Bargaining Updates

March 3, 2017

Overview of Tentative Settlement Agreements

Here are the signed tentative settlement agreements:

Unit 1 (GTA, UTA, and GSA-1)

Unit 2 (SL)

The next section of this update provides an overview of the changes that have been made in the tentative settlement agreements. This does not cover all changes in detail and to see and understand all of the changes you’ll need to read the tentative settlement agreements in detail.

An information session is being held at the Guelph campus on Monday, March 6 from 6-8pm in J.D. MacLachlan 102. The chair of the Negotiating Committee, Ashley Wilson, will be at the Guelph-Humber campus in GH421 on Tuesday, March 7 from 4-6pm to answer any member questions about the tentative settlement agreement for Unit 2.

The Negotiating Committee believes that there are significant gains for members in these tentative settlement agreements and recommends ratification. The Negotiating Committee did not accomplish everything that members identified as priorities and even in areas where we saw some significant increases there is still more work to do. There will still be work to do during the next round of negotiations on tuition relief and pension access for Unit 1 members.

Both Units (TAs, GSA-1s, SLs)

Global Changes
You’ll notice some global changes throughout the tentative settlements that are editorial in nature and that seek to eliminate redundancies. Some examples are that all gendered pronouns will be replaced with gender neutral pronouns, references to the University of Guelph-Humber will be included throughout the agreement, and at times articles have been combined or separated to make the language more clear.

Union Office Space (Article 6)
The Union now has the assurance that there will always be office space for CUPE 3913 on the main campus and there is a new commitment from the Employer to assist the Union in securing office space at the Guelph-Humber campus.

Grievance Procedure (Article 8)
There were some modifications made to the process by which the Union requests and receives documents in unfair hiring grievances that allows the Employer to deny the request for documentation if the Union is being unreasonable.

Disciplinary Procedures (Article 9)
New steps have been added to the disciplinary process to make it more clear to members what their rights are when they are going through a disciplinary process and to reduce the fear of “what’s next”. Clarifying language has also been introduced that covers how disciplinary records are stored.

Hiring Procedures (Article 11)
Appendices that contain the information that needs to be included in postings and offers of appointments have been moved into the body of the Collective Agreement.

There is now a requirement for a selection committee of 2-3 people to be established in all hiring competitions that are greater than or equal to 0.5 work assignments. The selection committee must also include at least one person belonging to an equity seeking group and the members of the committee must have training through Diversity and Human Rights. Selection committees will also be required to establish a rubric to assess candidates’ qualifications.

Performance Evaluations (Article 13)
Changes have been introduced to the performance evaluation process that clarifies the role of student evaluations and that requires a timeline for improvement to be specified prior to any disciplinary action being taken.

Office Space (Article 15)
An addition has been made that would require members to have access to private office space when it is required to complete their duties as a TA, GSA-1, or SL.

UHIP (Article 19)
The annual pool for UHIP costs has been increased from $70,000 to $100,000 which we believe will cover 100% of the UHIP costs for international students.

Benefits (Article 19)
The annual pool for benefits has been increased from $145,000 to $275,000 which will allow the Union to increase the benefits provided to members in both units.

Duration (Article 23)
Should the tentative agreement be ratified the Collective Agreements will be effective (retroactively) on September 1, 2016 and will expire on August 31, 2019.

Committee Membership
A new Letter of Understanding has been signed that ensures that the Union continues to have the right to represent members on a variety of University Committees.

Employment Equity
A new Letter of Understanding has been signed that requires that the Employer conduct an employment equity survey within the life of the Collective Agreement and that provides for training for TAs and Sessional Lecturers on inclusive teaching practices.

Sexual and Domestic Violence
A new Letter of Understanding has been signed that outlines the services and supports that are available to survivors of sexual and domestic violence.

Unit 1 (TAs and GSA-1s)

Wages (Article 14)
GTA, UTA, and GSA-1 wages will increase by 1.5% each year. Additionally, a fellowship component has been added to the UTA wage so that over the life of the agreement, wages will increase from $24.03 in year one to $26.73 beginning in September 2018. This is an overall increase of 18%.

Hiring (Article 11)
A hiring process has been established for jobs that fall within the Job Security Period and requires the Employer to assess criteria such as qualifications, prior experience, availability, and preference, along with the operational requirements such as coverage of all assignments and fulfillment of job security commitments. After these considerations are made, hiring will be based on seniority.

A new level of consideration has been established that requires all members applying for work in their home department to receive work assignments (for which they are qualified) prior to anyone receiving multiple assignments.

A further level of consideration was established to clarify levels of consideration when someone is applying for work outside of their home department, but which does not change the current practice.

Teaching and Career Development Fellowships (Appendix G)
The number of teaching and career development fellowships was increased from 2 to 4 fellowships each year.

Unit 2 (Sessional Lecturers)

Wages (Article 14)
Sessional Lecturer wages will increase by 1.5% each year.

The supplemental payment that is received when a Sessional Lecturer teaches a course with 61-110 students without TA support has been increased from $75.00 to $150.00.

Hiring (Article 14)
New language has been introduced that requires all departments to establish a process for hiring TAs that is fair, equitable, and transparent, to ensure that Sessional Lecturers do not receive less TA support than faculty.

Hiring (Article 10)
No cap on Sessional Lecturer work assignments has been included in the tentative settlement agreements.

Pension (Article 19)
There is a new requirement for the Employer to notify members when they become eligible for pension membership. Equivalency language has been introduced that makes it clear how many courses a SL has to have taught to have achieved 700 hours of work and to become eligible.

Pension contribution rates will be determined after negotiations between CUPE 1334 and the University of Guelph are complete.

Professional Development Reimbursement (Appendix F)
The Professional Development Reimbursement fund has been increased from $30,000 per year to $35,000 per year.

Right of First Refusal (RoFR) (Appendix I)
New provisions have been introduced that permit RoFR to be extended for 2 additional semesters (beyond the 4 semester limit) when there are medical reasons that prevented someone from accepting a work assignment.

New provisions have also been introduced to grant RoFR that extends for 2 semesters for members who were hired to do course design work.

No other changes were made to RoFR.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
A new Letter of Understanding has been created that provides Sessional Lecturers with access to an EAP for mental health services during the semesters when they are working and that extends into the following semester when the services continue to be required.

We believe that the information above accurately represents the changes that will be included in the new Collective Agreements should members choose to ratify. We encourage everyone to read the tentative settlement agreements to fully understand the changes that have been made.

Questions about the vote or the tentative settlement agreements? Email us at membership@cupe3913.on.ca.


February 6, 2017

“No Board” Requested, Strike Deadline Approaching

On Tuesday, January 31, your Negotiating Committee met with the Employer (the University of Guelph) for the fourth day of conciliation. Conciliation lasted all day and during that time the Negotiating Committee reviewed what the Employer hoped would be their last set of counterproposals. While we have seen some movement toward agreement on a few key items, the Employer’s most recent set of proposals is still far from what members of CUPE 3913 have indicated that they want to achieve in this round of negotiations. See below for a summary and overview of where we are now on the priority issues.

You’ll see in the overview of the issues below that the majority of issues that members identified as priorities have yet to be resolved and that not a lot has changed since members voted 68-69% in favour in the strike vote in December. Your Negotiating Committee is continuing to fight for the rights and protections you want and need in your Collective Agreement.

Today your Negotiating Committee requested a “No Board” report from the Ministry of Labour which begins the countdown to a strike deadline. The “no board” was requested today in order to set an approximate strike deadline of February 27 (the exact deadline will not be set until the Ministry of Labour issues the report and we’ll inform you when that happens). This does not mean that we’re done negotiating. The Union will be responding to the Employer’s last set of proposals, in full, on February 15, and we have scheduled two more full days of mediation on February 23 and 24 during which we hope we can reach agreement.

What are the issues?

Unit 1 (TAs and GSA-1s)

10-hour rule

Last time we reported back, the Negotiating Committee thought we had found some common ground with the Employer on this issue. The Negotiating Committee came up with a proposal that would require all members who applied for positions, and were qualified, to receive one position before they receive multiple positions and that would require the Employer to follow the hiring process for all additional work assignments. Since then, the Employer has changed their mind and wants to maintain a limit of 1.25 work assignments with exceptions made by appeal to the Associate Vice-President (Graduate Studies). This appeal process would act in no way as a substitute for a fair hiring process. Members have expressed serious concerns about this because it is very difficult for some members to make ends meet with only one work assignment. Further, department needs in some areas require TAs to accept more than one assignment to cover all courses which makes it impossible for those departments to follow a strict cap of 1.25 assignments. The Employer has acknowledged that it is impossible to follow the rule, but is not interested in a proper hiring process for those exceptional circumstances. We’re a bit puzzled by this and will be addressing this in our counterproposals.

Job Security Period Hiring Process

For members within their Job Security Period (meaning they are guaranteed a GTA or GSA position in their offer of admission) there is currently no hiring process. This means that decisions about who is assigned to what course happens in a largely arbitrary way. The Union has requested that the Employer follow the hiring process for all work assignments by assessing applicants’ qualifications and seniority. While we reported previously that we had made some progress with the Employer, and that they appeared willing to consider things like qualifications and seniority, the Employer is still holding on including other factors such as “operational requirements” which have no definition and could be used to justify any hiring decision nullifying the progress we thought had been made on this front.

Tuition Indexation

The Employer is not willing to consider any king of tuition relief or tuition indexation for Unit 1 members who are all required to be enrolled as Graduate Students and pay tuition each semester. This will not be achieved without going on strike.

Unit 2 (Sessional Lecturers)

Right of First Refusal (RoFR)

Under the existing CA, RoFR guarantees that an SL will be appointed to teach a course if the course was taught by the SL in any of the five previous terms. With respect to the teaching of multiple sections of a particular course, the University is proposing that RoFR be may limited to only one of the course sections being offered and that all other sections be open to competition.  The Employer has dropped their proposal to take away RoFR for multiple sections based on “academic rigour” or “Employment Equity” but has come up with a new term that would be used to limit those who hold RoFR to multiple sections of a course: “diversity of perspectives”. This language would seriously weaken members’ right to teach courses they have previously taught by allowing the Employer to take away RoFR without repercussion.

Members indicated a desire to extend RoFR refusal language and to close the loopholes that allow the Employer to take away the little job security members have, but the Employer has not been willing to extend Right of First Refusal in any way.

Cap on Sessional Lecturer Work Assignments

The Employer is proposing a cap on the number of courses or course sections that a SL can teaching in any term to the “equivalent of 5 work assignments”. A limit on the number of courses and SL can teach would mean a significant pay cut for some of our members and would force existing SLs to seek out employment at other institutions to compensate for their job loss at Guelph. But more than this, what is concerning is that it is not clear what is “equivalent” to 5 work assignments. To date, the Employer has informed members that sometimes 6 or 7 courses are “equivalent” to 5 work assignments, but there is no protection from the Employer saying that for you 2, 3, or 4 courses is “equivalent” to 5 work assignments. This is another means of denying work to members and making the work of Sessional Lecturers even more precarious.

Both Units (TAs, GSA-1s, SLs)

Benefits

Health Benefits: Each year, Unit 1 members have access to a reimbursement of $300 for vision-related costs and Unit 2 members have access to a reimbursement of $1000 for all health-related costs. These expenses are reimbursed from a pool of $145,000 and claims cannot be reimbursed after the pool is exhausted each year. These benefits are not adequate. The Employer has proposed an increase to $170,000 in the first year of the agreement, $200,000 in the second year, and $250,000 in the third year. This is a considerable increase but does not come close to covering the health and dental needs that members have identified and would not permit the Union to offer insured benefits for members. Your Negotiating Committee will be submitting a counterproposal to the Employer in advance of the next mediation date.

Leaves: Under the current Collective Agreement there is no protection for survivors of sexual or domestic violence and who need to request leave from their position. The Union proposed leave provisions for these members, but the Employer has refused. This leave is extremely important to those members who need it and it is abhorrent that the Employer would refuse members this right.

Members have requested more protection when they need to go on parental leave and the Negotiating Committee has proposed expanded eligibility. The current eligibility requirements make it almost impossible for members to access parental leave and the Employer has rejected the Union’s proposal.

Pension: While the Union has requested lower eligibility requirements for Unit 2 members and access to the pension plan for Unit 1 members, the Employer is proposing increased contribution rates that make it harder for new members to join and more onerous for members who are already in the plan. The Employer has refused to even notify members when they are eligible to join the plan.

Wages

The Employer has moved away from one-time-only wage increases and is now proposing an increase of 1% in the first year, 1.25% in the second year, and 1.25% in the third year of the agreement. The Negotiating Committee is pleased that we can finally begin true negotiations on wages now that the Employer has moved past one-time-only payments and will be submitting a counterproposal to the Employer in advance of the next mediation date.

The Employer is holding on its proposal for a separate wage for invigilation that would be a 56% wage cut for Unit 1 members who do this work. This also opens the door to placing different values on other types of work in Unit 1 and establishing different wages and rights for different types of members going forward.

The Negotiating Committee proposed a wage increase for approximately 100 UTAs that would bring the hourly wage of these members to 75% of the GTA wage. Despite demonstrating to the Employer that these members do much the same work as GTAs, the Employer maintains that UTAs do not deserve this wage increase.

Specifically for Unit 2 members, the Employer is proposing splitting seniority between departments so that seniority in one department is separate from seniority in another, making it much more difficult to move up the pay grid. This would make it take up to double the time to reach the next pay step if you are teaching in more than one department. This is concerning for new members but also for current members who may see a huge pay decrease when their seniority is divided between the various department they teach in.

Disciplinary Procedures

Disciplinary proceedings are scary for members even when there is a minor issue because the vague process leaves members unsure of their rights or the possible consequences. The Union began by proposing a very detailed process for disciplinary matters that would provide members more protection and alleviate the fear of not knowing “what happens next”. The Employer has made proposals that would intertwine disciplinary and hiring procedures and make it easier to deny someone work based on any disciplinary action (effectively circumventing progressive discipline and moving straight to termination).

Performance Evaluations

Members who have been through performance evaluation processes have expressed that the process is largely punitive instead of constructive and that there is not enough structure or protection from being denied work. The Union proposed language that would clearly separate performance evaluation and disciplinary procedures but has not been able to get the Employer to agree.

Upcoming conciliation dates:

January 31
February 23
February 24


January 19, 2017

Conciliation continues, progress slows

Today was the third day of conciliation this week and in this update we’ll be providing you information on the last two days. Conciliation is the process whereby a mediator from the Ministry of Labour attempts to help the parties reach agreement to avoid a strike or lockout.

We spent the past two days working on more complex proposals and we have not agreed to anything new since we reported on Tuesday. We have, however, have made some progress on key items and are closer to finding common ground. At this point it is still difficult to know whether that common ground will be reached or if we will need to strike, but neither party has asked for a “no-board” report  (a “no-board” report begins the countdown to a strike or lockout deadline). We have set three more dates for conciliation on January 31, February 23, and February 24.

Here are the issues we worked on over the past two days with a brief synopsis of what has transpired:

10-hour rule

The Employer has been trying to “codify” the 10-hour rule by including language in our Collective Agreement that would prevent members from accepting more than one work assignment. Members have expressed serious concerns about this because it is very difficult to make ends meet with only one work assignment. Further, department needs in some areas require TAs to accept more than one assignment to cover all courses which makes it impossible for those departments to follow the rule. In situations where the department needs members to work more than one assignment, those assignments would not be subject to the hiring procedure and could thus be distributed arbitrarily. The Union has made a proposal that would require all members who applied for positions, and were qualified, to receive one position before they receive multiple positions and that would require the Employer to follow the hiring process for all additional work assignments. We hope that this solution will solve the issue of the 10-hour rule.

Job Security Period Hiring Process

For members within their Job Security Period (meaning they are guaranteed a GTA of GSA position) there is currently no hiring process. This means that decisions about who is assigned to what course happens in a largely arbitrary way. The Union has requested that the Employer follow the hiring process for all work assignments by assessing applicants’ qualifications and seniority. We have made some progress with the Employer and they appear willing to consider things like qualifications and seniority but we have not been able to come to agreement on how this would work.

Disciplinary Procedures

Disciplinary proceedings are scary for members even when there is a minor issue because the vague process leaves members unsure of their rights or the possible consequences. The Union began by proposing a very detailed process for disciplinary matters that would provide members more protection and alleviate the fear of not knowing “what happens next”. The Employer has largely denied our proposal and so the Negotiating Committee is trying to find another way of achieving this goal.

Performance Evaluations

Members who have been through performance evaluation processes have expressed that the process is largely punitive instead of constructive and that there is not enough structure or protection from being denied work. The Union proposed language that would clearly separate performance evaluation and disciplinary procedures but has not been able to get the Employer to agree. The Negotiating Committee is continuing to work on this issue and try to find a solution that will work for members and that the Employer can agree to.

There are still several large items that remain outstanding and that we did not have time to discuss during conciliation this week. These include items such as Right of First Refusal, the cap on Sessional Lecturer work assignments, benefits, tuition indexation/relief, and wages. These items will be discussed during the upcoming days of conciliation

We had hoped to come away from conciliation with a clear direction either toward a settlement or a strike, but we still have a lot of work to do before we will know this. Meeting with a conciliator has helped to speed up the process and make progress on some of the issues that were previously at a standstill and we look forward to continuing to meet with the conciliator later this month.

Should you have an questions about bargaining please email membership@cupe3913.on.ca.

Upcoming conciliation dates:

January 31
February 23
February 24


January 17, 2017

Finally making some progress

Today was the first of three days of conciliation this week. Conciliation is the process whereby a mediator from the Ministry of Labour attempts to help the parties reach agreement to avoid a strike or lockout.

We spent the day trying to get through as many items as possible so that we can spend the rest of our time this week on large issues like benefits, job security, tuition indexation, the cap on Sessional Lecturer assignments, and the 10-hour rule.

Here are some of the things we did today:
– Agreed to replace all gendered pronouns in the Collective Agreement
– Finalized some new definitions that will clarify various articles in the Collective Agreement and make it more functional
– Protected the Union’s right to be notified of any reduction in work assignments
– Enshrined the Union’s right to represent members on University committee such as the Employment Equity Committee, Human Rights Advisory Group, and Central Joint Health and Safety Committee
– Made some progress on collecting employment equity data on members so that we can properly implement employment equity initiatives in the future
– Gained access for members to private office space when it is required for their job
– Continued to fight to ensure that the Union can get office space at the University of Guelph-Humber to better represent members

As you can see, we made some gains but there are still some items from today’s meeting that we will continue to push for.

Tomorrow we will be discussing some of your high priority items and we hope we can report back to you tomorrow with some significant progress in those areas as well. There is still a long way to go and the parties are very far apart on the large issues. We are doing all that we can to represent you and fight for you rights.

Should you have an questions about bargaining please email membership@cupe3913.on.ca.

Upcoming conciliation dates:

January 18
January 19


January 10, 2017

Conciliation begins next week

Just as conciliation is about to get underway next week, University Administration surprised the Union by entering the Union office without notice or permission to remove signs with bargaining related messages from the windows. This is a shocking move on the part of the Employer with less than a week to go before conciliation. You can read the full media release here

Conciliation begins next week when we will be meeting with your Employer and a Ministry of Labour conciliator on January 17, 18, and 19. We will provide daily updates at the end of each day, as quickly as we can, so that you can remain informed about how the process is going. This is a very important time for you to remain engaged in this process as the outcome will affect your employment with the University of Guelph.

Our apologies for not being in touch sooner but it has taken longer than we had anticipated to settle on conciliation dates that work for both the Union and the Employer and the holidays in between semesters made it difficult to communicate with everyone involved.

We’re going to be working with a conciliator, Greg Long, who has experience trying to resolve these matters in the academic sector and we hope that the Employer will be more reasonable in its approach to bargaining during the conciliation process.

The outcome of this conciliation process will likely either be a new contract that we will be bringing back to members for their approval (a process called ratification) or a call for a no board report which could lead to the Employer locking out its employees or the Union setting a strike deadline.

We’re hoping to avoid either party asking for a no board report but we will not back down with respect to your bargaining priorities and remain committed to a fair contract. The Employer chose to call for conciliation very quickly during this round of negotiations, which was contrary to the situation that is typical at this University. We believe they have done this, in part, because they do not want us to work with CUPE Local 1334 (another CUPE union on campus who represents trades and maintenance staff), who have filed for conciliation in their negotiations with the Employer.

Any labour disruption by both of these CUPE unions would put significant pressure on the University to settle fair contracts for employees in two of the largest labour unions on campus. They want to separate us from one another, to divide and conquer so to speak, and we’re very aware that they will continue to try to pressure us by any means necessary to ensure that we cannot collaborate with other workers on campus.

The Employer may be in touch with you in an attempt to convince you that their position is reasonable. We will be here to answer your questions throughout this process and we encourage you to keep in touch with your union.

We will continue to do whatever is reasonable in an effort to get a fair contract.

Upcoming conciliation dates:

January 17
January 18
January 19


December 8, 2016

On a road to somewhere, we hope

This was our seventh formal meeting with the Employer and the fifth meeting since the Employer and the Union exchanged complete proposal packages on all monetary and non-monetary items.

As you all know, the Employer has filed for conciliation and the Union is preparing for a strike vote. Apart from that important news, we wanted to continue to attempt to paint a picture of our negotiations with the Employer to give you an idea of how the process is unfolding.

The Employer opened the meeting by giving us a package of counterproposals, which they claimed would help the parties move forward. On the face of it, it appeared that the University was prepared to move off of some of their more extreme positions but, upon review of their counterproposals, this turned out not to be the case.

This was a discouraging and frustrating moment for the Negotiating Committee. We caucused to read their proposals only to find that most of their responses were outright rejections of members’ concerns. When we got back to the table after our caucus we expressed our frustration to the Employer only to be met with a continued posture of aggression and authority.

From our perspective, the Employer continues to disavow our dual relationship to this institution – both as workers and as academics – and has been acting in an aggressive and condescending manner throughout these negotiations. Some of this finally came to a head at the December 8 meeting when the Employer continued to try to explain to the Union what it meant to “be in bargaining”. When the Union expressed frustration at the Employer’s continued refusal to respond to its arguments and proposals the Employer callously went through a description of “what bargaining is” and then outlined their extensive resume of “bargaining experience”.

The Employer has tried to force a style of bargaining that, from our perspective, has deep roots in colonial power structures and which favours the side with the most institutional power and memory (which, obviously, is the Employer). In this bargaining structure, more common in an industrial workplace, it’s easy for the more powerful party to attempt to use bullying and other forceful tactics to attempt to break the Negotiating Committee down. Constant refrains about “how bargaining should work” and about how much experience the chair of their committee has have been hurled at us on an ongoing basis and we expect them to continue to apply this sort of pressure during the conciliation process.

The Employer remains focused on using their position alone to justify an attempt to eradicate our members’ rights – rights that have been bargained into this Collective Agreement over the past 20 years – without any reasons why. We can only assume, in response to their continued silence, that they’re doing it because they think that they can do whatever they want and that our members will not stand up to them.

The Negotiating Committee remains committed to what’s important for all of its members in this round of negotiations as many of our recent communications to you have demonstrated. The Negotiating Committee doesn’t think it’s useful to reiterate what has been communicated already but wants to let you all know a few things:

We’re trying. Despite the fact that the Employer refuses to provide reasoned responses to our researched arguments and rationales we continue to try to understand the reasons they have for trying to eliminate your rights. We just don’t know what those reasons are – it continues to be the Union’s position that the Employer refuses to take this bargaining process seriously and they they want to try to push us into accepting their huge and sweeping concessions.

We’re active. The Negotiating Committee has met regularly with the Employer and meets regularly as a committee. Committee members have open debate and discussion about all of the proposals on the table. Despite this, the Employer continues to assert that we’re not moving quickly enough for them. For a committee made up almost entirely of volunteers, we think we’re doing an amazing job.

We’re committed. We will continue to represent your needs (and defend your rights). As we enter conciliation with the Ministry of Labour we will continue to bargain with a goal to get a fair Collective Agreement.

Stay tuned for a further update from your Negotiating Committee (and a final one for 2016)!

Upcoming bargaining dates:

December 16


November 24, 2016

Conciliation, just in time for the holidays!

This was our sixth formal meeting with the Employer and the fourth meeting since the Employer and the Union exchanged complete proposal packages on all monetary and non-monetary items.

The University has officially filed for conciliation. This means that the clock will soon start ticking on a potential strike or lockout deadline and that the Employer intends to put as much pressure on us as possible to settle this agreement on their terms (and quickly).

The Employer is aggressively trying to settle this agreement and is willing to try to force the issue by potentially locking out all TAs, GSA-1s, and Sessional Lecturers or forcing us all to go on strike. We are having a Special Membership Meeting on December 5 from 5-7pm in MCKN 121 to provide a more detailed update and to vote on whether to hold an official strike vote on December 12. Both parties are still very far apart on most of the issues and there are significant concessions on the table for both units.

We’re not completely sure why the Employer is doing this but we understand that, in part, it’s because the Union has not been able to respond to their counterproposals quickly enough for their liking. We feel that they’re also doing this because they want to wrap bargaining up this month so that we’ll be out of sync with the other CUPE local on campus (Local 1334) that is bargaining.

We agree though – we haven’t been able to respond to all of their counterproposals in time for the most recent meeting (November 24). We want to tell you why and to express our surprise at how out of touch the Employer is with all of us.

We’re not the Employer. We don’t have the resources, personnel, and time that a team of full time University employees have to dedicate to bargaining. By means of comparison, there are other locals in our sector who have been bargaining for more than 4 months and have not even exchanged full monetary and non-monetary proposals. The Employer is being ridiculous in expecting that we can move so quickly. We’re all employed part time and some of us are also full time graduate students or hold other part and full time jobs. We’re volunteers. The last round of negotiations lasted until a ratification in February after a first meeting in the previous summer and a first formal meeting at the beginning of September. The Employer’s expectation that we can move twice as fast with a team of mostly new members is a bit mind boggling. Most of us are marking student papers, teaching lectures, and delivering the core content of this University to its many undergraduate students.

At the meeting we discussed the hiring process for Unit 1 members within their Job Security Period and pushed for the Employer to agree to a standardized process instead of the multiple, arbitrary, and unenforceable processes used currently. The two parties also discussed benefits and the Union continues to ask for more money to provide adequate benefits to members of both units. The Employer has proposed a very modest increase that would not come close to meeting the expressed needs of our members. There are still numerous issues outstanding and major concessions on the table.

All of that is to say that things aren’t going well and that the Employer is taking an aggressive position in order to attempt to force us into an agreement that would do significant harm to you. We will continue to fight for the issues that are important to you and will update you with information as soon as it’s available.

We could use your help. Tweet your support and show up to future rallies to show the Employer that despite our precarity we are unified in our resolve to bargain a fair Collective Agreement for all of CUPE Local 3913’s members.

Please attend the Special Membership Meeting on Monday, December 5 from 5-7pm in MacKinnon 121 and pay close attention to our website and your email over the coming weeks as we will be providing details about a strike vote. We need to come together as a Union to fight to maintain and improve our labour rights.

Upcoming bargaining dates:

December 2
December 8
December 16


November 10, 2016

Things are heating up

This was our fifth formal meeting with the Employer and the third meeting since the Employer and the Union exchanged complete proposal packages on all monetary and non-monetary items.

Things got a little heated at the table today. Both parties agreed to meet so that the Union could ask some important clarifying questions about the University’s proposals. When we got to questions about their proposals around Right of First Refusal (RoFR) they became very defensive and the chair of their committee became quite angry.

A little bit of background about this: the Employer has proposed the right to deny RoFR on the grounds of “academic rigour” and “equity”. We objected strenuously to these clumsily veiled attempts to enshrine language in the agreement that would allow the Employer to take away the RoFR from Sessional Lecturers arbitrarily.

When we pushed for definitions of so called “academic rigour” the University had 3 different responses from 3 different people none of which were consistent or made any sense and all of which would allow them to arbitrarily deny our members’ rights. While we understand where they are headed with their argument, we’re not at all interested in entertaining it. We believe this will be a matter that we will have to take forward to conciliation.

When we asked them what data they were basing their “equity” decisions upon they pointed to data that was not based on our membership and then tried to act as though they had provided us with data about our members. This was confusing and, from our perspective, negligent on the part of the Employer. They seemed to have forgotten that we have been asking for this data from the Employer for the past 2 years. The chair of our committee pointed this out to the Employer who then seemed to recognize the problem (but not before they tried to accuse us of bargaining in bad faith). As you may know, any “equity” hiring decision made by the Employer in the absence of relevant equity data would be a completely arbitrary and ridiculous interpretation of the term “equity” and we feel it would do serious harm. If we allowed the University to use equity in a rhetorical and arbitrary manner to deny rights to our members we would be complicit in undermining everyone who struggles to achieve equity in their workplace. We’re not going to do that).

As many of our Unit 2 members know, RoFR is a huge and important part of their ongoing job security and any erosion to language around RoFR is a serious concession and something we will not consider. But, this has an effect on all members – the University has continued to act aggressively in bargaining and their proposals (and counterproposals) seek to take rights and benefits away from everyone. We’re really disappointed in their approach and will continue to hold our positions on the things that you have told us to fight for.

As of the November 10 meeting, the Employer has provided the Union with a complete package of counterproposals. The Negotiating Committee will be meeting next week to come up with a complete package of responses to those counterproposals with the aim of either settling some major outstanding issues or proceeding to conciliation around items where agreement cannot be reached.

It’s likely that the Union will suggest cancelling the next meeting with the Employer scheduled for Tuesday as the Negotiating Committee will not have had time to review the Employer’s counterproposals before then. We had hoped to receive them in advance of today’s meeting but only received them for the first time at our November 10 meeting.

Please pay close attention to our website and your email over the coming weeks as we will need to reach out to you, in person, for your ongoing support. We need to come together as a Union to fight to maintain and improve our labour rights.

Upcoming bargaining dates:

November 15
November 24
December 2
December 8
December 16


October 28, 2016

Defending our members

This was our fourth formal meeting with the Employer and the second meeting since the Employer and the Union exchanged complete proposal packages on all monetary and non-monetary items.

Things are not moving as quickly as we had hoped. The Employer wants to “present” (i.e. read out) their proposals and counterproposals to us (we don’t love this). We had hoped to avoid this kind of bargaining and had actually agreed with the Employer that we would refrain from reading things out to one another – but there has clearly been a serious miscommunication along the way (something we hope to remedy before we meet again).

We met to discuss Article 5 (No Discrimination), Article 17 (Leaves of Absence), and Article 19 (Benefits) (except for any provisions related to pensions which will be discussed at a later date).

The Employer had a counterproposal prepared for our proposals on Article 5 which they “presented” to us. The Employer’s counterproposal includes a rejection of our proposal for anti-discrimination training for people who supervise CUPE 3913 members.

Your Union was able to communicate our members’ anger around the Employer’s hostile move to restrict positions in Unit 2 (which has had a noticeable effect at the Guelph-Humber campus). We will be pursuing this issue with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (Ministry of Labour) and have contacted our lawyer to determine whether to pursue this either as an “unfair labour practice” or “bargaining in bad faith” – or both.

Either of these violations would be a serious contravention of the Ontario Labour Relations Act and of negotiations in general. We will pursue any such violation as soon as we have had a chance to fully confer with our lawyer and will provide a full update about this as soon as we are able.

The Employer has promised to have counterproposals (to all of our proposals) prepared in advance of our next meeting on November 10. We have asked the Employer to submit these in electronic format, before our meeting in person as agreed, but we don’t think that they will follow through with this request.

Upcoming bargaining dates:

November 10
November 18
November 24
December 2
December 8
December 16


October 11, 2016

Discipline and punish

This was our third formal meeting with the Employer and the first meeting since the Employer and the Union exchanged complete proposal packages on all monetary and non-monetary items.

This is important to note as it’s the first time both teams have done this and we hope it makes for a more straightforward round of negotiations. At the meeting the Employer went over their rationale for their proposals on Article 9 (Discipline, Suspension and Discharge) and Article 13 (Performance Evaluations) and asked us some questions for clarification about our proposals. They called our proposals “contradictory” and kept trying:

– to refer our proposals back to the Collective Agreement as a whole;
– to move the discussion off topic; and
– to introduce discussion about articles that were not on the agenda.

We did our best to keep the meeting focused but feel that this might become a significant barrier to future bargaining.

The Union walked away with a slightly better understanding of the Employer’s position and hopefully the opposite was true. Counterproposals will be put forward in advance of the next meeting (October 28). We were disappointed that the Employer continued to attempt to argue for removing language from your Collective Agreement that protects you from being unjustly disciplined. The Employer wants to subvert the progressive discipline process to deny future work to members. We’ve made it clear that this is unacceptable and that we will not accept any proposals that seek to eliminate members’ rights regarding progressive discipline and future hiring rights.

The Employer also wants the right to evaluate employees long after their contracts have finished and made comparisons to full time academic faculty and the “assessment” process that tenured faculty undergo at the University. The Union reminded the Employer about the differences between contract faculty workers and tenured faculty workers and the need for separate and distinct processes – but we don’t feel that the Employer heard us. They want to continue to evaluate the performance of our members in ways that aren’t just or reasonable.

We’re still very far apart on our proposals for Articles 9 and 13 and don’t see much movement from the Employer. We have, however, agreed on a number of minor proposals regarding the renewal of Letters of Understanding, typos, and bits of editing, and will be signing off on those things soon.

We have proposed discussing your benefits with the Employer at the next formal meeting on October 28 but the Employer is pushing back by saying that they want to discuss all non-monetary items first and that this “way of bargaining” is unorthodox (meaning that they want to set the agenda for each of our meetings and don’t want to take turns). They have also given us their proposal on this topic which represents a 0% increase to benefits for all members. We have asked for significant increases for separate benefits pools for Unit 1 and Unit 2 members. Our requests for increases are based not only on the research the Negotiating Committee did by looking at what other academic locals get in the province but also on speaking to benefit plan administrators who were able to give us a better indication of how much it would cost to provide our members with fair and reasonable benefits that resemble the benefits given to their peers. All of the monetary increases we are asking for are insignificant in relation to the University’s overall budget but the Employer is acting as if we’re asking for far too much and as if they only have a small “envelope of cash” that they must stay within. The Union isn’t buying it.

We are committed to negotiating your benefits as soon as possible and will let the Employer know that this is a priority item that our members need to hear back from us about immediately.

Upcoming bargaining dates:

October 28
November 10
November 18
November 24


October 5, 2016

The Employer provides their concessions

This was our second formal meeting with the Employer. At the meeting we were walked through a long and mostly repetitive verbal recitation of the Employer’s individual concessions. These concessions are quite sweeping and represent a significant loss of current and future rights, wages, and benefits for every one of you. Members of your Negotiation Committee left the meeting feeling frustrated, anxious, angry, and puzzled.

There is a long list of concessions that we have distilled down to 7 major points. The concessions can be understood in the following terms:

  • Wage cuts (including the introduction of a lower “invigilator” rate, a 0% wage increase for all members, limitations for advancement on the pay grid for Sessional Lecturers, and an hourly “instructor-coordinator” rate)
  • Limitations to the Right of First Refusal for Sessional Lecturers
  • A movement away from progressive discipline
  • Major changes to hours of work and a limit on the number of courses a Sessional Lecturer can teach
  • Restrictions on Job Security Period positions for Graduate Teaching Assistants and Graduate Service Assistants
  • Making the hiring process even less transparent so that it’s even harder for the Union to fight for the rights of its members in situations of unfair hiring
  • An attack on the Union’s ability to communicate with its members

We wanted to outline the concessions that the Employer has given to us so that we can find out what you think about them! We’re providing this information to you as soon as possible after the meeting and as far in advance as possible from a Special Membership Meeting (SMM) that we will be calling soon to discuss these concessions (and our next steps as a Union).

To reach the chair of your Negotiating Committee, Ashley Wilson, please contact them directly at president@cupe3913.on.ca.


September 8, 2016

Negotiations off to a good start

This was our first formal meeting with the Employer (the University of Guelph) and it was intended to be an introduction and a quick discussion of ground rules. Both sides introduced their team members and we went over some ground rules regarding how bargaining will proceed. Some notable rules that were outlined include:

  • Respectful participation in the bargaining process
  • Shared electronic document exchange
  • Confidentiality throughout the bargaining process

On the last point regarding confidentiality the Negotiating Committee Chair, Ashley Wilson, made sure to emphasize that we intended to communicate both with our members and with members of the larger labour movement – especially those in our sector who are a part of COAL (Coalition of Ontario Academic Locals). We will be providing more information to the Employer about COAL and the other locals in our sector who are bargaining around a set of shared priorities. Those priorities are:

  • Job Security and Precarious Work
  • Class Sizes and Teaching Ratios
  • Equity and Mental Health

For those interested, the shared set of priorities will be communicated in a letter signed by the following locals (all members of COAL):

CUPE Local 2626, University of Ottawa
CUPE Local 3902, University of Toronto
CUPE Local 3903, York University
CUPE Local 3906, McMaster University
CUPE Local 3908, Trent University
CUPE Local 3913, University of Guelph
CUPE Local 4207, Brock University
CUPE Local 4580, University of Windsor
CUPE Local 4600, Carleton University

We did receive some advance information from the Employer about their intentions regarding any proposals that relate to “tuition” – they have said that they will not agree to any proposals on this matter as this issue is a “non-starter” for them. In labour terms this means that they’re not willing to have a meaningful discussion about the matter. While the Collective Agreement contemplates student status for Unit 1 members and while the Employer has been willing to acknowledge that in order for someone to be a Unit 1 member they must be a student they will not acknowledge it for these purposes. This is especially concerning to us because part of the wages paid to Unit 1 members come in the form of a bursary (currently it is 76% wages and 24% bursary). We will be discussing this with the Employer as it relates to a number of proposals (whether it’s a non-starter or not).

The Employer also indicated that they would be “opening” the following Articles in the Collective Agreement: 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10-14, 16, 20, 22, 23, and Appendixes A, B, C, D, E, F, I (Unit 2). Opening articles and appendices typically means that the Employer wishes to negotiate new language or to remove existing language.

We look forward to getting started on a meaningful round of bargaining with the Employer and for improving the current Collective Agreement for our members! We will provide a more detailed update when we meet with the employer again on October 5, 2016.