What is the Future of Job Stability at York?

The Job Stability Joint Committee (JSJC) has been meeting since Fall 2021 with the mandate of developing a new job stability program. After almost two years of efforts, including extending the timelines a year beyond our original end date, we have not been able to reach an agreement with the employer.

This means that the Unit 2 membership has some important decisions to make regarding the future of job security at York and how the work of the JSJC will fit into the current round of bargaining. This post is meant to provide the context necessary for all members to participate in these discussions.

Why Job Stability?

Precarious employment is and has historically been the biggest issue faced by contract faculty at York. Through decades of bargaining, CUPE 3903 has been able to negotiate a few programs that were designed to provide some stability to members, if not security. For example, the Long Service Teaching Appointments (LSTAs) provide a limited number of high-seniority members with guaranteed workload for a few years, while the Continuing Standing Sessional Program (CSSP) is meant to give medium-seniority members a small payout if their teaching intensity drops.

We fight to maintain these programs as much as we fight to win them in the first place. Implementing the programs that do exist is always a struggle, as the Employer often cites a lack of departmental teaching needs or a shortage of qualified candidates to circumvent their commitments under these programs. We know that a meaningful job security program must have low barriers to entry for these reasons, as well as to address the documented evidence that our members are reluctant to apply to programs where applications seem designed to be intimidating.

Every round of bargaining, job security is a priority: the goal is to develop a program that will address this once and for all.

The Work of the Job Stability Committee

In the 2020-21 bargaining round, the Union agreed to try something new to address job security: a joint committee with the employer, chaired and facilitated by a trusted mediator, that would be tasked with developing a new job stability program for contract faculty. While initially members of the 2020 bargaining team were skeptical of a joint committee, the Union ultimately agreed to it in the hopes that we could make progress between rounds of bargaining.

Back in September of 2021, the mediator, Chris Albertyn, started us off with an exercise to establish the pillars of the program. From there, the union members of the committee consulted with the membership and elaborated priorities and proposals for the new program.

The goal of the union was to protect seniority while promoting equity. We designed a direct entry stream for early career scholars who are members of equity groups, as well as multiple professional development programs including automatic research leaves and funds for mentorship. We tried to approach the design of the program as increasing stability at every career level. To that end, one element we were willing to entertain was a lower cap of 3.0 for new members of Unit 2. Our thinking was that a lower cap would be positively offset by greater certainty and a higher regular course load, while also achieving the goal of redistributing work to lower seniority members.

Over many months of mediated discussions we achieved agreement with the Employer on some of the basic infrastructure of the program. The program would consist of:

  • Renewable terms of five years
  • A minimum workload
  • A new cap of 3.0, with grandparenting of the current 5.5 cap for those already in the bargaining unit
  • The majority of Unit 2 teaching to eventually exist within the program
  • Access to new and existing professional development opportunities
  • A direct entry stream for early career scholars who are members of equity-seeking groups
  • A severance payment for those exiting the program
  • A new committee for the Union and the Employer to jointly oversee the program

However, outside of these items, the Employer’s approach seemed engineered to entrench and normalize precarity, and they showed little appreciation for our innovative programs designed to support teaching excellence. Their proposed eligibility criteria are highly restrictive, the guaranteed workload is minuscule, the appointments process is opaque, there are no meaningful improvements on pension and retirement benefits, and there is reluctance to let us manage and redistribute existing funds as we deem most appropriate for our members.

In April 2023, after the process had stalled for several months, we laid out several key priorities that we felt the Employer must address in order for us to continue participating in the joint committee:

  1. Eligibility for the program should not be restricted only to those who do Type 1 work (i.e., course directors). Unit 2 members hold other types of positions, including tutorial leaders, studio instructors, and lab demonstrators. If these work classifications are discounted, many long-serving members might not have access to this job stability program
  2. Seniority must be respected in appointing eligible members to courses within the program. The Employer’s proposals consistently leave out a candidate’s Applicable Prior Experience (APE) count, preferring to decide course appointments and program renewals on the basis of the Employer’s subjective view of ‘academic qualifications’. An appointments process that is not tied to seniority could be unfair and nontransparent.
  3. A reasonable guaranteed teaching intensity. The Employer’s proposals promise a workload between 2 and 3 full courses, but we’d like them to increase the minimum to a level that is at least livable. There is also evidence from other programs that when the entitlement is stated as a range in the collective agreement, the Employer seldom exceeds the minimum stated obligation.
  4. The Continuing Sessional Standing Program (CSSP) must continue. It is still undecided how quickly this new program will be rolled out, which means that not all members will get access right away. In the meantime, we want members to continue to enjoy the moderate security afforded by the CSSP.

Unfortunately, what we have seen from the Employer since April 2023 barely addresses these points.

What’s Next?

On July 4, 2023, the mediator sent both parties his proposal for a program and has offered to continue his work with us if we wish. Neither the Employer nor the Union has agreed to this proposal. What we need to decide now is whether we want to continue workshopping the program in the joint committee or consider other options, most notably bargaining.

What’s in the Mediator’s Proposal?

In addition to the elements already agreed upon, the mediator’s proposal we received this July makes some suggestions to resolve the items on which we are apart:

  • Eligibility for those who have taught at least 1 FCE in one of the last three years at York.
  • A workload of 2-3 FCEs
  • A payment of 30-50% for cancelled courses.
  • The CSSP would continue until both parties agree to end it, and in the meantime members would be able to apply to both programs on one application.
  • A commitment to deliver either 50% or 70% of Type 1 FCEs in Unit 2 by September 2040.

This chart shows some of the major areas where we are still apart, and the suggestions the mediator has made to resolve those differences.

Last Union Proposal Mediator’s Suggestion (July 4) Last Employer Proposal
Eligibility Teaching intensity of 1.5 FCEs in each of the last 3 years / 1.0 FCEs in each of the last 3 years for members of EE groups Of the 1.5 FCEs in each of the last 3 years, must have 1.0 FCE Type 1 work in 1 of the
previous 3 years at York / EE TBD
Teaching intensity of 1.5 Type 1 FCEs in each of the last 3 years / 1.0 Type 1 FCEs for members of EE groups / average intensity of 1.0 Type 1 FCEs in each of the last 3 years where the last year is at least 1.5 Type 1 FCEs
Note: carveouts proposed for some those who don’t exclusively work Type 1 positions
Appointments To be based on teaching needs, with consideration of applicant’s file, equitable representation, and Applicable Prior Experience (APE) To be based on Type 1 teaching needs, with consideration of applicant’s file, equitable representation, and Applicable Prior Experience (APE)
Terms and Renewals 3 terms of 5 years each. One additional renewal for employees in the Bargaining Unit before Sept. 2023. No limit on renewals for employees in the Bargaining Unit before Sept. 2013
Workload At least 2.5 FCEs 2-3 FCEs 2-3 FCEs
Professional Development 75 hours per program period 25 hours of paid training in each program period Up to 20 hours total
Exiting the Program Severance payments ranging from 2.0-3.0 FCEs Severance payments ranging from 1.0-2.5 FCEs
Program Rollout Least discussed set of elements, with many different possible approaches; our goals remain clarity for members, ease of access, and expeditious rollout.

Some elements include 2024 start of program (including direct stream); and synchronized phase-out of CSSP.

50% or 70% of the FCEs available in unit 2 must be delivered via the program by Sept. 2040.

The CSSP should be changed so that there is one JSP application process for both JSP and CSSP applications, with the CSSP working as a backup.

Unclear how the rollout would co-exist with other programs and collective agreement entitlements

The Options

We are now officially in bargaining, so if we do continue to negotiate this program, we need to decide if we would continue with the JSC for some limited amount of time, work on job stability at the bargaining table, which might be at a “side table,” may or may not involve the mediator’s assistance, and could start from different versions of the proposed job stability program. In other words, we have several options for further discussion at the August 10 SGMM and possibly at the August 24 GMM. The pros and cons of these options will be discussed in more detail at the SGMM.

  1. Continue with the JSC
  2. Take the mediator’s proposal to the bargaining table as a regular bargaining item
  3. Take the mediator’s proposal to the bargaining table as a “side-table” item
  4. Reject the mediator’s proposal and take the union’s last position to the bargaining table as a regular bargaining item
  5. Develop entirely new proposals for bargaining.

What is the best way to continue this work? What is the best way for the rank and file to advance these negotiations? How do these options shape or interact with our overall strategy in bargaining? Come to the August 10 SGMM (noon to 3:00pm) to be part of answering these questions! Please register in advance for this meeting here.