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