Sept. 22, 2021 The Division of Human Resources & Equity is now called the Division of People Strategy, Equity & Culture.

(2013-2014 HR#5) Change to Employment Status for Post-Doctoral Fellows in CUPE bargaining unit

PDAD&C #16, 2013-14

To: Principals, Deans, Academic Directors & Chairs
From: Brian Corman, Dean, School of Graduate Studies
Angela Hildyard, Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity
Date: September 6, 2013
Re:  Change to Employment Status for Post-Doctoral Fellows in CUPE bargaining unit

You may recall (see PDAD&C#53 and 55) that a secret ballot vote was to be conducted to assess whether a majority of Post-Doctoral Fellows (“PDFs”) in the bargaining unit proposed by CUPE wished to be represented by CUPE as their exclusive bargaining agent in dealing with the University. A majority of those casting ballots voted in favour of unionization. The Ontario Labour Relations Board (“OLRB”) has now issued the Certificate confirming that CUPE has exclusive bargaining rights with respect to employees in the following bargaining unit:

All persons employed as Postdoctoral Fellows by the University of Toronto in the City of Toronto and the City of Mississauga and registered as Postdoctoral Fellows with the School of Graduate Studies save and except:
1) persons who exercise managerial functions or who are employed in a confidential capacity in matters related to labour relations;
2) persons for whom any other trade union holds bargaining rights under the Labour Relations Act; and
3) Postdoctoral Fellows who apply for and are awarded funding from any source other than the University of Toronto including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR, or foundations such as the Mellon Foundation.

NOTE 1: Postdoctoral Fellows who receive their stipends through a hospital are not included in the bargaining unit.
NOTE 2: Postdoctoral Fellows are included in the bargaining unit notwithstanding the exclusion in (3) above where:
(a) at the time after they first commence employment with the University of Toronto as a Postdoctoral Fellow, they are receiving funding solely from the University of Toronto so as to be in the bargaining unit;
(b) they subsequently apply for and are awarded additional funding from any source other than the University of Toronto; and
(c) the additional funding in (b) above is less than the funding that the Postdoctoral Fellow is continuing to receive from the University of Toronto.

The OLRB had ruled on January 20, 2012 that PDFs in this kind of bargaining unit could be considered employees for the purposes of the Labour Relations Act.

Since the subset of PDFs in question have clearly indicated their intention to be represented by CUPE and no longer to be treated as independent academic trainees, the University is taking steps to ensure that PDFs who would fall within the bargaining unit will be treated as employees when they are hired and offer letters are being amended for this purpose. With respect to existing PDFs within the bargaining unit, communication is going to all relevant Post-Doctoral Fellows to advise them of the change.

Those PDFs who will be included within the CUPE bargaining unit must be treated as employees for the purpose of statutory deductions for Income Tax, CPP and EI. These deductions will be made automatically from the stipend payments to PDFs in the bargaining unit, in the same manner that occurs for other employees. The University has advised CUPE that it intends to proceed to implement such required deductions very shortly.

Once CUPE has provided notice to bargain, the University will bargain in good faith and will endeavour to agree upon a first collective agreement which will set out the detailed terms and conditions of employment. Before bargaining commences, an expert bargaining committee will be formed to represent the interests of the University, and there will be opportunities for input into the development of the bargaining mandate, as occurs with all collective bargaining at the University. It is important to keep in mind that Employment Standards Legislation does outline minimum expectations with respect to vacation entitlements, hours of work, leaves (e.g. maternity leave).

There will doubtless be questions that will arise from PDFs, PIs and others, as to the detailed implication of the changes necessitated by the choice of this group of PDFs to unionize. SGS, HR, and Labour Relations will all be working together to provide additional information in the coming months. In the interim, questions should be directed to the SGS Post-Doctoral Fellowship Office and they will be answered as soon as possible on a coordinated basis.

Lisa Haley, SGS Post Doctoral Fellowship Office (
Mikael Swayze, Labour Relations (