Employer’s Silence Speaks Volumes as Strike Deadline Looms
January 29-February 2 Bargaining Team Report
As negotiations go into their eighth month, the Union’s bargaining team is frustrated to hear no clear offers or answers from the Employer.
Union requests No Board report from conciliators, initiating strike countdown
The Bargaining Team for Units 1, 2, and 3 closed out January by formally requesting a “no board” report from the conciliator. This report from the Ministry of Labour initiates a 17-day countdown to a strike deadline, at which point the Union can take strike action or the Employer can lock out its workers. The no board has since been issued on February 5th, marking February 22nd as the first possible legal strike date.
As we enter this next stage, the Bargaining Team has been remotivating our key priorities at the table in the hopes that we can get an acceptable offer from the Employer by mid-February. To be ready if our best efforts do not yield an offer we would recommend to the membership for ratification, we are working alongside the executive committee and the rank-and-file membership to be able to initiate a strike.
Mark your calendar for upcoming membership meetings to determine how and when we escalate. Meeting dates and links can be found on the CUPE 3903 website calendar.
Minimal Engagement on Equity Proposals
On Friday, February 2, the Union brought counter proposals on Articles 4, 6, and 7. Articles 6 and 7 concern the grievance and arbitration processes. The employer wanted to lower the number of steps in the grievance process as well as shorten timelines. the union agreed to the former, but absolutely refuses to shorten the already tight timelines within which member can grieve. Article 4 is concerned with discrimination and harassment. The counter includes some agreed-upon language between the Employer and Union, but it rejects the Employer’s proposal to replace any reference to “grievances” with “complaints.” Through the grievance process, 3903 members have many protections that would be lost with a shift to a “complaints” model. We also pushed the employer to respond to our proposals related to (1) accommodations for members who experience racial discrimination, harassment, and violence and (2) funds for those members, both of which are to provide immediate and meaningful support(s) to racialized members. These proposals were originally presented to the Employer on November 7, 2023, and this week we re-emphasized their importance to take into consideration how everyday violence, both covert and overt, can negatively affect members. The lack of on-campus safety for racialized members and the importance of remedies was illustrated at the table this week when we received news, while we were at the table with the Employer, that the Toronto Police were disrupting a talk on Palestinian liberation given by an invited guest.
Employer continues to stall on monetary offer
Since the outset of this round of bargaining, members have been clear about the vital importance of real wage increases for all three units. We first presented proposals on this point in August 2023. Under pressure from a coalition of unions on campus to renegotiate wages for the Bill 124 moderation period (for CUPE 3903, the 2020–21 to 2022–23 contract years), the Employer responded two months later with a starting offer. We expressed then that their offer didn’t meet the deep needs of members. Nevertheless, in December we presented a counter that brought our retroactive wage demand down to the minimum increase needed to prevent our real wages from being eroded by inflation.
This week, the Employer wrote to union leaders citing the estimated cost of implementing such a wage increase but committing to bringing forward a new offer soon. When we met on Friday, the bargaining team was thus disappointed to discover that the Employer had, instead of spending their time preparing a meaningful offer on salaries and benefits, been preoccupied with researching the salary rates and benefits packages for contract faculty and teaching assistants at other Ontario Universities. The Employer spent most of its allotted time during bargaining on Friday presenting us with the results of this university-sector-wide comparison, the point of which was to highlight that we are at or near the top in both salaries and benefits and to (we presume) lower our expectations of the offer they have now committed to presenting on February 7.
Our team responded that, while we share the Employer’s pride in leading the sector for contract academic workers, their presentation was irrelevant. We only lead the sector thanks to the steadfast organizing and militancy of many generations of CUPE 3903 members! Clearly, we need to redouble our efforts if we want to bring that lead closer to the livable standard we deserve.
New Job Stability Proposal Reverts to Rejected Framework
The Employer’s response to the slate of Unit 2 ‘status quo’ job stability proposals the Union tabled on January 17 was to completely ignore them. Instead, the Employer re-presented a (slightly altered) version of the Job Stability Program (JSP) that they first presented in response to our (now-withdrawn) Graduated Job Stability Program. The Employer’s proposal is based on their final version of the job stability program from the joint Job Stability Committee (JSC) process, which ended in failure in November 2023 when the Employer left the table for another engagement. Although we have made clear that members do not trust that an entirely new model like the JSP can improve existing conditions of precarious employment, the Employer continues to insist on nothing else. We remain at an impasse on job stability, with the two sides speaking past each other.
No clear answers for members displaced through restructuring
After receiving some significant new information that the roll-out of the restructuring of Practicum Kinesiology (PKIN) courses and the introduction of the Integrated Physical Activity for Life (IPAL) program would be much faster than we were previously told, the Union re-motivated four relevant proposals it brought to the table on November 17. The proposals are a credentials leave, compensation for restructuring, a Letter of Intent on IPAL job descriptions, and a Letter of Understanding deeming existing instructors qualified for similar work. Our credentials leave proposal would afford PKINs the opportunity to update their qualifications. This would protect all members of Unit 2 who face changing qualifications requirements as a result of academic restructuring. Previously, members had been assured that there would be a three to five year roll-out of the IPAL program. This time would be required to accommodate existing students, but most crucially, it would allow members to update their credentials should they wish to. A new posting criterion of a Master’s degree or higher for this movement-based program would mean that many members who have been teaching PKIN courses for years (for many, 15-25 years!) would suddenly be deemed unqualified, a position the Union vehemently disagrees with. This change in roll-out, which came without warning, is causing an immediate and drastic reduction of jobs for our members. Our questions to the Employer centered around two issues: first, why the abrupt change in rollout speed? What does this do to the democratic, collegial process? What does this do to equity protections, particularly when members are noticing favouritism in the PKIN courses that are and aren’t continuing to be offered? And second, we asked the Employer why PKIN instructors (especially those with 15-25 years of experience teaching in Kinesiology) are required to have a Master’s degree or a PhD to teach in IPAL, especially if the Employer’s proposed IPAL job classification is Tutor 2-Lab Demonstrator? If additional qualifications are needed, they should be directly relevant to the type of instruction. The Employer offered no response to any of our questions. We will continue to push for the explanations and actions 3903 members need.
The Union also questioned the Employer about why they won’t commit to including the Graduate Assistant Training Fund (GATF) in the body of the Collective Agreement and why they will not commit to prioritizing Master’s students for Graduate Assistantships, especially when there is no cost to the Employer associated with either proposal. Aside from the Employer’s mismanagement of GATF, the program is also running well in that both members and Principal Investigators (i.e., faculty members who hire GAs) have welcomed it. We also pushed the Employer to clarify why they continue to provide funds only to a select group of Principal Investigators who apply to the program rather than open it up to all interested faculty. Instead of responding to our questions, the Employer falsely suggested that the Union has not responded to their Letter of Understanding and Minutes of Settlement from January 17, when, in fact, we have made it clear that their proposal does not in any way adequately make up for their mismanagement of the fund or their misrepresentation of the facts over the last two rounds of bargaining, nor does it address or take into consideration any significant proposals (e.g., increasing the number of GA positions or getting the GATF into the Collective Agreement) that the Union has brought forth since bargaining began.
The Employer’s silence on these matters does not inspire confidence for CUPE 3903 members who are already precariously employed. The Bargaining Team will continue to push for clarity and protection for members concerned about job losses.
Get Involved! Upcoming Bargaining Meetings
Our union practices open bargaining, meaning all meetings of the Bargaining Team—including our face-to-face meetings with the Employer’s bargaining team—are open to all members of CUPE 3903. All members are encouraged to attend both our weekly Bargaining Team meetings, which take place online, and our meetings with the Employer, which usually take place in a hybrid format (in person in 519 Kaneff Tower). As members of CUPE 3903, you are free to come and go from any of our meetings as your schedules allow. Check the CUPE 3903 website’s calendar for any updates.
Bargaining Meetings with the Employer
Register in advance using the links below.
Wednesday, February 7, 11:00 AM-5:00 PM (ONLINE ONLY):
Thursday, February 15, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM:
Wednesday, February 21, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM:
Friday, February 23, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM:
Monday, February 26, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM:
Wednesday, February 28, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM:
For all bargaining meetings with the Employer, CART closed captioning will be available. If you require ASL interpretation or reimbursement for childcare/caregiver/attendant care or have any other requests for accommodation, please contact our Equity Officer, Nadia Kanani, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bargaining Team Meetings (no registration required):
Monday, February 5, 12:00-2:00 PM: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86056814105?pwd=eU9BWlRPWVdJdDBVeWVrbENBeTl6UT09
Monday, February 12, 1:00-3:00 PM: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82686988222?pwd=WXdTV0xsWlNsUTBMYnJhYm85aTRmdz09
Monday, February 19, 1:00-3:00 PM: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86147429020?pwd=ZlRzR1dpb0tjYWN5OWhrSGt6WFFQUT09
Thursday, February 22, 1:00-3:00 PM: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86828310546?pwd=TU5RMGpPaFErU0hpVGU5ZmtNY2d4UT09