Monday, December 15, 2008

Last 2008 Post

Seems like everything has gone into the deep freeze for Christmas, including contract negotiations at both York and U of T. So this will be my last post until January, unless events warrant.

If you're waiting for an email reply, I'll try to get caught up ...

A hand overplayed

Now that the strike at York has gone on long enough that cancellation of the school year has become a worry, you have to think that the appetite for another bruising strike in two years has diminished, not just at York but elsewhere.

Indeed, the York strike has already been cited as one reason why PSAC's unionization drive at Queen's has likely gone down to defeat. Same thing for U of T's relatively small strike mandate, where "the difficult situation at York University" is noted on the union's own web site. We're also hearing that a surprising number of tenure-stream York professors have vocally opposed their union's support of CUPE.

CUPE will have to do some serious damage control, and quickly, if it wants to regain its momentum for the 2010 project -- starting with finding a solution at York.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

U of T Strike Vote Outcome (UPDATED 2)

Still on the short updates. Who knew being a professor actually involves work? Anyway.

CUPE 3902 apparently received a strike mandate. How large was the mandate? They're not saying, so it's fair to assume that the answer is: not very large.

UPDATE: Maybe it's bigger than I thought. They're announcing the official results in the morning at a press conference with Rosario Marchese and a CFS rep. (Thanks for the info, Joey Coleman.)

UPDATE 2: Nope, I was right the first time. 63%. By comparison, York's strike mandate was close to 90%.

Monday, December 8, 2008

U of T talking 2-year contract

Looks like U of T is willing to give its TA union a 2-year contract.

At U of T, the TA union does not include sessional faculty, so a strike by this unit of the union would not be as disruptive as the strike at York. The sessional faculty are in Unit 3, and their contract expires in 2009.

Friday, December 5, 2008

See you on Monday

Looking forward to a weekend in front of my laptop, pounding out research.

2010 is bigger than the TA unions

I'm trying to get some papers out, so my updates are going to be short for the next week or so. I'm working on some longer posts for later on.

Meanwhile, here's a link to CUPE Ontario's university sector coordination page; if you like, this is the home page for the OUWCC, which is leading the 2010 project.

We read:
The Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee is a voluntary association of CUPE locals totaling more than 20,000 members working in the university sector. This includes security, parking, skilled trades, clerical, administrative, caretaking, teaching, food service, technical, research and library workers.
So 2010 is larger than just the TA unions. However, uptake among non-teaching university employees is far from universal: for example, York's caretaking union just signed a three-year deal, to expire in 2011.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


From 3903 Strikes vs. McJobs in the University Teaching Sector by Dan Crow:

Right wing pundits have begun their “CUPE Watch” claiming that the union wants only to disrupt the system in 2010.

Thanks for the shout out, Dan! You raise a lot of interesting points, and I will post a full response when work calms down a bit.

But for now, I'd like to ask you this: you're clearly a senior CUPE executive, so why did you identify yourself in the article as an "activist with CUPE"? Isn't that misleading? And isn't that futher evidence that the 2010 project is primarily driven by CUPE executives, and not by the rank-and-file?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

CUPE TA Unions in Ontario: Collective Agreement Expiry Dates (UPDATED)

How successful has CUPE been in aligning expiry dates of its eleven locals?

Five expire in 2010:
  • University of Ottawa (CUPE 2626) (source)
  • Ryerson University (CUPE 3904 unit 3) (source)
  • Brock University (CUPE 4207) (source)
  • University of Windsor (CUPE 4580) (source)
  • McMaster University (CUPE 3906 unit 2 representing contract faculty)
    (Note, CUPE 3906 unit 1, representing TAs, has a contract expiring in 2009.)
Three have expired contracts, and have demanded a 2010 expiry date in bargaining:
  • University of Toronto (CUPE 3902 unit 1), strike vote pending (source)
  • York University (CUPE 3903), currently on strike (source)
  • Trent University (CUPE 3908 unit 2), currently in bargaining (source)
  • Concerning Trent, a commenter wrote: "Unit 2 at Trent is student academic workers (so, undergrad markers, for the most part). Unit 1, which is contract faculty, already has a contract set to expire in 2010."
One has an expired contract, and has expressed support for OUWCC, and recently avoided a strike by settling for a one-year contract, expiring in 2009:
  • University of Guelph (CUPE 3913) (source)
Can't find bargaining details for the following two universities:
  • Lakehead University (CUPE 3905): (can't find a copy of the agreement)
  • Carleton University (CUPE 4600): Contract expired, status of bargaining unclear.
So it would seem that the coordination drive is well underway, and there's no evidence to suggest that any local is not participating. However, with the largest university in the province (U of T) in strike position, and the second largest (York) already on strike, where both are fighting for 2010 expiry, the campaign has entered a critical phase. You can make a case that York and U of T are the firewalls to prevent the plan from succeeding.

He said, she said

CUPE says:
... we are encouraged that we have resumed fruitful negotiations. We spent the bulk
of today developing responses to the employer's proposals, and going through our outstanding non-financial proposals by reasserting our position on some, while revising and withdrawing others. (emphasis mine; source -- message to union members, posted as a blog comment)
York says:
"I fear our 50,000 students are being held hostage by a union more interested in planning rallies and promoting confrontation with the province than reaching a settlement here at York University that will end this strike and get our students back to class," said [York spokesman Alex] Bilyk. (emphasis mine; source)
So it sounds like contract length is still a sticking point in negotiations.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Quiet Revolution

I was all ready to write about 2010 as a stealth issue in the Guelph negotiations, but it turns out that CUPE 3913 settled, preventing a strike.

However, you will notice that CUPE 3913 settled for a one-year deal, so Guelph is still in play for CUPE's 2010 strategy, and these issues may come up again. Further, it is still valuable to examine the role of 2010 in current contract negotiations, such as at the University of Toronto.

From the example of CUPE 3906's negotiations at McMaster, we see that CUPE chooses not to make a public issue of coordinated bargaining, in spite of the high importance attached to it by union executives. In particular, here is CUPE 3906's "bargaining update" to its members, dated April 11; and here is the summary of a solidarity rally held on May 5. From these, we read that the union's main demands concerned benefits, job security, and wages. There is no mention of contract length or coordinated bargaining.

Yet here is (allegedly) a view inside the bargaining room, written by a member of the bargaining team. We read:
... the conciliation officer told us that they did have something for us beyond the 9% over three years they were offering us, but that we'd only see it when we agreed to their 2011 contract. It was a terrible position to be in. In good conscience, we could not abandon the issues upon which the entire mobilization process had been built just to secure a two year contract. At the same time, we knew that only when all 20 000+ university sector workers align their bargaining and strikes in solidarity, and even finally bargain at the same table with the province on key issues, could our relatively small and less strong local have any chance of winning real benefits and pensions, fair wages, and job security.
So it's clear that the union executive was prepared to sacrifice gains in order to secure the contract length they wanted, despite never mentioning it in public as a bargaining issue. But there's more:
The employer moved on wages: 7% in year one, 4% in year two and 3% in year three (the same, in the first two years, as the current 3903 wage proposal, if I'm not mistaken.) The employer said, that's it, accept it or everything is off the table. We said, as we had been for months, that we would not and could not accept a three-year contract ...
Again, despite the moral dilemma from the previous quote, and the secrecy of the issue in public, in the end the union executive was perfectly willing to sacrifice gains for contract length. (It should be noted that, in the end, the union won much of what they wanted: a two-year contract and a higher wage offer.)

Now consider today's situation. To CUPE 3903's credit, they have never been coy about coordinated bargaining. On the other hand, we have a union at Guelph that never mentioned contract length in negotiations, and that ended up settling for a one-year contract, leaving themselves open to participate in coordinated bargaining. We also have a union at the University of Toronto, CUPE 3902, that is expressly bargaining for a two-year contract, but for vague reasons:
It would not be responsible for us to lock our members
into a longer-term contract negotiated in a time of
economic uncertainty as the university would like us to.
And not because you want to coordinate bargaining with your fellow CUPE locals?

Coordinated bargaining is a public issue, with implications for all university stakeholders; for this reason, it is not acceptable for union executives to hide the issue in the bargaining room. CUPE 3913 and 3902 need to come clean about their relationship with the coordinated bargaining issue.

Friday, November 28, 2008

See you on Monday.

I'm taking the weekend off. On Monday I'll be writing about the situation at Guelph.

Pressure, Strikes, and Coordinated Bargaining

(Promoting this from the comments)

Will there be a provincial strike in 2010? I'm referring here to CUPE's own planning document on coordinated bargaining:

The intent of coordinated bargaining is to negotiate directly with the province:
  • Page 1, "What are the most important gains we can achieve through coordination? Greater political clout ... a way to win provincial funding and better accountability ..."
  • Page 4, comments by Sid Ryan: "A CUPE school board bargaining team is currently in central talks with the Ontario government on major issues of concern for school board workers. 'It shows it can be done,' he said. 'And it all started when the Ontario government saw that at least 60 collective agreements in the sector were going to expire on the same date.'"
A provincial strike is part of the plan:
  • Page 5: "Implementation: All local unions in a strike position at the same time by negotiating the same expiry date"
  • Appendix C, Page 1: "Top 3 Priorities ... Plan: Coordinated Strike Position ... File no boards on common date" (A "no-board" is one of the last steps towards a legal strike date.)
Further, the province has already stated that they are unwilling to negotiate directly with the union:

Union officials have argued for a provincewide bargaining process similar to the one used with school boards, but the minister responsible for colleges and universities said that isn't going to happen. "I respect the autonomy of the institutions when it comes to our universities," said John Milloy. [CP]

So it is disingenuous to say that coordinated bargaining is only a pressure tactic: it is a pressure tactic because there is the threat of a strike behind it. CUPE has already explicitly planned for a coordinated strike, and "pressure" of some sort will be needed to force the province to the table. If CUPE gets its way, a strike at most Ontario universities is not only possible, it is likely.

Correction: McMaster

McMaster's TA union, CUPE 3906 Unit 1, has a collective agreement which expires in 2009. (source)

However, CUPE 3906 Unit 2, which represents McMaster's contract faculty members, recently negotiated a collective agreement to expire in 2010, and the contract length was an issue in bargaining.

I'm currently looking at the details of bargaining at Mac to compare them with the current situation at Guelph. I'll post something about that in a couple of days.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Isn't that interesting ...

The TA union at the University of Western Ontario, PSAC 610 (not a CUPE union), has a collective agreement that also expires in 2010.

"The province shouldn't hesitate to intervene"

... to end the York strike, says this morning's Toronto Star. A case can be made for the government to intervene now, so that they don't have to intervene two years from now.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Does the CUPE rank and file support the 2010 project?

Unions are (largely) democratic organizations. As such, the rank-and-file membership are important in both setting and prioritizing the union's goals.

There is evidence that rank-and-file union members do not consider coordinated bargaining to be an important issue. It's rare to see a pro-union commenter on any of the strike discussion boards pushing the 2010 issue; more often, these commenters are discussing wages, benefits, and job security. Here are two examples, but there are many others.

Which makes this post very interesting. It's by "Jesse Payne", who identifies himself as a CUPE staff member, and was posted to the main "Support CUPE 3903" Facebook group, among other places. In the opening paragraph, he says:
I've been very lucky to take part in some interesting discussions with members on picket lines, in pubs and after GMMs about the many groundbreaking CUPE 3903 proposals, and about whether staying firm on the two-year contract and coordinated bargaining is necessary, beneficial or detrimental to struggle for fair wages, indexation, job security and employment equity.
The remainder of the post is a pep talk about staying strong and not giving up the fight. However, two things caught my interest: first, that the two-year contract is a matter of discussion among rank-and-filers; and second, that a CUPE staff member felt concerned enough about the members' resolve to write a fairly long motivational speech, and post it wherever they might read it.

I would be very interested to hear from CUPE rank-and-file members to hear what they think. Contact me at -- all tips are anonymous unless you specify otherwise. Or leave an anonymous comment.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Progressive Conservatives smell an issue

I'm against back-to-work legislation for one of the same reasons I'm against coordinated bargaining: both would erode university autonomy from the government. However, the Ontario PCs seem to be making hay out of 2010: (link)

Liberal Inaction Will Lead To Province-Wide Disaster

November 25, 2008

PC M.P.P. urges government to protect students from union clouds on the horizon

Queen’s Park Peter Shurman, M.P.P. (Thornhill) urged the McGuinty government to stand up for York U. students now, so that all Ontario students are protected from union strikes in 2010.
Queen’s Park Peter Shurman, M.P.P. (Thornhill) urged the McGuinty government to stand up for York U. students now, so that all Ontario students are protected from union strikes in 2010.

“We’re in day 20 of the York U strike. All courses have now been adversely affected and students are increasingly worried about their graduate school applications, graduation plans and employment opportunities. Meanwhile the McGuinty government refuses to recognize the severity of the situation and is instead talking about the ‘excellent labour relations’ we supposedly have in this province. Well these so called ‘excellent labour relations’ are holding students hostage,” Shurman said following Tuesday’s Question Period.

Shurman warned that with the majority of CUPE contracts at Ontario’s universities expiring in 2010, with five more, including York University, currently in negotiations with the same deadline in mind, the potential for a province-wide university shut down in two years is a dark cloud looming on the horizon.

“The McGuinty Liberals buried their heads in the sand on this strike and they have buried their heads in the sand about the potential for province-wide university shut-downs in 2010. They are doing nothing to get students back into their lecture halls now, they are doing nothing to secure a fair and level collective bargaining field and despite their assurances to the contrary, nothing to protect the autonomy of our post-secondary institutions.”


For more information please contact:
Monika Bujalska, Executive Assistant
Office of Peter Shurman, M.P.P.-Thornhill
Tel.: (416) 325-2505
E-mail: peter.shurman@pc.ola.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Monday, November 24, 2008

CUPE's actions are worth your attention

Coordinated bargaining is not an abstract issue between a union and its employer. It could have a profound impact on universities in Ontario, and all university community members -- faculty, staff, administrators, and especially students -- should be paying attention.

This blog maintains a position of cautious opposition to CUPE's efforts: cautious, because postsecondary education is underfunded, and needs greater attention from government; but opposition, because CUPE's unilateral and heavy-handed actions are likely to cause far more damage than improvement.

My views on coordinated bargaining will be expanded in future posts.

University of Toronto enters the fray (Guelph too?)

A strike vote has been called by CUPE 3902, representing TAs at the University of Toronto. A two-year contract -- expiring in 2010 -- is one of the union's key demands.

CUPE 3913, the TA union at Guelph, will be in a legal strike position around the 1st of December. It's not clear if the length of the contract is a key demand.

We Have Video

Here's the famous video in which a McMaster union executive discusses coordinated bargaining in 2010 (starting around the 1:45 mark). As this gentleman explains, McMaster recently settled with their union for a two-year contract (at the union's insistence), which will expire in 2010.

The story so far

Is the York University TA strike part of something bigger? It might be: according to their own internal planning documents, CUPE is trying to synchronize the end dates of all its locals at Ontario universities, with the goal of forcing the Provincial government to the bargaining table to secure a new deal for universities. At York, a two-year deal is a key union demand, on which the administration has counter-offered a three-year deal.

Joey Coleman, one of the "on campus" bloggers for Macleans, suggests that the two-year deal is the real sticking point in negotiations.

TA Locals in Ontario

Here's a list of Ontario universities and their TA locals.

CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) locals:

2626 – Ottawa
3902 – Toronto
3903 – York
3904 – Ryerson
3905 – Lakehead
3906 – McMaster
3908 – Trent
3913 – Guelph
4207 – Brock
4580 – Windsor
4600 – Carleton

PSAC (Public Service Alliance of Canada) locals:

610 – Western
PSAC is in the middle of a unionization drive at Queen's