The CUPE 3903 red star logo

The CUPE 3903 red star logo

A short primer on 3903-speak and acronyms

Prepared by Gregory C. Flemming, Grievance Officer


AAPR – Academic and Administrative Prioritization Review. This is a systems-review process being conducted by a private firm. It has been criticized by YUFA / OCUFA‘s Craig Heron as being fundamentally flawed and a potential threat to higher education in Ontario. Read more here.

APE – Applicable Prior Experience. This is the measure of seniority used by 3903 and the employer. The standard of measure is one full-year Course Directorship, which is comprised of three lecture hours. So, if your APE is 1, it means you’ve taught one Course Directorship or its equivalent, which could be (for example) three one-hour tutorial sections.


Bargaining Unit – A group of workers defined by a common set of criteria. Each bargaining unit has to be certified by the Ministry of Labour, and each has its Members’ work governed by a Collective Agreement (see CA). CUPE 3903 represents three bargaining units: graduate students who teach tutorials, director courses, and more (Unit 1); Contract Faculty who course-direct, mark/grade, teaching assist, and more, and who are not graduate students (Unit 2); graduate students (typically MA/MSc students) who do Graduate Assistantships and Research Assistantships (Unit 3).

Barry Miller – See Faculty Relations.

BMC – Bargaining Mobilization Committee. This is simply the Stewards’ Council, renamed during negotiations because its central focus is mobilizing members in order to ensure a successful round of negotiations.

BOG (“the bog”) – York University’s Board of Governors, primarily concerned with the finances of the University. For example, it was the BOG that approved raising tuition fees for international students. It is primarily made up of business leaders, lawyers, and other professionals. CUPE 3903 does not have representation on this body.

BT – CUPE 3903’s Bargaining Team, which negotiates new contracts (see CAs) with the Employer. When fully constituted, the BT consists of three representatives per bargaining unit and a non-voting Recording Secretary.


CA – Collective Agreement. These are the legal documents that outline the working conditions bargained for, and accepted by, an Employer and a Union. AKA “the contracts.” CUPE 3903 has three contracts, one for each bargaining unit – all available here.

Cap (“the cap”) – Part of the seniority system. No 3903er can work more than a total of 5.5 courses per year. There is an additional maximum set, however, in that one cannot teach more than 4.5 courses in the Fall/Winter semester. While one may work at 5.5, one can only accrue 3.0 worth of APE.

CD – Course Directorship. 3903ers are contracted to design and deliver courses at York, and are called ‘course directors’ (rather than, for example, professors or lecturers) in our CAs. “CD” is shorthand for both the course that is taught and the person who teaches it.

CFS – Canadian Federation of Students. A pan-Canadian student organization, representing over half a million students at over 80 colleges and universities, that advocates for students on a provincial and national level. Represented on York’s campus by the York Federation of Students and the York University Graduate Students’ Association.

CLA – Contractually Limited Appointment. This is a form of contract work that is offered under YUFA‘s umbrella. It is a full-time research and/or teaching position that is guaranteed for between nine months and three years.

COLA (“cola”) – Cost of Living Allowance/Adjustment. Based on changes in the Consumer Price Index (something akin to the inflation rate), this is a number expressed as a percentage that represents increases in the costs associated with a pre-defined standard of living. To ask for COLA in a Collective Agreement (see CA) is to ask for increases to the worth of the contract that match increases in the cost of living.

CUEW (pronounced ‘cue-double-you’) – Canadian University Education Workers, a union to which CUPE 3903 was once affiliated. This union ceased to exist when the unions affiliated with it joined the Canadian Union of Public Employees. See also Thirty-Nine Hundred Locals.

CUPE (pronounced ‘cue-pee’) – Canadian Union of Public Employees, a national union that represents over 628,000 public-sector workers across Canada. CUPE 3903 is a local union or branch of CUPE. See Local, Thirty-Nine Hundred Locals.

CUPE 1356 (pronounced ‘cue-pee 13-56’) – A CUPE local on York campus that represents janitorial, security, maintenance, and other staff in contract negotiations and grievance proceedings.

CUPE Ontario (pronounced ‘cue-pee-oh’) – The political wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees in Ontario, representing over 240,000 workers.


EHB – Extended Health Benefits fund. This is a pool of money allotted to CUPE 3903 to allocate to members who have medical needs above and beyond those covered by our benefits package.

“The Employer” – We are all members of the community called York University. In a labour context, “the University” doesn’t refer to the academic community, but to the representatives of the Board of Governors (See BOG). These representatives are employees of York’s Faculty Relations department. It is these representatives in particular, and the University administration more generally, to which “the Employer” refers.

EO – Either Elections Officer or Equity Officer. The former is a CUPE 3903 Member elected to run elections and by-elections of the Executive Committee and the Bargaining Team. The latter is a part-time employee of the Local who specializes in fighting for equity at the University.


Faculty Relations (FR) – Essentially the Human Resources (HR) department of York University. These are York employees who represent the Board of Governors (see BOG) in negotiations with CUPE 3903, CUPE 1356, YUSA, YUFA, and other worker-representatives at York. They also handle grievances and disciplinary proceedings when these processes get to a late stage. The three people from FR with whom CUPE 3903 most often engages are Barry Miller, Rob Lawson, and their aide, Charles Bisram.

Federal Contractors Program (FCP) – A federal program, created in 1986, that requires provincially-regulated employers with 100 or more employees bidding on federal contracts of $1,000,000 (originally $200,000) or more to certify that they will implement employment equity measures.

FGS – Faculty of Graduate Studies. The University body that oversees rules and regulations having to do with graduate education at York.

FNSWG (pronounced ‘fin-swig’) – First Nations Solidarity Working Group. This is a working group within CUPE 3903 that organizes and advocates around issues of indigenous sovereignty and colonialism in Ontario, and is open to all members of 3903.


GA/GAship – Graduate Assistant/ship. Typically, a Master’s student who aids in administrative or other work as a part of her/his funding package. See also RA, Bargaining Unit.

GFA – Graduate Financial Assistance. Money given to graduate students to offset the cost of tuition, and guaranteed by clauses in the Unit 1 and Unit 3 CAs. See also Bargaining Unit.

GMM – General Membership Meeting. This is a forum in which CUPE 3903 Members make formal decisions about budgets, bargaining demands and strategy, and almost anything else that the Union does. GMMs usually take place once a month. See also SGMM.


LMC – Labour-Management Committee. This is a committee made up of representatives of the Union (CUPE 3903) and representatives of the Employer (representing the University’s BOG). It meets monthly between bargaining rounds to discuss various issues as they arise. It also includes several sub-committees, including those on employment equity and racial discrimination. Because the Union’s four staff members are unionized as CUPE 1281, there is also an LMC between CUPE 3903 and CUPE 1281.

Local – Short for “Local Union.” Local 3903 is affiliated with CUPE, and stands as a local union as opposed to the national union (see CUPE). CUPE 3903 was once affiliated with the Canadian University Education Workers (CUEW), and was known as Local 3.

LSTA – Long Service Teaching Appointment. This is a job security program that guarantees a certain level of work and compensation for a certain number of years. It is awarded to some, but not all, members of CUPE 3903 who have worked at the University for a certain number of years and taught a certain number of courses.


NRA – Notice of Recommended Appointment. The employer must not only ensure that all work is publicly posted for a certain amount of time and at certain times of year, but also publicly name the person it has selected to take on a contract. This statement is known as a “Notice of Recommended Appointment.” This is to ensure that people who may have a rightful claim to that work have time to assert that claim.


OCAP (pronounced ‘o-cap’) – Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. An anti-poverty activist organization that, over the years, has enjoyed much support from CUPE 3903 and its Members. 3903 currently donates funds to OCAP that are used to cover the cost of renting its office space.

OCUFA (pronounced ‘o-coo-fuh’) – Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. A labour organization that represents 17,000 university faculty and academic librarians across Ontario. YUFA, at York, is a member.

OUWCC – Ontario University Workers’ Co-ordinating Committee. A committee attached to CUPE Ontario and made up of members from CUPE locals across the university sector, including CUPE 3903 and CUPE 1356. It is a forum in which coordinated bargaining proposals are discussed, research conducted and shared, etc.


PER – Professional Expense Reimbursement. An employer-administered fund used to reimburse CUPE 3903 Members in Unit 2 for materials necessary for teaching.

PDF – Professional Development Fund. This is a pool of money allotted to the Union to allocate to Members who undergo various forms of professional development, including presenting at/attending conferences and taking classes.

“Point of Order” – Said at any meeting of the Union by members when they feel that process is not being properly followed. Once said, the chair of the meeting must decide if process has in fact been contravened.


RA/RAship – Research Assistant/ship. Typically a master’s student who is asked to do various forms of research for pay as part of her/his funding package. See GA, Bargaining Unit.

Rob Lawson – See Faculty Relations.


SC – Either Stewards’ Council or Strike Committee.

Seniority – A means of ensuring that people who have given the most service to the University are first in line to receive work. The Union’s seniority system is made up of at least three parts: APE, Incumbency, and Years of Service. Incumbency means that, if you’ve taught a course once, you’re deemed qualified to teach it again for three years. Years of Service are simply the number of years that a member has worked at the University at a certain teaching intensity, which can make one eligible for certain job security provisions of the CA.

SGMM – Special General Membership Meeting. A GMM, but called for a specific topic of discussion. SGMMs can be called by the Executive Committee or demanded by petition by the General Membership.

SRC – Special Renewable Contract. This was a job security program that gave Members of CUPE 3903 with many years of service at the University some measure of job security by guaranteeing them work. This program no longer exists.

Stewards’ Council – A Union body made up of members interested in spreading information to other members, organizing actions, helping members through the grievance process, etc. Stewards represent and advocate for members in their hiring units (the department that employs them). Stewards are generally elected at the beginning of the fall semester, on the basis of one steward for every 50 members for each of the three units in every hiring unit. During contract negotiations, it is renamed the Bargaining Mobilization Committee (BMC). During a strike, it is renamed the Strike Committee.

Strike Committee – If a strike is called, the Bargaining Mobilization Committee (BMC) is renamed the Strike Committee to reflect its new focus: organizing the daily activities associated with a strike.


TFAC (pronounced ‘tee-fak’) – Trans Feminist Action Caucus. All Trans, Woman-identified, Gender Queer and Gender Variant CUPE 3903 Members are automatically considered members of TFAC, and can attend meetings. The Caucus plans actions, generates bargaining proposals, advocates, etc.

“3900 (thirty-nine hundred) Locals” – All the CUPE Locals in Ontario that represent academic workers at Ontario universities. CUPE 3902 represents workers at the University of Toronto, CUPE 3906 represents workers at McMaster, etc. See also CUPE, Local, CUEW.

“Tickets” – Also called “teaching tickets” and “ticketed CDs.” This refers to Course Directorships done by CUPE 3903 Members in Unit 1 (i.e. grad students). The Unit 1 CA allows for 35 of these positions across the University each academic year, with some additional positions in certain departments.


Unit – See Bargaining Unit.


YFS – York Federation of Students. The central undergraduate student union at York University, which represents 53,000 undergraduate students. Local 68 of the Canadian Federation of Students. See also CFS.

YUFA (pronounced ‘yoo-fuh’) – York University Faculty Association. The professional association that represents some classifications of librarians, York’s tenured faculty, and certain contract faculty, in contract negotiations with the Employer. YUFA’s membership is about 1,400.

YUGSA (pronounced ‘yoog-sa’) – York University Graduate Students’ Association. The central graduate student union at York University, which represents 6,100 full- and part-time graduate students. Local 84 of the Canadian Federation of Students. See also CFS.

YUSA (pronounced ‘yoo-sa’) – York University Staff Association. The professional association that represents York’s administrative assistants in contract negotiations.