Nominations Open for Vacancies on Bargaining Team and Executive Committee

Nominations Open for Vacancies on Bargaining Team and Executive Committee

The Executive Committee has decided to open nominations for candidates to fill two vacancies on the Executive Committee and two vacancies on the Bargaining Team, as per Article 14 V.(b) of the bylaws.

The following positions are available to members in good standing of the relevant bargaining unit:

Lead Steward Unit 4
Bargaining Team Unit 2

The following positions are available to members in good standing of any CUPE 3903 bargaining unit:

Chairperson
Bargaining Team Recording Secretary

For more information or to nominate yourself, please email Imran Syed (Lead Steward Unit 3) at cupe3903csu3@gmail.com by February 26 at 5:00 p.m.

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 cupe3903equity@gmail.com.

Bargaining Team Meetings (no registration required):

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

 

Bargaining Team Report: January 29-February 2

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): 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

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 cupe3903equity@gmail.com.

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

Clock ticking toward strike deadline at York University

TORONTO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–After six months of negotiations with York University without significant progress, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3903 has filed for a “no board,” setting the clock ticking toward a possible strike.

Nearly 3,000 contract instructors, teaching assistants and research assistants have been in negotiations with the university since June 2023. In December, members of the three bargaining units voted 84 percent in favour of strike action if needed to secure a fair contract.

“The cost of living in Toronto has skyrocketed since the last contract, and the university needs to recognize that and come to the table with an offer that provides an income people can live on,” said Stephanie Latella, CUPE 3903 Chairperson. “Because of Bill 124, wage increases were capped at 1 per cent for three years. Now that the bill has been struck down as unconstitutional, the academic workers are looking for wage increases to make up this shortfall and to index compensation to inflation going forward.”

Other sticking points include resources for combating workplace discrimination, job stability and workload.

“All three units have been facing restructuring and job losses that worsen the uncertainty inherent to contract work. We do the majority of instruction at York University, and working conditions really affect the learning conditions for students,” said Latella. “Instructors need time with students, and for people who mark assignments, the quality of feedback students get improves when there is time to do more than just provide a grade. There is a direct correlation between what we’re asking for in these negotiations and the quality of education at York University.”

Seventeen days after a “no board” report is issued by the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the union and university are in a legal position to strike or lock workers out.

“Obviously we don’t want to go on strike. We want to continue working and creating an environment for excellent learning and research at York. But after more than six months of negotiations, the employer is leaving us with few options,” said Latella.

Last weekend, members of CUPE Local 1356-2 working at York University in goSAFE and CCTV also voted 85 percent in favour of strike action. That local is seeking to address the rising cost of living and bring its lowest-paid members closer to a living wage.

Fact Checker on the Toolkit for Teaching Palestine

Fact Checker on the Toolkit for Teaching Palestine

You might have seen that we have been in some really awful and distorted news this week. There have been some abhorrent claims about CUPE 3903 as a local and the activism of our members, this type of backlash is unfortunately common to organizations and activists who speak out in support of Palestine. We understand how reading these articles may have contributed to anxiety or confusion for some members. We want to offer some clarity and support.

What is the Toolkit for Teaching Palestine?

The toolkit is a resource developed by the Palestinian Solidarity Working Group, a group of rank-and-file members whose mandate was overwhelmingly approved by the membership. The Palestinian Solidarity Working Group is a group of members from diverse identities, including both Palestinian and Jewish backgrounds. The toolkit was developed as a resource for members who wanted to participate in a teach-in action in response to a call for global solidarity with Palestine from January 21st – 28th.

Members felt the need to produce such a resource as a result of the reprisals students, faculty and student organizations have faced for simply speaking about Palestine in the workplace. The member-to-member document talked about collective, moral and professional responsibility to speak, write and teach on Palestine in spite of the culture of fear that has dominated much of Western academic institutions. It provided a list of readily-available educational resources, outlined potential risks, and, if members chose to participate, highlighted supports that exist as union members. 

Why solidarity with Palestine?

As a part of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, Gaza, home to more than 2.3 million people, has been under an unrelenting land, sea, and air blockade since 2007. Since the Israeli bombardments started in early October there have been over 25,000 Palestinians deaths and, according to the Human Rights Watch Organization, the displacement of nearly 1.9 million people – more than 85 percent of the population in Gaza. This is a catastrophic level of human suffering, destruction and ethnic cleansing. Recently, the International Court of Justice’s preliminary ruling indicated that it is plausible that there is a genocide underway in Gaza and all actions must be taken to prevent further genocide. 

CUPE 3903 has a long-standing member-driven history of Palestinian solidarity. We were proudly one of the first unions to support the peaceful Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign, called by Palestinian Civil Society in 2005, to pressure Israel to comply with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights. Since then, our members have called on the York University administration numerous times to divest from on-going investments in weapons manufacturers that profit from Palestinian suffering. It’s not just us either, CUPE Ontario has supported BDS and campaigns against Israeli apartheid since 2006. Unifor, PSAC, CUPW and many other Canadian unions all now have BDS policies at the national level too. This is a part of the proud and important internationalist tradition of the labour movement. We stand together and practice solidarity. As workers united, we oppose all forms of oppression and champion freedom, justice and equality for all

Did the toolkit target Jewish students or blame students for Israeli state-violence?

No. That is truly an abhorrent claim and fundamentally against the values of CUPE 3903 and our members. The toolkit brought to question York University’s institutional economic and academic connections to the Israeli state, following many state-led actions being recognized as war crimes by the international communityThe toolkit was explicit in rejecting the dangerous and extremely harmful conflation of Jewish communities with the actions of the Israeli state. 

The toolkit stated: “to equate anti-semitism with anti-Zionism would deeply disrespect Jewish activists demonstrating unyielding solidarity with Palestine; homogenise the diversity of beliefs and practices within Jewish communities across contexts, thus dangerously positing the Zionist Israeli state as the legitimate global representative of all Jewish people; and serve to erase the historical origins of the Zionist colonial project” 

Please follow the link to learn more on anti-semitism and anti-zionism:
https://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/2023/11/09/antisemitism-dangerous/

Did the toolkit give a directive from CUPE 3903 for members to “hijack” classes? 

No. The toolkit does not contain a directive from the CUPE 3903 Executive for members to participate in any action, but the document does inform members of their rights, responsibilities, and resources in the event that they should choose to take up a call to action. This is consistent with CUPE 3903’s past communications when members have wanted to participate in similar circumstances, such as the Scholar Strikes of 2020 and 2023.

Did the toolkit provide a list of CUPE 3903 resources for members who face reprisals for speaking about Palestine?

Yes. Our position on this is clear, CUPE 3903 supports the rights of all academics, students, unionists, and activists to speak out against all forms of violence and oppression without fear of intimidation or reprisal.

As stated through the Executive Committee endorsement of the Academic Alliance Against Antisemitism, Racism, Colonialism & Censorship in Canada (ARC) Call To Action, we are committed to supporting and fully representing members who are targeted because of their scholarship, political work and community organizing, as well as holding the employer accountable to its duty to provide a safe and inclusive workplace.

Click here to see a list of possible supports.

Why is this only coming out now?

Some members have asked why we did not engage more quickly with the media, especially with such misinformation at play. The reality of the situation is that we could not, in good conscience, risk redirecting vitriol or backlash onto any members at such a moment. 

As mentioned at the beginning of this page, unfortunately backlash of this nature is a common tactic used to detract from the ongoing genocide in Gaza and the longstanding occupation of Palestinian lands, as well as discredit and discourage pro-Palestinian voices. On campuses across the country we are experiencing and documenting a pattern of what could be perceived as excessive scrutiny, coercion, intimidation and repression around any discourse on Palestine that is not in alignment with the University’s position.

For months now we have witnessed members and allies experience first hand and in real time the material and political consequences of the repression of pro-Palestinian activism, both on and off campus. Unionists across the education sector are aware of the policing and surveillance of what is being taught in classrooms. This situation was no different.

If you are facing reprisals, harassment, or discrimination, or believe you might be, get in touch with us as soon as you can

Bargaining Team Report for the week of January 22-26

Bargaining Still Stalled Even with a Conciliator

Bargaining Team Report for the week of January 22-26

On January 22, the Bargaining Team and the Employer met for the second time with the government-appointed Conciliator, Erinn White. However, even with the Conciliator present, we have seen little to no significant movement from the Employer, especially concerning the priorities members identified at the Red Lines SGMM on January 19, such as increases to wages and benefits. We know that members are really struggling with the cost of living, and with racism on campus, as we saw in the strong strike mandate given to the 3903 bargaining team.

Academic Freedom and Members’ Rights 

After the land acknowledgement, we read a statement standing in solidarity with Palestine as we have at each bargaining session and named the concerns we have with the Employer’s disciplinary actions and reprisals against students and workers who teach and speak up about Palestine. We also highlighted serious concerns members voiced at the Palestine Prohibited event, where they spoke about loss of academic freedom and how racialized members, in particular, are censured for their advocacy and solidarity. 

The Union stands firm on the right to academic freedom, which is protected by our Collective Agreements, and has also brought forward proposals that provide supports to members who confront and navigate an attack on their rights. For instance, proposals on accommodations and funds for racialized members who experience discrimination, harassment, and violence (proposals 1 and 42) would significantly support many of our members. To date, the Employer has not offered any response on these important Union proposals that we brought forward on November 7, leaving us to wonder whether the Employer sees racial violence as a bargaining chip to leverage against other proposals, or whether they intend to continue a course of inaction on a serious gap in supports. The Employer’s treatment of racialized members who openly speak about and call attention to colonialism, genocide, and racial injustices further underscores the importance of protections such as these ones the Union has proposed. 

Pressing the Employer to Provide Us with Better Tools to Work for Fair Representation

We continued to press the Employer to provide the Employment Equity Committee with better, more comprehensive employment equity data. We need this date in order to be sure we can accurately work toward fair representation thresholds, a commitment the Employer has repeatedly stated it shares. We have presented proposals to produce more accurate data, including intersectionality totals that are correlated with information including number of positions held, position type, and salaries (in dollars). We questioned the Employer’s claim that it could not provide intersectionality totals correlated to more than two equity groups. The Union’s position is that, if this is really the case, the Employer needs better software to report data. We insisted on the importance of being able to count beyond two groups when discussing intersectionality; like the ‘denominator issue,’ there is potential for generating incorrect data if only two out of the five equity groups are being considered. 

Counterproposals from the Union 

Unit 2 presented the Job Stability proposals approved by members at the Red Lines SGMM. These included improvements to the Continual Sessional Standing Program (CSSP), Long Service Teaching Appointments (LSTA), Conversions, Transitional Continuing Appointments (TCA), Time-Limited Severance Program (TLSP), and Special Renewable Contracts (SRC). 

The Union also presented counters on equity-related proposals, including providing adoptive parents a paid leave that is the equivalent of a pregnancy leave, increasing the funding for the Lee Wiggins Childcare Centre, and to clarify language on the proposal for Code Based Extensions Requests. 

Conciliation 

Despite being in conciliation, the Employer has not engaged with most of our proposals, especially monetary proposals. We heard loud and clear from members at the Red Lines SGMM, as well as through the bargaining survey conducted in the spring/summer of 2023, that wages are a top priority. The cost of living crisis in Toronto is stifling for our members. Yet, conciliation has not brought the Employer any closer to taking our proposals on wages and benefits seriously. We will continue to make our best efforts during conciliation to fight for a fair Collective Agreement for you, our members, and we remain in communication about our next steps. 

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.

Friday, February 2, 2:00-5:00 PM (ONLINE ONLY): 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

Wednesday, February 7, 11:00 AM-5:00 PM (ONLINE ONLY): 

Register for the Zoom meeting in advance.

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 cupe3903equity@gmail.com.

Bargaining Team Meetings (no registration required):

Monday, February 5, 1:00-3:00 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

CUPE 3903 Chairperson’s response to the York administration regarding the Palestinian Solidarity Working Group’s Toolkit

On Thursday, February 1st, CUPE 3903 Chairperson sent the following email response to the York administration in response to the administration’s request to meet regarding the Palestinian Solidarity Working Group’s Toolkit:

1 February, 2024

To: Laina Y. Bay-Cheng, Interim Vice-President, Equity, People & Culture Lisa Philipps, Provost and Vice-President Academic

Dear Laina and Lisa,

I am writing in response to your January 29, 2024 invitation to meet with me about the Toolkit on Teaching Palestine.

Please clarify the purpose of this meeting. Does the University have a practice of calling Union leaders in to discuss our internal communications with members? This would constitute unacceptable interference in Union governance. The events of the past several months indicate that this level of overreach and intimidation is reserved for policing any discourse on Palestine that is not in alignment with the University’s position.

Your letter contains several factual errors about the toolkit’s provenance and content that lead me to question your intentions and your comprehension of this matter. The toolkit is a resource developed by and for CUPE 3903 rank-and-file members in response to a call for global solidarity with Palestine. Members felt the need to produce such a toolkit as a result of the reprisals students and faculty have faced for simply speaking about Palestine in the workplace. Most egregiously, you fail to acknowledge the toolkit’s clearly stated alignment of solidarity with Jewish activists and a diversity of Jewish communities.

If you review the document more carefully, you might see that the toolkit does not contain a directive to members to participate in any action, but rather informs members of their rights, responsibilities, and resources in the event that they should choose to take up the call to action. This is consistent with CUPE 3903’s past communications in similar circumstances, such as the Scholar Strikes of 2020 and 2023.

Your communication comes on the heels of media coverage that denounces the toolkit and incites abusive behaviour towards CUPE and towards me in particular. As a direct result of this coverage, my CUPE 3903 email account has been inundated with hundreds of unwelcome and inappropriate messages. Your letter and President Rhonda Lenton’s message to faculty on January 29 neither mention nor discourage such doxxing. Your silence condones this ongoing harassment campaign. This has become a pattern in the University’s approach to those who speak up for Palestine.

In the midst of this vitriol, your framing of the issue as one of academic freedom is particularly galling. How does the University propose to uphold academic freedom when its senior administrators are actively perpetuating public attacks on a labour union representing thousands of graduate students and contract faculty members? What steps is the administration taking to mitigate harm in this extraordinarily repressive political climate?

Further, as senior administrators at the helm of one of Canada’s largest universities, how will you be accountable to the call to divest from the violence being perpetrated in Gaza? Last week, the International Court of Justice’s preliminary ruling indicated that it is plausible that there is a genocide underway in Gaza. Are your offices prepared to heed the calls of numerous global human rights organizations to halt arms sales to Israel and to demand an immediate ceasefire?

Unless you can present me with a clear agenda and rationale for this meeting that will not further threaten my ability to carry out my responsibilities as an instructor and as the Chairperson of CUPE 3903, I am not willing to meet with you at this time.

Sincerely,

Stephanie Latella
CUPE 3903 Chairperson

Results of Temporary Appointments

The Executive Committee has decided to open nominations for candidates to be pro-temmed (temporarily appointed) to fill two vacancies on the Executive Committee and two vacancies on the Bargaining Team, as per Article 14 V.(b) of the bylaws, these nominations closes January 25th. Nominations for a full by-election are to come.

Congratulations to the following member in their temporary appointments to the following positions:
Vice President Unit 1 – Mackenzie Edwards
Lead Steward Unit 4 – Vacant
Bargaining Team Unit 1 – Collin Xia
Bargaining Team Unit 3 – Imran Syed

Bargaining Report: January 8th-16th

Bargaining Update: January 8th-16th

Bargaining Preparation for Conciliation

The Bargaining Team (BT) rang in 2024 with a series of meetings to prepare for our first bargaining meeting of the year with the Employer and our first ever meeting with our Conciliator, Erin White.  We hope that with the arrival of the conciliator the Employer will start to sign off on significant proposals, such as those addressing the cost of living crisis and equity in hiring.

Red Lines Preparation Meetings: January 8th

The BT’s first meeting was to discuss with the Membership what would count as a “red line” (i.e. an issue over which the union would go on strike).  Using the bargaining survey completed by members last year, the BT will suggest to the Membership which proposals should be a priority for bargaining (e.g. wages, job security, equity issues).  With the strong Strike Mandate Vote of 84% voting in favour of strike action if necessary, we are confident that we can either make gains on significant proposals at the bargaining table or show the conciliator that the Employer refuses to take these proposals seriously.  The Red Lines Special General Membership Meeting will take place on January 19th.  You can register for that meeting here.

Special General Membership Meeting: January 12th

At this meeting, the BT reported to the Membership that no progress had been made on monetary proposals at the bargaining table.  The Employer countered some of our proposals with the same inadequate offer that they first gave us in late October.  

However, the most pressing issue for the BT was to have the Unit 2 Job Stability Package (JSP) approved by the Membership so that this proposal could be presented to the employer at the next bargaining session, or to have the proposal withdrawn.  The BT also emphasized that the proposal could not be changed now that we are in conciliation since no changes to existing proposals or new proposals are allowed at this stage of bargaining.  The Membership decided to table the motion to approve the JSP because they needed more time to review such a comprehensive proposal.  

The Membership approved the Strike Policy which lays out how a strike will be conducted.  Once approved, the strike policy allows for the formation of a strike committee which discusses and approves strike strategy for the Membership.  Getting this policy approved and the strike committee formed are important steps to prepare for a strike.  If the Employer insists on refusing our very reasonable demands, then we are now well on our way to preparing for a strike to win those demands!

Conciliator Preparation Meeting and Palestine: January 15th 

At this meeting, we discussed how we would interact with the conciliator, how we would move forward pressuring the Employer to respond to the genocide against the Palestinian people, and how we would ask the Membership for guidance at the Red Lines SGMM.  Regarding the conciliator, we discussed whether she should chair the meetings and if we should do “shuttle diplomacy” (where neither the BT nor the employer’s BT meets in the same room, but communicates only through the conciliator).  Considering the Employer’s disregard for basic rules of civility during meetings (such as not interrupting and refusing to raise their hand when they want to speak), we decided to wait and see whether the conciliator would want to chair the meetings or not.  We also decided not to engage in shuttle diplomacy in this first meeting to gauge the reaction of the conciliator to the Employer’s behaviour.  

The BT remains committed to challenging the Employer’s lack of response in the face of the genocide taking place in Palestine.  We drafted a Statement on Palestine to show the employer and the Conciliator that genocide is a labour issue, especially since members are being disciplined by the Employer for their support of the Palestinian people.  This disciplining has had a chilling effect on the campus as a whole.  Moreover, we wanted to show that no one can be silent while genocide is happening.

We continued our discussion of how to present issues to the Membership to help us all understand which issues are strike issues and which are not.  The BT decided not to go over individual proposals, but to focus on themes (such as, equity, wages, graduate funding, job security, etc.).  A complete chart of our proposals and the Employer’s responses to them can be found here.

Coordinated Pressure on the Employer on Wages Continues

From 2020 to 2023, Bill 124 imposed an unconstitutional 1% per year cap on wages at the same time that we witnessed a steep 15.8% rise in the cost of living. For the past several months, CUPE 3903 has been organizing with other unions on campus to work collectively for retroactive wage increases. Our coordination with the all-unions Cross-Campus Alliance (CCA) has successfully pressured the Employer to present monetary counterproposals sooner than they otherwise would have. But it still took the Employer two months to deliver this inadequate proposal on Oct. 27, which falls well short of addressing past and present levels of inflation. 

On January 16th, 3903 and other unions on campus discussed the Employer’s claims that it does not have the money to meet our proposed wage increases despite handing out lavish bonuses to high-level administrators regardless of their performance and on litigation to prevent wage increases for the York University Faculty Association (YUFA).  Moreover, while York claims it is broke, they are opening a new medical school and they have over $1 billion in deferred maintenance with many buildings at Keele and Glendon are over the critical threshold so that these buildings are unsafe. York  cannot even fix a broken toilet on Glendon’s campus that has been out of order for years.  How does the university’s admin expect to increase, or even maintain, enrolment and retention when they show such blatant disregard for their students and employees?  All of this mismanagement is more confusing when the Auditor General’s Office (AGO) report states that York is in a sound financial position.

Get Involved!

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. 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 Report Back: Week of January 17

On January 17, the Bargaining Team and the Employer met for the first time with the government-appointed conciliator, Erinn White.  At our Red lines SGMM on January 19, members reaffirmed the bargaining priorities, particularly significant wage and benefits increases, originally identified in last spring’s bargaining surveys. Unit 2 members passed the job security counterproposals first presented to members at the GMM the week before. 

Bargaining Report Back: Week of January 17

Bargaining Jan. 17th

After the land acknowledgement, the BT, as has been our current practice after October 7th, 2023, read a powerful statement on Palestine, touching upon our CA and the problems of Freedom of Speech, which ended by asking:  “How do we want to be remembered?”

Counters

The BT presented several counters, including on 3903 executive service increase, on the Labour Management Committee, clarifying “Tutor 3” positions, cleaning up the CA to clarify the cap for unit 2, cleaning up various articles, and our insistence that for U2’s who have designed a course we want the right of the designer to mount the course to increase from 36 to 48 months.

Employer Counters

The Employer proposed a counter to our proposal on automatic Personal Expense Reimbursement for U2, where they rather unacceptably suggested a Joint Working committee on Personal Expense Reimbursement.  They also proposed a Letter of Understanding for CUPE 3903’s grievance against misuse of Graduate Assistant Training (GAT) Funds for U3, but which completely disregards what we have already insisted is proper restitution for lost monies and mismanagement of the GAT Funds. We have raised these concerns on several occasions, and the Employer, as evidenced by their most recent Letter of Understanding, continues to dismiss and ignore the proposals we have put forth. 

RED LINES SGMM

We had a redlines SGMM, wherein firstly U2 settled on the January 19th “Job Stability” programs, which are a slight expansion of the handful of programs that already exist.  These should be presented to the employer on Monday January 22.

During the redlines themselves, the membership courageously stood firm with the BT.  We were told by the membership that they were supportive of all that we have put forward.  Especially all units told us (which was also obvious from the surveys done back in Summer 2023) that wages were super important, and something that is a clear redline.  The importance of wages is based on the cost of living crises and the current problems of life in Toronto.  We were also told to stand firm on not allowing the university to restructure our jobs.  In regards to both our wages and benefits proposals, we were told that we had been conservative with our proposals and that we must not bargain them down!

CONCILIATION

We met with the conciliator and discussed very early basic issues and concerns, and set up the guidelines of conciliation.  Conciliation is the last step before we are in a legal strike position. The conciliators are interested in moving the process forward, and keeping communication open between us and the employer, which to be clear, we are trying to do as well, but for the employer’s intransigence.  However, while it is early in the process, conciliation might not lead to a worked out Collective Agreement.  We will continue to insist on developing the best CA we can for you, our members, and while doing so, we wait to see what happens next. 

WHAT’S NEXT?

Upcoming Meetings with the Employer (Registration Required):

CUPE 3903 is committed to open bargaining, which means all members are welcome to attend bargaining meetings to observe, pass notes to the bargaining team, and participate in bargaining team caucuses. At this point in the process, the bargaining team is working with a conciliator appointed by the Ministry of Labour. This is a hybrid meeting. For those attending in person, the room location is 519 Kaneff Tower. For those attending remotely, registration is required. Please register in advance to avoid delays in accessing these meetings:

January 22, 2024 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0rdO6tpjMrGdwy2reZhym22PBeswf6GBUb

February 2, 2024 @ 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm

 https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIvdO2qrj8oEtW2Sorgmj8mO8Pde9MgekBb

Accessibility: 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 cupe3903equity@gmail.com.

 

Upcoming Bargaining team meetings (no Registration required):

Friday, January 26, 3:00–5:00 PM

 https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87887091193?pwd=QWJpZk9CbTh5UXNabnc1Q2duUGVzZz09

Wednesday, January 31, 11:00 AM–1:00 PM : https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85294835318?pwd=a3ltQjBCZG1SMEdYWmZjT3hGVGFydz09

Joint Executive and Bargaining Team Meeting

This is a joint Bargaining Team and Executive committee meeting to focus on bargaining strategies. All members are welcome to join.

Jan. 29, 1-4pm BT-Exec Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84758505282?pwd=b3VGakg1VEhhTU11OFJpdjU0MlBYZz09