(2011-2012 HR#36, PDADC#42) Update on Certification application by CUPE to represent Postdoctoral Fellows at U of T

Date: February 10, 2012
To: PDAD&C; Professional & Managerial Staff
From: Angela Hildyard, Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity
Re: Update on Certification application by CUPE to represent Postdoctoral Fellows at U of T

It has been some time since we provided an update on the July 2009 application, to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB), for CUPE to be certified as the exclusive bargaining agent for a large subset of postdoctoral fellows at U of T. Specifically, CUPE wishes to represent postdocs who do not apply for and receive funding from a source external to the University (such as, for example, NSERC, SSHRC or CIHR). In August 2009 the OLRB conducted a secret ballot vote to determine whether or not postdoctoral fellows in that subset wished to be represented by CUPE. Because it was clear that there were many complex legal issues to be sorted out, the OLRB ordered that the ballot box be sealed – and it still remains sealed.

For its part, the University argued that postdoctoral fellows are not employees within the meaning of that term under the Labour Relations Act. We argued that they are academic trainees who enjoy a greater degree of independence than employees.

The OLRB did not accept the University’s submissions, and determined that this subset of postdocs are employees for the purposes of the Act. (A number of other Ontario Universities also treat their postdocs as employees).

The next step in this process is for the Union and the University to try to reach agreement on whether all individuals who cast ballots back in August 2009 were actually eligible to vote. If the parties cannot agree, the OLRB will issue a decision regarding any remaining disputes. The ballot box will eventually be opened, the votes counted, and the result of the August 2009 vote will be determined.

If CUPE is successful in the vote, the University will commence bargaining for a first collective agreement for the subset of postdoctoral fellows that CUPE would represent.

We will provide updates as more information becomes available.