, Budgets and Asset Management), Leanne De Filippis (Senior Counsel, Labour & Employment), Kate McPherson (Associate Dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies) and Patrick Banville (Executive Officer, Faculty of Graduate Studies). The Employer’s lead negotiator is Dan Bradshaw.

The Bargaining Team would like to thank the over 30 CUPE 3903 members in the room for attending as observers, as per our open bargaining practice.

The following items were discussed at the bargaining meeting:

Zoom security procedures and parameters for bargaining
The BT discussed security procedures for Zoom meetings and our parameters for bargaining, which were approved by the membership. Bargaining parameters can be viewed here. The Employer stated that our bargaining parameters are not binding on the university. The Employer also posed the question of whether or not the parameters are in compliance with the Labour Relations Act. We reminded the Employer that CUPE 3903 has historically adhered to the Labour Relations Act and will continue to do so.

As per the bargaining parameters approved by the membership, all virtual bargaining meetings shall have closed captioning made available for accessibility purposes. The BT proposed that CUPE 3903 can take on the work of setting up and hosting bargaining meetings, and that in exchange, the Employer would cover the total cost of closed captioning. The Employer said they will get back to us about this arrangement.

‘Intensive’ bargaining
The following two items were proposed for the agenda by the employer. The BT approached these items on an information-gathering basis.

Equity proposals
The Employer proposed that in an effort to be more inclusive, we replace the pronoun ‘she’ that has been used in the collective agreements historically with the pronoun “they” and “them.” We asked the Employer to send us this proposal in writing. The Employer also proposed to continue equity work based on an existing report called the 2017-2020 Employment Equity Plan. This report so far consists of items that CUPE 3903 has raised for the Employer to improve its equity commitments, including increased support for BIPOC graduate students and contract faculty, and transparency in hiring.

On May 9, 2019, the Union filed a grievance against the Employer for their continued reluctance to meet with our Employment Equity Committee (EEC) to work on the 2017-2020 Employment Equity Plan. It was not until October 17, 2019 that, through mediation, the Employer finally agreed to regular meetings with our Employment Equity Committee. This series of events in the past has definitely raised doubts about the Employer’s commitment to equity. We are looking forward to seeing the Employer commit to concrete solutions and putting them into action.

Job stability
The BT emphasized the need to address issues around job security as one of the long existing goals of CUPE 3903. The Employer stated that they would explore new forms of job stability programs that keep work within the bargaining unit, rather than focusing on existing programs. The BT made numerous requests for greater clarity in terms of the Employer’s intentions as we were confused about what the Employer meant. The BT asked if existing programs, such as the conversion program, were under threat. We were met with vague responses from the Employer. We requested that the Employer provide all proposals and ideas they are entertaining related to job stability to the BT in writing.

Next meeting
The next bargaining meeting with the employer is scheduled for November 25th. The BT is currently working on writing proposals and will bring them up for a vote at the November GMM, tentatively scheduled for November 16th. We encourage our members to attend both meetings, as well as following the union website for further updates.