CUPE 3902 ratified the tentative agreement with the University of Toronto, despite several CUPE members expressing concerns about the ascension meeting on the 12th of February, in an open letter by members posted online on the 15th of February.
The ascension meeting was held in order to recommend a tentative agreement signed between the union and U of T’s administration prior to an all-member ratification vote.
The letter listed issues regarding an alleged lack of debate about the agreement. It pointed out that a disruption occurred throughout the meeting by members not following proper procedure during the question period.
According to the open letter, “At this point, two members, both white, both men, literally started shouting aggressively in order to call a ‘point of privilege’ against what seemed to be less the last comment, than the last speaker (a woman who had been vocal in critique of the T.A.), one of them at the microphone, the other from his seat somewhere in the front rows, against protocol,” the letter read, “Although the Chair, a woman of colour, patiently requested numerous times that this member move to the microphone in order to make his point, he stubbornly refused to stand up and continued yelling unintelligibly from his seat.”
“We believe that such disrespectful behaviour, toward both the Chair and the assembly at large, should not be tolerated in CUPE meetings and that this member should have been expelled immediately,” it also added.
The meeting was called to question after this disruption, indicating that members were meant to vote on the deal without a full debate, according to the letter. This meant other equity issues, including those of systemic violence, language, and speech barriers could not be addressed.
“We believed that debating both the T.A., as well as broader strategy, were indispensable steps toward an enlightened and empowered collective decision,” the letter stated.
The letter primarily emphasized systemic inefficiencies within the process of decision-making at such meetings. It recommended an alteration to the practice of setting closing times for meetings regarding decision-making process and a decrease in the length of the presentation time used by the bargaining team.
CUPE 3902 Chair Pamela Arancibia was not available for comment as of press time.
Despite the complaints about the ascension meeting, the tentative agreement was sent out for member-wide ratification and a deal was officially achieved on February 18th.
According to the new tentative agreement, Unit 1 course instructors will be receiving an increase in pay to $15,800 for annual wage , which includes a four per cent vacation pay. Teaching assistants will have an increase of wages of 1.8 per cent at the time of ratification, which will increase to two per cent by 2019.
In terms of health coverage, members going on pregnancy leave are now eligible for four months of leave with pay instead of the two months that were previously offered. Any leave longer than four months will not be paid. A member who has a serious illness, needs hospitalization or surgery is now entitled to four months of paid leave, instead of the previously allotted two months. This medical leave also includes time off for gender reassignment surgery. The university has also offered members a leave for domestic and sexual violence of up to one paid month.
During the bargaining period, Unit 1 pushed for increased wages and improved health benefits including benefits for mental health. The terms of the agreement have been implemented and will be maintained until December 31st 2020, ending the possibility of a strike until then.