Bargaining 2020-21 FAQ

What is equity hiring?
What does intersectionality mean?
Is equity working at York?
What does CUPE 3903 suggest we do about it?
What about seniority?
What’s the basis for the percentages in the equity proposals?

Bill 124 FAQ
What is Bill 124?
What counts as compensation?
Doesn’t Bill 124 violate our right to collective bargaining?
What has this got to do with equity?

Unit 3 Issues FAQ
What are the priorities for Unit 3 in this round of bargaining?
What is the GATF fund?
How has the GATF fund been mismanaged by York?
How are we proposing to fix the GATF?
What is the Problem with Misclassification of RA/GAs?
What is the Solution to the Misclassification of GA/RAs?

 

What is equity hiring?

Equity hiring is premised on the idea that York faculty should reflect the diverse population of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Compared to GTA data however, certain groups are under-represented at York University and that under-representation indicates that there is systemic discrimination in how hiring is done. The equity seeking groups recognized in the CUPE 3903 Collective Agreements (CA) are Indigenous people, racialized people (officially called “visible minorities” in legal jargon), people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, and women. Equity hiring as a practice comes out of an understanding that racism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination are systems of oppression that need systemic responses, and not the result of a few bad actors. Equity hiring therefore requires the establishment of concrete policies and procedures that intend to address systemic problems.

What does intersectionality mean?

Intersectionality is a way of acknowledging that there are multiple interlocking systems of power and oppression. Most people are not just in one equity-seeking group, but in many. This means that an institution like a university has to figure out a more nuanced approach to equity. One common problem is that ‘equity’ has sometimes worked by lumping all women into a single category, as if we’re all the same. This is a common misunderstanding because it assumes that all misogyny experienced by women is equal in degree, equivalent to another’s and undifferentiated. Equity without an intersectional approach disregards that some women have more power and privilege in society over other women, depending on their race, class, gender positions, and their sexual identification. This power and privilege correspond to their greater or lesser power in institutions, such as a university, depending on whether or not they’re white or racialized, straight or queer, able-bodied or disabled, cis or trans, and so on.

Is equity working at York?

Look around your department. If you are a student, look at your teachers. Who do you see? Who don’t you see? Under-representation is more than anecdotal: the data the union receives from the Employment Equity Self-ID surveys shows us that Indigenous people, racialized people, and persons with disabilities are under-represented as contract faculty. York has made some sweet-sounding promises about addressing the under-representation of Black faculty members within YUFA, but doesn’t have any concrete plans to make equity hiring a reality for contract faculty. Since more than half the teaching at York is done by members of CUPE 3903, the university cannot truly say they are committed to equity hiring at York while simultaneously denying this opportunity to bargain concrete equity proposals.

What does CUPE 3903 suggest we do about it?

Through bargaining surveys and membership discussions, the CUPE 3903 bargaining team has put forward a number of concrete proposals to address equity:

1. Equity targets for Unit 2 appointments
Our current proposals suggest that 65% of all appointments should go to members of one or more of the Employment Equity groups, and 50% of those (or 32.5%) should go to BIPOC candidates, so that contract faculty at York would better represent the wider York community.

2. Lowering the eligibility to the Continuing Sessional Standing Program (CSSP) for equity-seeking groups
The CSSP is a job stabilization program for mid-seniority members of Unit 2. This means that, in order to be eligible for the program, one must work at a certain intensity. However, we know that for members who face systemic barriers to employment, a recurring problem is that they struggle to get the consistent work that would allow them to join the pool. Lowering the intensity requirements for members in one or more of the five equity-seeking groups will allow more members to access the relative stability of the CSSP.

3. Equity targets for conversions
Conversions offer a set number of positions for CUPE 3903 Unit 2 members to move into tenure-track positions in YUFA. The current proposal suggests that 65% of all conversions should be from one or more of the equity-seeking groups, while 50% of those (or 32.5%) should be from BIPOC faculty.

4. Equity targets for Unit 1 tickets (course directorships held by full-time PhD students)
There are a limited number of course directorships available to members of Unit 1 (often called “tickets”). These are often offered informally, which means that equity is not always taken into account. The current proposal suggests that a minimum of 50% of tickets should be offered to members of equity-seeking groups, with particular attention to intersectionality.

5. An intersectionality clause
While different parts of our contracts have different ways of addressing equity, we are also proposing an introductory clause on intersectionality. As described above, intersectionality isn’t just about equitable representation, it’s also about acknowledging and addressing the ways that different power structures (like white supremacy) are embedded in institutional policy and culture. Having an intersectionality clause affirms a deep commitment to equity.

6. Collection of equity data
We want access to equity data that is disaggregated. This means that the Employer would release to the Union detailed, anonymized data from the voluntary self-ID surveys you fill out when you apply for jobs. This would give us a better picture of who is getting hired and who isn’t, so that we know whether we are meeting equity targets or not.

 

What about seniority?

Seniority is, and will always remain, the most powerful tool in any union’s toolbox. Equity and seniority are not opposing forces. We are committed to the idea that everyone deserves to benefit from the protection offered by seniority, which means equitable access to that protection. In order to turn this commitment into a reality, we need to take concrete steps to make seniority available to all, including and especially those who experience discrimination and marginalization.

What’s the basis for the percentages in the equity proposals?

At first glances, these percentages might seem high, but it is important to remember that Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world. We’ve based our percentages partially on data from Statistics Canada which states that approximately 52% of residents identify as a visible minority. In addition, there are four other equity seeking groups who are either part of this 52%, or who make up part of the other 48%–Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, and women. Once we think of hiring through this intersectional lens, then percentages ranging from 50 to 65% make a lot more sense. We want our union to reflect not only the diversity of our student body, but also that of our city.

 

Bill 124 FAQs


What is Bill 124?

Bill 124 is a piece of legislation passed by the Progressive Conservative party of Ontario in November 2019 that sets limits on compensation increases for all public sector employees. The bill stipulates that during the 3 years following passage of the bill–what’s known as the moderation period–all compensation is limited to an annual 1% increase. As public institutions, universities fall under the purview of this legislation. This means that whatever contract we negotiate with York, this round of bargaining must be in line with the parameters set out by Bill 124.

What counts as compensation?

The bill defines compensation fairly broadly as “anything paid or provided, directly or indirectly, to or for the benefit of an employee, and includes salary, benefits, perquisites and all forms of non-discretionary and discretionary payments.”

In some cases, it is possible to share the 1% increase across different categories; we could, for example, negotiate a slightly higher increase in benefits in exchange for a smaller increase in the amounts allocated to our various funds. Wages, however, are not able to be shared in this way and are capped at the 1% increase.


Doesn’t Bill 124 violate our right to collective bargaining?

We certainly think so! A coalition of unions has filed a Charter challenge, arguing that this bill is in violation of the right of freedom of association, as enshrined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Unfortunately, however, Charter challenges are lengthy processes and it is unlikely that the bill will be struck down in the near future.


What has this got to do with equity?

Fair wages are an integral part of ensuring equity and while we believe that 1% is woefully inadequate in addressing the financial needs of our members, we will fight to ensure that our members are given the full increase. We have recently seen locals such as CUPE 4600 successfully negotiate for a 1% increase of the total cost of their collective agreement and are seeking to pursue a similar route.

With monetary asks taking a bit of a back seat, this will mean that we are able to better focus on our non-monetary equity proposals. In the past, important proposals have been dropped in exchange for monetary compensation. We can use this round of bargaining to strengthen the areas of our CA that will provide better job security and access to opportunity to the five equity-seeking groups in our CA.

 

Unit 3 Issues FAQs


What are the priorities for Unit 3 in this round of bargaining?

Since the launch of the Fellowship Model in 2016, Unit 3, which used to have around 700-800 members, now has a few dozen. This is because of changes York has made to how research is funded. The problem, beyond denying Masters’ students an opportunity to work and to access union funds and benefits, is that graduate students are still involved in research at York University. The employer is engaging in repeated violations of the scope clause to meet its research needs without having to give the graduate students who do this research the proper compensation and union protections. To address these violations, the union is proposing two broad but interrelated solutions: fixing the GA Training Fund (GATF), and establishing a process to make sure GAs are not misclassified.


What is the GATF fund?

The Graduate Assistant Training Fund (GATF) is a fund that was established in 2018 through the Hayes arbitration award. It is meant to incentivize the hiring of Graduate Assistants (GAs) through grants of $2000 to Principal Investigators (PIs) who have external funding and want to hire a GA to work on their research. The original intention of this fund was to make up for the artificially inflated cost of hiring a GA: in 2016, York unilaterally decided to increase the benefits cost a PI must pay for a GA from 15% to 80%, in a transparent move to make the hiring of GAs prohibitively expensive, and thereby attempt to bust the unit.

How has the GATF fund been mismanaged by York?

After months of dodging the union’s queries, the employer admitted that of the $80,000 in the GATF, they could only account for $6000 that had gone to a faculty member who had verifiably hired a GA. This means at least $74,000 was disbursed from the fund without proper oversight; at best, this amounts to gross negligence on York’s part.


How are we proposing to fix the GATF?

The GATF needs proper management. Since the last two years have shown us that York cannot be trusted to disburse CA funds, joint oversight of the Fund is a must. We are also proposing that some money be moved from the Masters Bursary Fund, which is routinely over-funded, to the GATF, so that more disbursements can be made, and the amount of the disbursement could perhaps be raised above $2000 per PI.


What is the Problem with Misclassification of RA/GAs?

The Unit 3 scope clause clarifies that research work that is done to advance one’s own degree progress (i.e. working in your supervisor’s lab when your dissertation is also dependent on the data produced in said lab) is not included in Unit 3, and therefore cannot be a GA appointment. An RA, or Research Assistantship, is a grant to aid in your own graduate research, and does not include hours of work, reporting of tasks to a supervisor, and is not employment income for tax purposes. However, research not tied to graduate student projects still needs to happen, and since the imposition of the fellowship model, PIs have been encouraged (explicitly or implicitly) to frame work that should be done by a GA as research to be done by an RA. This is apparent in the proliferation of RA job postings. This is a clear violation of our scope clause: graduate students should not be required to do unrelated work for PIs under the guise of advancing their dissertation research. Furthermore, this misclassification robs the students performing the work of union protections and benefits.


What is the Solution to the Misclassification of GA/RAs?

The employer’s current approach to these misclassifications is a whack-a-mole approach: it’s up to the union to find them and grieve them, at which point we are often left waiting for months for a response from Faculty Relations. Clearly this approach is not solving the issue. Therefore, we are proposing that some form of an accountability system be put in place so that no contract is drawn up and no payment is made until someone in the York administration has done a cursory check to make sure the job is properly classified. This is a simple solution that builds on the employer’s already existing legal responsibility for the correct administration of our collective agreements.