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.