Teaching assistant union holds controversial meeting

CUPE 3902, the union that represents teaching assistants and sessional lecturers at the University of Toronto, announced the poll results of their referendum on March 7, after extending polling to March 5 to allow more union members to vote. The agreement with the university was ratified, and the contract will not be up for renewal again until April 2014.

Over 1,800 graduate and undergraduate TAs, part-time lecturers, teaching fellows, demonstrators, tutors, markers, instructors, and invigilators voted, including over 150 from UTM—about three times more than during the last ratification vote in 2009. They voted 67% in favour of the agreement. Although this is a majority, the vote was far from unanimous.

The new collective agreement included a wage increase of 1.5% retroactive to May 2011, a further increase of 2% by 2013, an increase of financial assistance funds from $552,000 to $902,000 by April 2013, a healthcare increase from $2.2 million to $2.8 million, pay equity for undergraduate TAs by 2014, job posting announcements by June 30 for September courses and October 31 for winter courses, guaranteed work for PhD students in the fifth and sixth years of appointment, paternity leave, two months of paid gender reassignment surgery leave, and six hours of paid training for first-time instructors.

At the time of the vote, CUPE 3902 scheduled a Unit 1 meeting to prepare for the possibility of a strike in case the agreement was not ratified. Since the union voted in favour of the agreement, the agenda for the meeting was voided. The executives still held the meeting, but provided no new agenda in advance. About 40 CUPE 3902 members attended.

Without a formal agenda, and reading neither the equity statement nor calling the meeting to order, the assembly continued, according to the notes.

During this meeting the present members independently appointed members to the new provostial working group positions attained during bargaining. A working group is a team of six members from the union and six from the university, usually appointed by the provost, who review and evaluate the role of tutorial groups. Under regular meeting conditions, the union was to elect one representative for the group within 30 days of the collective agreement signed on February 25.

Representatives for committees associated with the administration were also appointed at the meeting, despite the union’s bylaws. The present members also decided that any U of T colleague or member could attend CUPE meetings.

CUPE’s national representative warned against violating the rules and bylaws governing the local chapter, but the meeting continued. The meeting notes encourage UTM Unit 1 CUPE members to attend as many union meetings downtown as possible so their concerns, needs, and opinions can be heard.

Leave a reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here