Bargaining Team Report February 5–9, 2024

Bargaining Team Report February 5–9, 2024

Courting a Strike, Employer Fails to Make Movement on Key Issues

As we approach a legal strike deadline of Feb. 22, the Employer’s actions at the bargaining table suggest a lack of serious commitment to finalizing new collective agreements for Units 1, 2, and 3.

A Strike Is Within Sight

On February 5, we received our No Board letter, which means we are in a legal strike position as of Thursday, February 22. We have indicated to the Employer that we need to see their final offer by February 15. The following day, we will hold our “Final Offer” SGMM where our membership will vote on whether the Employer’s Thursday offer is good enough to avert a strike. Unless we receive a substantially improved offer for all three units on February 15, a strike seems unavoidable. 

Employer’s Monetary Offers Continue to Leave Members Behind

The two sides remain far apart on many key issues, including salaries and benefits. On February 7, in our fourth bargaining session with government-appointed conciliator Erinn White, the Employer tabled an updated monetary proposal, including retroactive wage increases and increases in our next collective agreement (CA). The new offer marginally increased the retroactive salary increase for 2020–23 from 3% to 3.75%. For the next CA, the Employer moved from 3%, 2.5%, 2% to 3%, 2.75%, 2.25%. This would amount to a loss of real wages of 8.9% for September 2020 to September 2023, when we experienced inflation of 15.8%. And we would continue to lose ground relative to projected levels of inflation during the next three years.  The week before, the Bargaining Team was extremely disappointed but unsurprised by this anemic offer; on February 2, the Employer spent much of their time at the table trying to lower our expectations of their forthcoming offer by giving us a presentation that showed that our salaries and benefits are sector-leading. We reminded them that our organizing and militancy had achieved these outcomes. 

An equal indication of the Employer’s lack of seriousness to avert a strike can be seen in their complete lack of engagement with our fifteen benefits proposals (#22–36), some of which we presented last August. (Numbers in parentheses refer to the proposal numbers in our Bargaining Proposals chart.) These range from increasing the amount of overall coverage, to removing the internal cap on individual services, to new coverage for healthcare expenses not covered by OHIP. After a pandemic that has left many members struggling more than ever and with inflation reducing the value of the benefits available to us, the Employer’s actions show a callous disregard for our members’ well-being.

Employer Fails to Act against Racial Discrimination

The disregard for our members’ well-being was also reflected in the Employer’s rejection of our proposals for accommodations and support for members who experience racial harassment, discrimination, and violence in the workplace (#1, 42). The Employer responded, instead, with a letter touting the university’s existing equity commitments and initiatives, most of which offer members no real protections. Ironically, one of the initiatives cited is the Security Services Review, which members of the joint Employment Equity Committee (EEC) were told revealed the lack of accommodations and support for members who experience workplace racial harassment, discrimination, and violence. Either the Employer is not aware of the results of their own review or such reviews are meant to give the appearance of taking action without doing so.

Some Positive Movement on Union Rights

Our strong rejection of the Employer’s proposals to increase management rights—to amend Articles 8 and 6 to make it easier to discipline our members and to initiate “Employer grievances” against our Union, respectively—led them to finally withdraw these proposals. 

We have reached substantial agreement on streamlining the grievance process by reducing the number of steps (#55) and on a new mediation-arbitration process to speed up the resolution of Unit 2 appointment grievances (#57). We remain steadfastly opposed, however, to the Employer’s proposal to channel all cases of harassment and discrimination into the university’s complaints process rather than through the grievance process (#107), which offers members much better protection and agency.

Employer’s Refusal to Engage Key CUPE Priorities Leaves Us Far Apart

As in the case of benefits, the Employer’s refusal to even engage with or respond to many key priorities means that we remain far apart, making a strike seem increasingly inevitable. Although we’ve reached agreement on some minor issues, the Employer has been largely or entirely unresponsive to our proposals to 

  • Ensure all aspects of remuneration for graduate-student members are included in across-the-board salary increases—in particular, Grant-In-Aid (GIA) and Graduate Financial Assistance (GFA) (#46, 48)*
  • Increase the amount of the York Graduate Fellowship and reduce the frequency and severity of “clawbacks” (#53, 54)*
  • Secure and enhance our existing job stability programs for contract faculty (#74)
  • Protect Unit 2 members in the Kinesiology Department from being put out of work by the restructuring of courses and arbitrary changes to job qualifications (#92, 95, 96) 
  • Increase post-retirement benefits to make it easier for senior contract faculty to retire with dignity (#89)
  • Increase the number of Graduate Assistants hired through the GA Training Fund (GATF) from 40 to 80**
  • Prioritize hiring of Master’s students for GA positions**
  • Increase the pool of money the Employer provides to cover Executive honorariums, which has remained stagnant since before Units 3 and 4 representatives were added (#60)
  • Allow members to retain email and library access beyond the end of their contracts or retirement (#62) 
  • Protect the work in all bargaining units against technological change (#61) 
  • Clarify the workload, hours, and remuneration of Tutor 3 contracts (#63) 
  • Reduce tutorial class size limits and the triggers for obtaining marker/grader assistance (#64, 65)
  • Provide a minimum 10-day turnaround time for the grading of assignments, exams, and midterms. 

Much as the Bargaining Team hopes to avoid a strike, with their insulting wage offer and failure to engage with our priorities, the Employer seems to be courting one.

* The Employer has not engaged at all with Unit 1 proposals to increase the York Graduate Fellowship, reduce the frequency and severity of “clawbacks,” and increase Graduate Financial Assistance (GFA). Both GFA and Grant-In-Aid (GIA) are key pieces of graduate student funding that were capped at 1% in annual increases from 2020 to 2023 because of Bill 124. To address this, we have proposed retroactive increases and increases in the next CA for all these funding pieces. While the Employer has proposed some increases to GIA for the next CA, they are proposing no retroactive increases and no increases at all for GFA (retroactive or otherwise). 

** So far, the Employer has engaged minimally with Unit 3 proposals on the GATF, showing zero engagement on increasing the GATF from 40 GAships to 80 or prioritizing MA students for GA positions. The bargaining team is currently working on a further Unit 3 counterproposal on the GATF, along with an answer to the Employer’s proposed memorandum of settlement in regard to their mismanagement of the GATF funds during the 2017–20 and 2020–23 collective agreements.

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 (advance registration required):

Thursday, February 15, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

Wednesday, February 21, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

Friday, February 23, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

Monday, February 26, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

Wednesday, February 28, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM: 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

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

Bargaining Team Meetings (no registration required):

Monday, February 19, 1:00-3:00 PM:

Thursday, February 22, 1:00-3:00 PM: