Over the past few days, course directors have been receiving confusing messages from the employer directing them to immediately give students “assessed grades,” should they request them.
Our members are engaged in a legal strike, and have thus withdrawn their labour; the employer cannot force us to perform work. CUPE 3903 members are under no obligation to assign any grades during the strike. To do so would be to perform the very labour that we are currently withdrawing.
Despite the employer’s confusing messaging, they are fully aware that while students are entitled to receive “assessed grades,” they are not entitled to receive them immediately. CUPE 3903 teaching assistants cannot be compelled by course directors to submit grades. CUPE 3903 expects course directors to withhold normal and assessed grades until such time as a new collective agreement is reached. To do otherwise would be strikebreaking and would be cause for censure.
CUPE 3903 is grateful for the support that many YUFA members have expressed by suspending their classes during our strike. We want to remind them that the employer cannot compel them to assign or submit grades assessed by CUPE members while classes are suspended, and that they, in turn, cannot compel 3903 TAs to submit grades to them.
It is also highly inappropriate for YUFA faculty to do the labour normally assigned to 3903 members. The employer’s attempt to coerce YUFA faculty into performing this labour is disingenuous and divisive. We appreciate the efforts that YUFA faculty have made to support us and ask them to maintain that support in this crucial moment when the employer is now back at the bargaining table and provincial mediation is underway.
Until the employer negotiates a fair and just settlement with CUPE 3903, we continue to withdraw all of our academic labour. We ask our campus and community allies to continue to support us. The quickest way to end the strike and provide students with their grades is for the employer to table an acceptable offer and to negotiate a settlement.
On Tuesday, April 17, the CUPE 3903 bargaining team met for a second time with Bill Kaplan, the Commissioner appointed by the Ministry of Labour to investigate the strike. Kaplan continued in his efforts to mediate between the parties.
While we are happy to report that the employer agreed to an increase of $25 per course on Professional Expense Reimbursement (PER) for contract faculty, beginning retroactively in Fall 2017, this is minimal progress. The employer has refused to move on any other significant proposal, most notably by completely rejecting our updated offer on Unit 2 job security proposals tabled on Sunday April 15. York has not modified their position on these proposals in a meaningful way since late February, despite receiving counter-proposals from the union on three different occasions.
The bargaining team also asked the employer to discuss Unit 3 proposals, as there has not been an opportunity to do so since February 28. The signal from the employer was that they are neither interested in bargaining nor discussing any outstanding issue.
The CUPE 3903 bargaining team is very disappointed that the employer is refusing to discuss our bargaining priorities. We are collaborating fully with the Commissioner, including making movement on our proposals in the last meeting. The employer needs to do the same in order for this process to be meaningful.
We are frankly baffled by the claim that “York is also disappointed that CUPE 3903 rejected our invitation to provide a back-to-work protocol, which is a necessary part of any renewed settlement”. We will provide such a protocol once York engages in bargaining, and therefore our return to work seems imminent. York’s own communications admit that they are refusing to bargain. It is also worth noting that the employer claimed on April 1 that no written back-to-work protocol was necessary while advocating for their forced ratification vote, yet now it is “a necessary part” of a deal.
We will attempt mediation again on Friday April 20. We maintain that the union is flexible and willing to bargain, but we need to see some real movement from York. If the Commissioner judges that mediation fails, he will meet again with the bargaining team to begin preparing his report to the Minister of Labour.
On Wednesday, April 4, members of CUPE 3903 and the union’s legal counsel went to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to attend the first hearing of the Unfair Labour Practice (ULP) filed against York University for misleading and dishonest communication.
The hearing was adjourned until a later date because the union was unable to deliver the summons to the owner of CUPE3903.com: Michael Schiff. Schiff is an employee in the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies. Documents reveal that Schiff billed the cost of the fake CUPE 3903 domain to the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS).
CUPE3903.com redirected to York’s labour relations page. York denied having purchased the domain. However, the union was informed on Monday afternoon that Michael Schiff owned the domain, and immediately issued a summons. The Board chose to adjourn the ULP pending the parties being able to contact Schiff.
Regardless of whether this was deliberate or an incompetent oversight by York University, the fact remains that one of their employees — working in an office that includes a member of the employer’s bargaining team — purchased CUPE3903.com and billed it to the university. While the case is yet to be heard at the Labour Relations Board, members of the York community should be alarmed by these recent events, as it contributes to an ongoing pattern of incompetence and misinformation on the part of York University.
It is with the deepest disappointment that we report that the employer has refused to participate in good faith in the Industrial Inquiry Commission’s mediation attempts. Both parties have publicly stated that they will cooperate fully with the Commission, yet only CUPE 3903 has made significant efforts to try to reach a deal during the mediation portion of the Commission, which ended today.
On Sunday April 15, the very first day of the process, the CUPE 3903 bargaining team presented a significantly amended package. These proposals focus specifically on Unit 2 job security, which the employer had identified as the main obstacle to getting a deal. The employer has refused to engage with or discuss these proposals, or provide a thorough rationale for their rejection.
As we move towards the report portion of the Industrial Inquiry Commission, the employer’s actions leaves CUPE 3903 with serious doubts about the employer’s tactics and intentions, as well as the honesty of their desire to cooperate with the Commission:
- Why did the employer ignore the fact that the membership rejected their offer twice, by not providing revised proposals?
- Why didn’t the employer follow the desires of the Senate, which passed a motion asking the employer to bargain?
- Does collective bargaining have any value if an employer can refuse to engage not only with bargaining but with government-mandated mediation?
- What does this mean for future rounds of bargaining, including with other employee-groups on campus?
We have done everything we could to respect this process. We can only hope that the Commissioner’s report will address the employer’s complete abdication of its responsibility towards its students, employees, and the York community as a whole to bargain. This conflict could have been resolved weeks ago if the employer had shown any willingness to move at all — for example by responding to any of the three movements made by the CUPE 3903 bargaining team since the beginning of the strike.
Other York employees should be concerned by these dirty tactics, as well as the Deans and Faculties at York, who will be forced to foot the bill for any financial losses associated with the loss of the semester — to the tune of millions of dollars — should the administration continue to prefer destroying any vestiges of academic integrity over sitting down and talking through these issues. The sector as a whole should be concerned that the signal we are receiving is that university administrations do not have to engage with bargaining at all, and can simply wait out any collective bargaining and strikes that occur until unions are bled dry and the precarity of university labour intensifies.
This is a crisis that York has created for students, for members of CUPE 3903 on strike, and for members of the York community. We need a principled response — across the campus, the sector, and the labour movement — to say that public institutions cannot be allowed to act in this way.
(1) Second Meeting with the Industrial Inquiry Commissioner
(2) CUPE 3903 Members Should Not Submit Grades
(3) CUPE 3903 Hotline Hours
Meetings and Events
(4) Meeting with the Industrial Inquiry Commissioner: April 20
(5) Actions Subcommittee Meeting: April 20
(1) Report from First Meeting with Industrial Inquiry Commissioner
(2) Errors in Week 5 Picket Pay
(3) Nominate Yourself for Chief Steward Unit 3
(4) CUPE 3903 Hotline Hours
Meetings and Events
(5) Joint Exec-BT Meeting: April 16
(6) Strike Committee Meetings: April 16 & 18
(7) Meeting With the Industrial Inquiry Commissioner: April 17
(8) Executive Committee Meeting: April 18
(9) Strike Special General Membership Meeting: April 19
On Sunday, April 15, the CUPE 3903 bargaining team met with William Kaplan, the Commissioner for the Industrial Inquiry appointed by the Ministry of Labour.
Kaplan began with an attempt at mediating between the parties. The union’s bargaining team spent considerable time going over the issues for the Commissioner. York has yet to provide a counter-offer or meaningfully engage with bargaining since the membership of CUPE 3903 overwhelmingly rejected the forced ratification vote.
The one piece of good news is that we have signed off on the union’s language for lactation accommodations! There is no doubt that the amazing (l)activism from many members played a significant role in this outcome.
Most of the afternoon was dedicated to unit-specific caucuses to strategize going forward. This resulted in Unit 2 passing some reduced proposals to the employer through the Commissioner. We await a response. The changes are:
- 10 conversions or 10% of new tenure-track hires, whichever is greater
- 10% of Contractually Limited Appointments (CLAs) reserved for Unit 2 members
- Withdrawal of incumbency proposal
- 7 Long Service Teaching Appointments (LSTAs) per year for a (renewable) 5 year period
- 10 Special Renewable Contracts (SRCs) per year on the old model (as previously existed and is still outlined in the YUFA collective agreement)
The Unit 2 bargaining team is holding firm on qualifications and the Continuing Sessional Standing Program (CSSP).
The bargaining team will be meeting with the Commissioner again on Tuesday April 17 at 9 am. Despite today’s lacklustre results, we remain committed to the process and hope that a settlement is possible. Should mediation fail, the Commissioner will write his report. There is nothing preventing York from returning to the bargaining table while we wait for the results of the report. As highlighted by last Thursday’s Senate meeting, returning to the bargaining table to negotiate a settlement is the right thing to do for the entire York community.
Special General Membership Meeting
Thursday April 19, 2018
30 Tangiers Road
UNIFOR local 112
- Roll Call of Officers
- Reading of the Equality Statement
- Reading of the Mississauga Land Acknowledgement
- Approval of Agenda
- Approval of Apr. 11, 2018 SGMM Minutes
- Report from Executive Committee on the Conduct of the Strike
- Treasurer’s Report
- Report from Bargaining Team on the Status of Negotiations
- Report by the Strike Committee and Subcommittees on the Conduct of the Strike
- Strategic Discussion + Motions from the Floor
- Donation to Casa Maiz ($300)
Please contact Sheila Wilmot at email@example.com or at 416-736-5154 ext. 3 if you require any of the following: ASL interpretation, reimbursement for childcare/caregiver/attendant care, and/or transportation costs for members who are unable to secure Wheel-Trans, or other requests for accommodation.
The Ministry of Labour has appointed an industrial inquiry commission to investigate the strike and produce a report for the Minister. This report will take two to three weeks.
CUPE 3903 will cooperate fully with the Ministry’s fact-finding mission. However, we had hoped for a more meaningful intervention by the government. As a public institution, York University should be held accountable. Their refusal to bargain should not be allowed to continue.
This process is neither mediation nor arbitration. It is not an alternative to bargaining, and its main purpose is to inform the Minister of the current situation. The report may still help resolve the conflict, but there is no guarantee of this. Two to three weeks is too long to wait for what is only the potential for a resolution.
The suggestion to suspend the strike for the duration of the commission is a shameless grab for summer tuition. Displacing this conflict to another semester is not good for students, for whom the uncertainty and anxiety would only be prolonged. We expect that York University will return to bargaining while we await the results of the inquiry.
For more information:
Read the Ministry’s announcement
Read the union’s press release
Carlo Charles Handy has resigned from the position of Chief Steward Unit 3. It is with deep regret that Carlo made this decision, following a long period of thinking of possible solutions to continue fulfilling the requirements of the position while undergoing some personal concerns.
In the exceptional circumstances of the strike, and based on the past practice where a member of the Unit 3 Bargaining Team was elected at a Strike Special General Membership Meeting in 2015, an election will be held at the April 19 SGMM.
Chief Steward is a unit-specific position; this means that only members of Unit 3 may run for the position. To nominate yourself, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) Letter to President Lenton: York Needs to Bargain
(2) Apply to Temporarily Replace our Administrative Coordinator
(3) Share Widely: Send YorkU a Message!
(4) CUPE 3903 Hotline Hours
Meetings and Events
(5) Executive Committee Meeting: April 12
(6) Strike Committee Meeting: April 12