Thursday, April 9, 2009

3903 Settles: 3-year deal

Avoiding an arbitrated settlement, CUPE 3903 has settled with York University for a three-year deal. So it's official: 3903 will be on the sidelines for 2010.

I'll post the full details of the settlement once I find them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

University of Guelph threatens closure, says Sid Ryan

Sid Ryan:
It seems the University of Guelph is taking a page out of the Chrylser play-book by blackmailing employees and threatening closure if they don't open up collective agreements and give concessions.
Guelph prez Alastair Summerlee responds:

"I haven't made such a threat," Summerlee said yesterday. "I wouldn't make such a threat." ... The [university's] proposed recovery plan [to deal with pension shortfalls] "has a four-year plan associated with it, so none of that sounds to me like a threat to close."
Summerlee continues: "I assume (CUPE) has an agenda and they're trying to move that agenda in a particular way." (In other words, he's calling Ryan a big liar.)

What agenda might CUPE be pushing? Well, Summerlee's "threat" was first reported by OUWCC chair Janice Folk-Dawson.
You will remember that Guelph's CUPE 3913 settled for a one-year deal this past December, so they would be gearing up once again to negotiate with the university. Maybe this is an effort to rally the base leading up to 2010 -- but if so, it reminds the public that universities are in some serious financial trouble over their pension deficits.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

CUPE's vision of the university: Part 2 of an occasional series

From a source at York, disturbing news of possible reprisals against professors who spoke out against CUPE 3903's strike action. Background and full details are below. If you ever wondered why I remain anonymous, this is why!

I intended (and still intend) for my "series" on CUPE's vision of the university to discuss more philosophical concerns. However, as long as outrageous stunts like this (and the earlier Israel motion fiasco [1, 2]) continue to happen, I will obligingly post them.

First some background: During the York strike, two letters were signed by York tenure-track professors opposing the 3903 strike. The first letter, signed by around 150 faculty, was addressed to the faculty union leadership, asking them to remain neutral in the dispute. The second letter, signed by around 250 faculty, was addressed to CUPE members, and encouraged them to accept the university's offer.

Earlier, a group called YorkIsUs posted this page, apparently encouraging the anonymous email harassment of the signatories of the first letter. This group, while independent of CUPE, is sufficiently supported and encouraged by CUPE 3903 to have been prominently mentioned on their official strike web site (also with a link from the home page, under "links").

And now we have this. It is a resolution from the York Sociology Graduate Association (YSGA), again not directly affiliated with CUPE. However, it is certainly being circulated by CUPE members: the signature block, which I have removed, indicated that the message was forwarded by a senior 3903 executive. (One can speculate that the 3903 executive was forwarding the message to drum up opposition against it, but this seems unlikely.) Read it in all its ludicrously over-the-top glory:

Forced Ratification Open Letter Signatories
-A few Sociology faculty members signed the open letter that urged students to accept the employers offer during the forced ratification vote.
-[Redacted] put forth a motion to respond to this issue. [Redacted] put forth alternative language to amend the motion.
-After much discussion and debate, the following amended motion was passed, based on an omnibus vote:
YSGA Motion on Sociology Faculty Open Letter Signatories
WHEREAS: During the lead up to the forced ratification vote, a group of faculty members circulated an open letter appealing to CUPE 3903 members to accept the employer's offer,
AND WHEREAS: Some of the signatories to the letter were associated with the Department of Sociology,
AND WHEREAS: The letter was not only a misrepresentation and misinterpretation of the demands for which CUPE 3903 was striking,
AND WHEREAS: The signatories also abused their power as teachers, academic committee members, and supervisors of CUPE 3903 members,
AND WHEREAS: In abusing their power, these signatories undermined the collegiality and respect required for a department and a scholarly discipline to function,
BIRT: The YSGA, comprised of graduate students, CUPE 3903 members, and future faculty members, stand in opposition to this letter and its signatories.
BIFRT: In order to do this, we shall:
1) Issue a formal and public statement indicating that, because of their gross breach of collegiality, we the YSGA no longer recognize those persons affiliated with our department who signed the open letter to be members of our Department or our discipline,
2) Circulate this statement to other department-level GSAs to encourage them to pass similar resolutions in their own departments,
3) Never organize, promote, or attend an event at which these signatories are scheduled to speak or present their work,
4) Never enroll in a course these signatories are instructing or approach them to serve on a committee,
5) Make plain, as a matter of policy, our reasons for doing the above so that all incoming YSGA members will know how to act and the important reasons for doing so.
6) Call upon the Department of Sociology, and the Graduate Program in Sociology, to formally acknowledge the implicit and explicit power relations, authority and standards of collegiality involved in student/faculty relationships, and institute guidelines prohibiting such abuses in the future.
BIFRT: The YSGA will support its members in finding appropriate substitutes should they choose, for reasons outlined in the preamble to this motion, to drop a signatory to the open letter from an already constituted academic committee.

For junior faculty members, teaching courses, speaking at academic meetings, and serving on committees are key requirements to achieve tenure and obtain promotion. So make no mistake that this is a reprisal, and the movers of the motion are seeking to damage careers for the crime of disagreeing with CUPE.

Friday, March 6, 2009

OUWCC Conference Report 2009

Here it is. I'll take some time to digest this and write some commentary next week.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CUPE National weighs in

Paul Moist still hates the watered-down Israel resolution.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bargaining update, OUWCC conference, Israel motion

CUPE 4600 at Carleton, after rejecting a strike mandate last month, has nonetheless settled for a contract expiring on August 31, 2010.

OUWCC held their 2009 conference this past weekend in Windsor, Ontario. I'm looking forward to reading any proceedings from this conference, as the we all remember the famous document that came out of their 2008 conference. If you were there, feel free to contact me with any details.

By now we have all heard that CUPE Ontario passed a motion calling on an academic boycott of Israeli universities. I've covered this before, and although I'm still very uncomfortable with any academic boycott, I'm at least happy to see that the motion has been significantly watered down as compared to earlier versions. Torontoist has a brief history of the changes to the motion, so let's do a little before-and-after on CUPE Ontario president Sid Ryan's comments, all emphasis mine:

Before (a since redacted CUPE press release, archived here):

"In response to an appeal from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, we are ready to say Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general," said Sid Ryan ...

After (CUPE press release, February 23):

[Sid] Ryan noted that CUPE members voted democratically at their 2006 convention to support a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli state for its maltreatment of Palestinians. The campaign was not and is not directed against individual Jews. Ryan decries the deliberate misrepresentation of CUPE's intent in discussing Middle Eastern issues.
Sid Ryan lying? Computer says yes!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I'm still here

Not much news on the CUPE front these days. I'm working on some longer-form stuff for later. Watch this space.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The week of setbacks

The 2010 project suffered two major blows this week.

CUPE 3902 unit 1 reached a tentative settlement with the University of Toronto. The complete memorandum of settlement is here, but the following phrase is found on the first page:
The parties herein agree that the term of the collective agreement shall be from May 1, 2008 to April 30, 2011.
There does not appear to be any language in the agreement allowing sympathetic walkouts with other TA unions. So teaching assistants at the University of Toronto are officially on the sidelines for 2010. (Thanks to commenter Nurse 1 for the pointer.)

Meanwhile, as we mentioned previously, CUPE 3903 at York University was ordered back to work. According to the legislation, all outstanding issues -- including contract length -- will be set by an arbitrator. Strictly, this means 3903 could receive a 2-year deal from the arbitrator, but as Doorey notes,
Interest arbitration ... tends to be conservative, as an arbitrator does not usually want to forge novel arrangements that the parties themselves were unable to agree upon. I would be surprised if CUPE wins a 2 year deal ...
We will follow this story closely and report back once the arbitrated contract is set.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

OUWCC hanging on for dear life

In case you just crawled out from under a rock, the Ontario government has introduced legislation to force striking CUPE 3903 back to work. Meanwhile, CUPE is likely to mount a legal challenge to the bill.

The text of the bill is here [via Doorey]. It requires that all outstanding issues, including contract length, be put to binding arbitration. Of course, if the arbitrator decides to award a three-year contract, CUPE 3903 would be on the outside for the 2010 festivities.

Now consider this. Of course this is not an official CUPE document and might not be genuine, but the York Strike blog is frequented by CUPE members, who often leak internal union discussions. The letter, from CUPE Ontario president Sid Ryan to CUPE National president Paul Moist, makes it clear that CUPE is considering an injunction to bar the implementation of back-to-work legislation. Most interesting is the following (emphasis mine):

We have no choice but to take all measures to defend free collective bargaining, especially given our coordinated bargaining strategy in this sector and the advanced bargaining in all our sectors.

So if this letter is genuine, it would appear that CUPE Ontario's desperation for the coordinated bargaining strategy is driving their legal strategy.

How likely is it that an injunction would be granted? Doorey says maybe.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Presented without comment

Jesse Payne wrote
at 7:39pm
PLEASE sign this survey and forward it far and wide!!

Thanks, Jesse

Please circulate widely

Dear Allies in the university sector of CUPE Ontario.

CUPE 3903's bargaining team is under immense pressure to get a deal as quick as possible and some of the membership is urging them to drop our demand for a 2 year contact that would end in 2010. They are requesting a 3 year contract in its place.

Please visit our petition and urge them to remain strong on the OUWCC's plan for coordinated bargaining in 2010: <>

(Source: "Support CUPE 3903 in Bargaining" Facebook group, wall post)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

York strike to continue

By now you should be aware that CUPE 3903 defeated their forced ratification vote.

It's difficult to imagine what the York administration were thinking in calling this vote, and they can hardly be surprised by the result.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bargaining Updates

University of Toronto: The parties have jointly filed for conciliation. The use of a government-appointed conciliator is mandatory before any strike or lock-out action (more info here). Union representatives continue to drum up support for a possible strike, assuring undergraduates that classes would not be suspended.

Carleton University: CUPE 4600, representing teaching assistants and contract instructors at Carleton, recently called a vote for a strike mandate. The mandate was defeated by a narrow margin: 51.6% of members voted "no", amid record turnout. This followed a resolution from the Carleton Academic Student Government (CASG), opposing strike action and calling on CUPE members to vote "no".

Between union defeats at Queen's and Carleton, and a disappointingly low strike mandate at U of T, are the effects of York's bruising ten-week strike being felt throughout the Ontario university sector? Speaking of which ...

York University: The supervised vote (also known as the forced ratification vote) on York's most recent contract offer concludes today, and we should know the results either tonight or tomorrow.

Some interesting possibilities are in play: there are three units in CUPE 3903, and their strategy is to bargain together. If any individual unit votes "yes" tonight, that unit accepts the university's contract offer, and the strike ends for that unit; if any unit votes "no", that unit stays out on strike. As we know, a two-year contract has been a key demand for this union, while the administration's offer is for a three-year deal. In the event of a split vote (with some units voting "yes" and others voting "no"), CUPE negotiators would have to decide between maintaining unity among the three units (by going for a three-year deal for the units still on strike), or continuing with the 2010 project with the remaining units (by going for a two-year deal).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

CUPE's vision of the university: Part 1 of an occasional series [UPDATED]

UPDATE: CUPE National president Paul Moist opposes the OUWCC motion.

(Original post follows ...)

Referring to CUPE's coordinated bargaining strategy, CUPE executive Dan Crow writes (emphasis mine):
This is a struggle the broadest Left should support as one more element in the growing struggles to overturn neoliberalism, and to begin to imagine again what a university might be in a post-neoliberal social order.
If CUPE's goal is to impose a "post-neoliberal" vision on Ontario universities, it is fair to ask what exactly that vision entails. Within the past few weeks, we have had a bracing introduction to that vision, as the OUWCC (the organization within CUPE to support the 2010 initiative) expressed its intention to present the a motion boycotting academic collaboration with Israeli universities* at their next annual meeting in February. The text of this motion is in flux, but we read at the link (emphasis mine):

A resolution could include calling on Ontario universities and university workers to:

  • Refuse to participate in academic cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli universities, such as participating in conferences in Israel, refereeing or editing articles for Israeli journals, evaluating research proposals for Israeli institutions
  • Advocate a boycott of Israeli universities, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies ...
Elsewhere we read:
[CUPE] said it will seek to prohibit Israeli academics from speaking, teaching or researching at Ontario universities.
At this point, let me point out that I do not fully support either side in the current Israeli-Gaza conflict; in my opinion, both sides have committed terrible acts. Neither do I think that CUPE should remain silent on political matters -- CUPE has previously enacted resolutions calling for economic sanctions and boycotts against Israel, and I think they are well within their rights to do so.

What concerns me is the attempt to influence speech at universities. For an organization of academics to impose some sort of ideological purity test as a precondition for collaborating or speaking at Ontario universities, is appalling. What's especially alarming here is the attempt by a group of academics to use their collective power to try to force other academics to think in a certain way, and to ban their voices if they do not. Let us be completely clear that forceful protest is fine, and resolutions calling for economic sanctions are fine, but this attempt to stifle speech runs directly counter to the free exchange of ideas that is the foundation of the modern university.

It bears pointing out that Mr. Crow is directly involved in drafting this resolution, so this effort is, quite clearly, part of his "post-neoliberal" vision. You should be asking yourself whether you also support the imposition of ideological conditions on speech. If the answer is "yes", you should have no problem also supporting his drive for coordinated bargaining. Naturally, I take a different view.

*document_id=666. Heh.

"Irresponsible and verging on illegal"

CUPE 3903 executive Tyler Shipley on the bargaining team representing any interests other than those of the membership (emphasis mine):

... It would be irresponsible (and verging on illegal) for the CUPE 3903 bargaining team to represent any interests besides those of its membership when developing bargaining strategies. [source: Discussion topic: "Response from Tyler regarding stakeholders," York University Anti-Strike Group, Facebook]
This statement was offered as explanation for the following statement, also by Shipley:
Bargaining takes place between CUPE 3903 and the York administration – there is a reason the students aren’t at the table – it’s because they aren’t stakeholders in the actual contract we’re negotiating, so this is not going to dictate how we proceed in bargaining [source]
which in turn was a response to the demand from York Not Hostage for a one-week deadline for negotiations to wrap up.

From the first statement, we have an open acknowledgment that CUPE bargaining teams cannot, and should not, consider the interests of anyone other than their own membership. Considering this in light of CUPE's 2010 plan, it is therefore equally irresponsible for CUPE to claim that their drive for coordinated bargaining has undergraduates' best interests at heart. As Shipley himself notes, any group of people whose interests are not completely aligned with CUPE's will be disregarded by the bargaining team.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

York negotiations ongoing

Ah, good to be back, and good to see the mountain of paper on my desk! But never fear, loyal reader(s), I have my right wing* pundit** eye trained mercilessly on CUPE's activities. (From now on, bearing in mind my schedule, this blog will be updated weekly, unless events warrant.)

Talks are ongoing in the glacial York strike. Those on the outside of the bargaining room are left to pore over leaked bargaining updates, trying to divine the intentions of the bargaining teams. Naturally this blog is most interested in the question of contract length. (I generally consider leaks to the York Strike blog reliable, but please set me straight if I shouldn't.)

Here we read:

Fund Protection: There will be no diminution in the per employee amount in the funds listed below during the term of this collective agreement as a result of an increase in the number of employees in the bargaining unit as at October 1, 2009 and October 1, 2010. The basis on which growth in the number of employees will be measured is the number of employees as of October 1, 2008. For example, if the per employee amount available is $10 based on 100 employees as of October 1, 2008, the fund will be supplemented by $100 in the second year of the Collective Agreement. If the number of employees is 90 as of October 1,2010, no supplement will be required and the fund will be $1000.
So it sounds as though the new collective agreement is to be in place through 2010, implying a three-year deal!

But don't get your hopes up. We read here:

NEW [Letter of Intent 13]
Class Size and Teaching Support

In Recognition of the importance of class size and formats conducive to sound pedagogy, the parties agree, as expeditiously as practicable following the ratification of the 2008-2010 collective agreement ...
which makes it sound like the agreement is for two years.

Generally, reading these bargaining updates, it sounds like the most contentious issues are not being discussed, so the ambiguity may be deliberate.

* In my last five federal votes, I voted for four different parties, including Green and NDP.

** Pundit, n. 1. Initiate: someone who has been admitted to membership in a scholarly field. (Google)