(2006-2007 HR#15) Contract negotiations with CUPE 3902, Unit 3 (Sessional Lecturers) – update

January 30, 2007
Angela Hildyard, Vice-President, Human Resources and Equity
Contract negotiations with CUPE 3902, Unit 3 (Sessional Lecturers) – update

The University and CUPE 3902 (Unit 3) began negotiations for a renewal of the collective agreement in August 2006. As both parties await a meeting with a conciliator to assist us in coming to an agreement, I’d like to summarize some of the issues under discussion. Please circulate this memo in your department.

This bargaining unit represents a diverse group of approximately 700 members who are important contributors to the University’s undergraduate teaching and who work in a variety of teaching capacities. CUPE 3902 (Unit 3) represents Course Instructors, Writing Instructors, Music Instructors, and non-student Teaching Assistants who are not salaried but are employed, on a per-course or hourly basis, on contracts of less than one year.

From the University’s perspective, the union’s demands fall into three key areas:

  1. Job security and hiring criteria
  2. Working conditions
  3. Salary, leave, and benefits demands

1. Job security and hiring criteria

The Union is requesting several changes relating to hiring:

  • A significant expansion of the grievance process, whereby any person who has ever been employed at the University and who believes that he or she is a qualified applicant for a posted position should be able to file a hiring grievance.
  • The Union has indicated resistance to the current collective agreement provision that allows departments to give consideration to providing academic employment to recent U of T PhD graduates when making hiring decisions.
  • Severance pay for its members.

The bargaining committee feels strongly that many of the Union’s proposals are at odds with the fact that the bargaining unit is defined as and composed of persons employed on contracts of less than one year, usually for periods of 4 or 8 months. Further, from the University’s perspective, it has become clear that the Union’s approach to hiring is primarily about rehiring its current members. We believe that our commitment to academic excellence is reflected in the existing collective agreement which states:

Teaching excellence is a crucial component of the academic mission of the University of Toronto. Applicants for positions shall be selected in furtherance of that goal . . .

The University believes it is important to continue the practice of providing meaningful academic employment to recent U of T PhD graduates and we strongly reject the statement made by CUPE that in hiring newly minted graduates instead of experienced SLs departments are “..belying the University’s claims regarding excellence in teaching”. The practice helps ensure that our new graduates are well qualified for the academic market, and is in fact how many of the bargaining unit’s current membership came to be here. We also note that the University proposal that the Union has to date rejected is, in fact, based on one that the Union presented to us in the first round of bargaining in 2004-05.

With regard to hiring grievances: under the existing collective agreement, an individual who has taught in the hiring department for at least 4 months in the previous 12 can file a hiring grievance. We have indicated a willingness to extend the time lines for filing a hiring grievance in a situation where a qualified SLII was denied a position by the department that had originally advanced him/her to that level. The University has advised the Union that it remains unpersuaded to extend the right to grieve hiring decisions to individuals who have not taught in the hiring department within the agreed time span. We believe that Chairs/Program heads/academic colleagues must retain the right – and responsibility – to select the individual who best fulfills the position requirements for their programs in accordance with the hiring criteria in the collective agreement. We have every confidence in our departmental colleagues’ ability to do so, in contrast to the Union who allege that departments ignore the hiring criteria and “flout the rules”.

2. Working conditions

The Union has proposed that:

  • All classes taught by Sessional Lecturers be allocated TA support according to a set formula, written into the collective agreement, that will apply to all departments.
  • No Sessional Lecturer be required to share an office on the same day.

The University believes that TA support is best determined by the Department, taking into account the specific design of the course, its content, level, student requirements and assignments.

The University believes that the allocation of space and other resources is best determined by the Department, taking into account its full space and resource requirements.

3. Salary, leaves and benefits

The Union has proposed:

  • A 12% salary increase for all members, to be implemented over two years.
  • $100 per half-course Professional Expense Account.
  • $50,000 Conference Travel Fund.
  • Pregnancy, parental and sick leave entitlements to be expanded and Health Care spending accounts to be increased to include family coverage.

The University has not yet responded to the monetary proposals. It is not uncommon in negotiations to wait until major non-monetary issues have been fully canvassed before addressing monetary ones. However, we do note that some of the Union’s proposals are at odds with the fact the bargaining unit is defined as, and made up of, persons employed on contracts of less than one year, usually for periods of 4 to 8 months.

Next steps

  • The University and the Union have scheduled four dates with a conciliator: January 30; February 2, 6, 7.
  • Either party may request that a No-Board report be issued at any time during the conciliation process. If a No-Board Report is requested and issued, and if the Union has received a strike mandate from its members, the Union may legally strike at 12:01 a.m. on the 17th day following the issuance of the No-Board Report.
  • When a No-Board Report is issued, the Ministry of Labour offers mediation. The University would be prepared to continue to work with the mediator to try to reach agreement.

The University remains committed to reaching a responsive and responsible collective agreement with CUPE 3902 Unit 3. We will maintain regular communications concerning the status of the negotiations.