Apr 13 2012

The Day After the CUPE Local 3903 Meeting

Category: CUPE U2 VP ReportsBob Hanke @ 10:38 pm

by  Sharon Davidson
CUPE 3903 Unit 2 Vice President

Ironically, it is Friday the 13th, the day after our local’s consultative general membership meeting. This is the meeting where members get a chance to decide again whether or not they want to go on strike after getting a full report back from the bargaining team. The reason for this meeting has often been framed as a time when the local can display its solidarity since voting yes on a joint recommendation to accept the three collective agreements is not a unit specific vote. Hence a member is not voting on whether or not they like their own collective agreement but whether or not they think that all members of the union have gotten enough at the negotiating table to take the deals to a ratification vote which is a unit specific vote. For now, I will reserve my opinion on the advisability of continuing this practice in our local but instead focus on the fact that it was made clear by members of the bargaining team and executive as well as members speaking at the meeting yesterday that Unit 2 got very little and yet the membership overwhelmingly voted to accept the recommendation of the bargaining team and executive. I am still waiting for that show of solidarity.

Many members of Unit 2 held a caucus after the meeting yesterday to discuss where we go from here. Out of this discussion, many of us believe that the only way we can get more in this round of bargaining is to vote no in the ratification vote next week. I ask that every member of Unit 2 look carefully at what was negotiated and to reflect on what this will potentially mean for them for the next two years and beyond. I ask that every member of Unit 2 exercise your franchise and vote based on your assessment of how these changes agreed to by our bargaining team will impact your working conditions at York University. Ultimately it is your decision as to which way to vote.

Why I am voting NO:

    • There was no meaningful job security negotiated with the employer
    •  No protection against the continual manipulation of qualifications language in Unit 2 postings. The membership was told that departments now have to underline changes to postings language (this is being presented as a gain); but how is this different from the current collective agreement that requires departments to mark changed postings with ‘New’? The current system does not work in the interests of our members so why do we think this minor change will make our members’ positions any more secure?
    • While the renewal process for the Long-Service Teaching Appointments (LSTAs) was negotiated, it is the terms on which these renewals will happen that are problematic. The LSTAs was a new program that the union was awarded after we had been legislated back to work. It was awarded by a provincially-appointed arbitrator who told the union that he hoped that this program could be developed to help address some, but not all, of our issues regarding employment insecurity. If this were referred to arbitration, it is highly unlikely that an arbitrator would refuse a renewal process. What the bargaining team agreed to was a renewal process whereby members who currently hold LSTAs can apply for an extension of their three appointment but must demonstrate quality of teaching through a process that has not been fully and finitely defined in the collective agreement (remember that these are members who have been teaching at York for over 8 years at minimum and usually most over 15 years). Because of the lack of clarity in what a review of an applicant’s teaching will look like, it raises many questions. Does this mean that we will introduce the right of the employer to consider student evaluations for hiring purposes? This would be a serious departure from the way these evaluations are used currently only for professional development purposes. Will the review be the same from department to department?
    • The renewal application also does not consider the seniority of the applicant. Seniority is one of the three criteria that are to be considered equally in the awarding of the initial LSTA.  If the pool of eligible applicants was closed, this would not be as problematic in the renewal process; however, during the discussions between the arbitrator and representatives from the union, the union was clear that it did not want to repeat the mistakes of the past (Senior Renewable Contracts, SRCs,) and simply negotiate job security for particular individuals. The union wanted an evergreen pool and something to which members could eventually look forward to applying. If you remove seniority as part of the renewal criteria, you deemphasize the ‘long’ in Long-Service Appointment.
    • The other major problem with what was negotiated is that the bargaining team agreed to a cap of 51. This means that there would only be 51 of these appointments at any one time across the university. This essentially limits what the union can do with this program in the future and will forever be trying to negotiate this number upwards in the same way that we currently do with conversions. The LSTA program has the potential to be the regularized, ongoing appointments of the future but only if this concession is turned back by members.
    • While the Conversion Program provides a means through which our members in Unit 2 can be appointed to tenure-stream appointments, I do not see this program as job security but as professional advancement. If we continually rely upon this program as the only means to provide our members with meaningful employment and professional stability, what does that say about us as a union: that the only way we can truly protect our members, is to move them out of our union and into another union, YUFA. I am committed to the continuance of this program as an important means for our members to advance within the academy but we have to move away from framing conversion as the centrepiece of job security for our members. What the employer offered was 2,3,2. Is this acceptable? I don’t think so. Considering the number of potential retirements in YUFA and the pattern of targeted appointments made in the last three years, this is just not enough.  What we want is a percentage of tenure-stream appointments across the university rather than a fixed number of conversions; what we want is fair and equitable.
    • The bargaining team agreed to changes to the way in which the CAP is enforced. In the past it is the employer’s responsibility to enforce the CAP. There have been many discussions in the past four years regarding the arbitrary nature in which this enforcement has occurred. What was agreed to in the agreement you are being asked to ratify is that members when signing their contracts will have to indicate whether or not by signing the contract, they will be over their cap and thus giving the university the right to cancel the contract (see “Appendix B”). This has major implications for members teaching in Foundations courses with fractional appointments as it will restrict their ability to exercise their collective agreement rights to work up to the CAP since they will now have to work under it or risk the cancellation of their contract. For years, there has been a practice not to recover fractional overages (particularly of .17). This collective agreement puts a hard cap in force and moves away from the spirit and intention of the cap.

While I applaud the bargaining team on their hard work through this negotiating process and celebrate the gains that members in Unit 1 and Unit 3 were able to secure in this round, Unit 2 has achieved very little and it is not enough to say we can wait until the next round. York is rapidly changing. We need to continue what we started in 2008 and secure the kind of agreement that will provide better protection for our members. CUPE 3903 is in a secure financial position; we are organized and ready to defend our rights. Voting no does not necessarily mean that we will strike but we need to be prepared to do so in order to make gains. We need to send a very clear message next week and vote ‘no’ to an agreement that gives a few extra dollars towards benefits and funds. We have had enough of being treated as dispensable and invisible. What is on the table is not enough. I urge all of you to vote and to vote NO.

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