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:

http://www.PetitionOnline.com/39032/ <http://www.petitiononline.com/39032/>

(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)