(2013-2014 HR#6) Change to Employment Status for Postdoctoral Fellows in CUPE bargaining unit; Update for Faculty Supervisors of Postdoctoral Fellows

HR #6, 2013 – 2014

Date: September 27, 2013
To: Faculty Supervisors of Postdoctoral Fellows
From: Brian Corman, Dean, School of Graduate Studies; Angela Hildyard, Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity
Cc: Principals, Deans, Academic Directors & Chairs; HR Divisional Offices
Re: Change to Employment Status for Postdoctoral Fellows in CUPE bargaining unit; Update for Faculty Supervisors of Postdoctoral Fellows


This past summer, (see PDAD&C#53 and PDAD&C#55), a secret ballot vote was conducted to assess whether a majority of Postdoctoral 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 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:

  • 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 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.

The University is taking steps to ensure that PDFs who fall within the bargaining unit will be treated as employees when they are hired and offer letters have been amended for this purpose. Letters have also gone to existing PDFs within the bargaining unit to advise them that they are now considered to be employees.

Statutory Deductions in effect with September Pay Period

Those PDFs who are now included within the CUPE Bargaining unit must be treated as employees for the purpose of statutory deductions for Income Tax, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (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 employee groups. These deductions will commence with the September pay.

The Employer also must make statutory payments for EI and CPP. The cost of the Employer payments – which are calculated to be 10% of payroll – will be covered by central funds for the balance of this calendar year.

Impact on relevant grants effective January 1, 2014

However, effective January 1, 2014, there will be a 10% chargeback to relevant grants to cover this new institutional cost. Please note as well that under the Employment Standards Act, all employees are entitled to a minimum amount of vacation and there are legal requirements regarding hours of work and well as certain leave entitlements (e.g. maternity leave).

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, including PIs, and there will be opportunities for input into the development of the bargaining mandate, as occurs with all collective bargaining at the University.


No doubt you and your PDFs will have questions with respect to the detailed implications of the changes necessitated by the choice of this group of PDFs to unionize. School of Graduate Studies, (SGS), Human Resources and Labour Relations are working together to provide additional information and a FAQ document will be forwarded to you shortly. A new section of the Human Resources & Equity website has been created for this new group (i.e. CUPE 3902, Unit 5) and updates will be available there.

In the interim, questions should be directed either to your Divisional HR Office or to the SGS Postdoctoral Fellows Office (or ‘Postdoctoral Office’) and they will be answered as soon as possible on a coordinated basis.