More information has come to light following CUPE 3902’s move to take legal action against U of T due to allegations that the university acted in “bad faith” during strike negotiations by providing the union with incorrect data.
According to Ryan Culpepper, the chair of CUPE 3902, following a meeting with the university last September, the union realized data provided to them during the strike settlement differed from that provided to them in the meeting. In an interview, Culpepper told The Medium that the union was not absolutely certain about the inconsistencies until October.
“All that was supposed to be [in the data] was funding commitments, but instead, the [university] included net incomes,” said Culpepper. “The way the data was marked was very different from what they showed us during the strike.”
As previously reported by The Medium, CUPE 3902 filed a complaint to the Ontario Labour Relations Board based on claims of “unfair labour practice” by the university. The announcement was made on December 8, months after the four-week strike and binding arbitration were settled.
According to Culpepper, data provided by the university during strike negotiations listed various funding commitments to members of the union. For those who earned between $15,000 and $16,000, the new contract would grant top-ups to $17,500 or $18,000.
“What we saw in September was not marked as a graduate bursary funding commitment, it was marked as net income,” said Culpepper, who explained that funding included award calculations and employment income at U of T, such as a job in the library or cafeteria.
“That means that there are people who should be eligible for the fund who are not in the data we’re seeing. And there are people in the data we’re seeing who are entitled to a bigger payment than what the data shows,” he added.
As previously reported by The Medium, Althea Blackburn-Evans, U of T’s director of media relations, released a statement on behalf of Angela Hildyard, VP human resources and equity, denying all claims made by CUPE 3902 and stating that the university gave the union bursary funds of $1.045 million and has requested the union to disburse these funds.
“We can’t distribute the bursaries,” said Culpepper. “The point is to give everyone a top-up payment. We don’t have that data […]. We now have no idea who’s eligible for the fund or how to get the data.”
The Medium is unable to independently verify either party’s claims.
According to Culpepper, the union has not heard directly from university officials since October and a mediator is expected to sit with CUPE 3902 and the university in February; if the dispute is not resolved, there will be a trial hearing.
When asked if a strike is a possible option for CUPE 3902, Culpepper told The Medium that due to the union’s collective agreement with the university, a strike is not a possibility.