Update (March 23, 2015 at 5:23 p.m.):
On Monday morning, an email was sent by provost Cheryl Regehr and Angela Hildyard, VP human resources & equity, expressing disappointment with the rejection.
The email states that the Academic Continuity Team headed by Sioban Nelson, VP academic programs, will “be working closely with all academic divisions to mitigate the impact of the continued strike upon students”.
“We deeply regret the concern this strike is causing our students, particularly those who are planning to graduate this term,” states the email.
The Unit 1 membership has struck down the tentative agreement reached with U of T, according to the unofficial results of the ratification vote at 2:05 a.m. Sunday night.
About a third of the unit voted: 992 ballots were for the agreement, 1,101 against, 27 were disallowed, and four were spoiled.
This means Unit 1 remains on strike, and the bargaining teams from both parties must return to negotiations to produce a deal that the membership will accept.
FUTURE OF TERM UNCERTAIN
It remains unclear what will happen to courses affected by the strike as the term draws to a close. U of T did not respond to The Medium’s questions about the number of courses, labs, and tutorials not running during the strike and the university’s plans for the courses that have been cancelled due to the strike.
On Tuesday, the University of Toronto Faculty Association—representing tenured faculty and librarians—claimed in an update on its website that “some chairs and program directors are being asked to step into struck courses taught by Unit 1 instructors”.
UTFA president Scott Prudham told The Medium that “numerous” department chairs had complained after having been directed to teach the courses by their deans.
U of T did not respond to The Medium’s request for comment.
In a close vote on Friday, Unit 1 members had voted to send the tentative agreement reached with U of T last Wednesday to a ratification vote by all 6,000 of its members. The margin in favour was only 50 out of 1,528 votes.
Unlike previous proposals brought forward in the negotiations, the tentative agreement reached Wednesday was not endorsed by all members of the bargaining team. Unit 1 vice-chair Ryan Culpepper and external liaison and chair’s designate Dan Brielmaier did not sign the new agreement.
On its website, however, CUPE 3902 endorsed the proposal.
“CUPE 3902’s bargaining team is recommending that you vote ‘yes’ to this agreement,” it read.
In an email sent to unit members on Wednesday, the bargaining team said that the new proposal was worth more financially than the offer rejected by the university earlier last week.
“What [the new offer] does not do, however, is create the structural changes in as clear a way as we wished. Nevertheless, we are all agreed that this TA brings us much closer to the endorsed objectives of the membership,” said the email.
Also unlike previous meetings where Unit 1 members had to vote on an agreement, Friday’s meeting involved voting by double secret ballot, one to vote to bring the agreement to a ratification vote, and the other to ratify the agreement.
FUND & WAGE INCREASES
According to the bargaining team’s email, the tentative agreement included an increase in the funding available for the minimum funding package and tuition relief from $3.3 million to $4.9 million over the first three years if the agreement had been ratified.
The graduate student funding package was to be administered as a fund instead of the per-person amount that the bargaining team had sought. According to the team, the funds in the package were enough to increase the minimum amount per person to $17,500 per year, in place of the current $15,000.
As for tuition relief, the funding in the new agreement “in combination with any internal awards” was enough to reduce tuition for all Unit 1 members—including international students and second-year masters’ students—to an amount that is 50% of domestic tuition.
Wages would have also been increased for all members in the first four years of their program. Because some of the wage increases offered in the first tentative agreement were reallocated into funds in the new agreement, the increases were lower than the agreement from February.
Among the terms of the back to work protocol were pay for 15 of the 22 working days of the strike so far and an agreement by both the university and the union not to reprise anyone for ceasing or for continuing to work during the strike.
STUDENTS, FACULTY RESPOND
After the tentative agreement was announced, student and faculty groups across U of T expressed their support for CUPE 3902.
In a statement released on Friday, graduate students at OISE (the majority of whom are not part of the union) called on Unit 1 members to reject the tentative agreement.
“Ensuring there is language for per-student increases to the minimum funding package in your final agreement will enable OISE graduate students to also fight for these same increases with a strong foundation to stand on,” reads the letter.
UTM’s Faculty of Information and ICCIT also released an open letter to provost Cheryl Regehr on Thursday. The letter discussed the effects of the strike on the ICCIT department, noting that Unit 1 members teach entire classes in the Professional Writing and Communication program.
The faculty called on the university to increase the graduate student funding package to address decreased funding from the province and increased costs of living in Toronto.
Student leaders across U of T issued an open statement on Saturday, encouraging Unit 1 members to reject the deal.
“It has been three weeks since this strike has started and it seems that the proposed tentative agreement does little to address the grievances that initiated this labour action in the first place. If this agreement is agreed upon, it will likely mean picket lines in the near future for the next generation of undergraduates,” reads the statement, which was signed by representatives of the Arts and Science Students’ Union and Scarborough Campus Students’ Union, among others.
UTMSU VP external Ebi Agbeyegbe told The Medium that he hopes the strike ends soon to reduce the impact on students.
“Our next steps [following the results of the vote] is to reach out to students and see how they feel,” he said.