End of year reports from the 2019-2020 board

President's report

What a year!

It’s been an eventful term as President of CUPE 4600

I hope everyone is doing well in these strange times. I never could have imagined finishing out my term as President of CUPE 4600 in a global pandemic, nor many of the events that have happened this year, but here we are!

I want to begin this annual report, a reflection on the triumphs and challenges of this past year, by thanking firstly our amazing staff of the local-- who truly are the backbone that keeps the union together and functioning-- and my colleagues on the Executive  who have all put in so much thought, time, and energy into serving the membership to the best of their abilities. I also want to thank the membership for their engagement, participation, input, support and power, which not only fuels the functioning of Carleton University but empowers and drives the Executive to fight for better working conditions and equity for all of our members every single day.

I was acclaimed as President for the 2019-2020 year following a year as Co-Chief Steward for Unit 1 with my close friend and colleague Meag Bell. This entitled me to a position on each of the two bargaining teams which began their work in the of summer 2019. In the fall, I ran and was elected Lead Negotiator of the Unit 2 Bargaining Team at a caucus meeting. As a T.A. at Carleton for three years and having been an Article 17 C.I. at Carleton, I was somewhat familiar with issues at both tables and eager to work on the teams to fight for better working conditions for our members at Carleton. I am happy to say that Unit 2 has reached a tentative agreement that will be presented to the membership to vote on in the coming weeks. The deal contains no concessions, only gains and or status quo language where gains could not be secured. We faced an uphill battle with Ford’s 1% cap on public sector monetary increases, unforeseen delays reaching a full complement of bargaining team representatives, due to turn overs on the bargaining team, and for the first time in the local’s history, processing a harassment complaint filed under the CUPE National Constitution by one Executive/bargaining  team member against another. This eventually led to a voting process of elected members to serve on a panel to investigate the matter which found the harassment claim to be valid and the accused from holding an elected position within the local. I am incredibly proud of the bargaining team that secured this tentative  agreement:  our VP Internal Narges (who is our incumbent President), Codie, Lindy, and Gareth our alternate, and Kat for her many months before leaving us  for a job offer with the union at UOttawa. Our business agent Dan and our National rep Margo provided invaluable support and guidance and were  crucial members of the team.

This year also marked the first time in bargaining where Unit 1 and Unit 2 diverged on bargaining timelines and where Unit 2 held a strike vote in March without Unit 1. The EAF crisis has been and continues to be a major concern for CUPE 4600 and we continue to fight for the sustainable continuation of benefits for our members. As Unit 2 puts their tentative agreement to the membership to vote on, Unit 1 has resumed bargaining in the past few weeks via a digital platform. I want to thank the VP of Unit 1 and Lead Negotiator Zoey for her tireless efforts, her incredible leadership, and her friendship over this past year. Thank you also to team members Shalimar, Rukiya, Pansee, Narges (again), Garrett, Miranda, and Josh for their continued hard work and dedication to improving the wages, benefits, and working conditions of T.A.s, S.A.s, and internally funded R.A.s at Carleton. 

I attended my first two union conferences this year, first CUPE National in October 2019 with our rep Margo, which gave me an opportunity to develop my leadership skills, enhance my knowledge of the CUPE Constitution and rules, and network with other CUPE workers. I was also fortunate to attend the CUPE University Sector conference for Ontario workers (OUWCC) with Margo and Zoey in late Winter, where we networked with other workers in the sector across the province and discussed strategies for bargaining under Ford’s bill 124. 

While I feel that much has been accomplished this year, there remains a number of key issues to tackle still ahead. The two key issues I would like to raise in this report are: 1) sexism and racism within the labour movement and 2) the divisions within Unit  2. Sexism and racism are happening in our Local. We need to acknowledge and work together  to address these facts. We read the Equality Statement at the beginning of meetings but  we all need to take to heart that our differences are our strengths and that  the  division and resentment that discrimination bring into our  union  do not benefit anyone and keep us from working together to achieve our goals. While not as systemic or disturbing as discrimination and bias within the union, the splintering within Unit 2  is also a cause for concern. It is a long standing issue that  there are, generally speaking, three groups of contract instructors  at Carleton with differing priorities and perspectives: folks who have another primary career and teach courses on the side (which management mistakenly believes to be the majority), folks who are contract instructors as a career (whether solely at Carleton or a combination of schools), and Article 17 CIs who are Ph.D. Candidates or Doctoral Fellows appointed to teach courses under the Collective Agreement. While these groups may have different priorities, they all are invested in better working conditions for CIs and better learning conditions for students, and this uniting factor should be the focus of the Unit. To be frank, it has been disheartening to be told as President and a member of not only both units but both bargaining teams,  that Article 17 CIs are not “real CIs.” We teach courses, we make the same pay, work in the same conditions, and are well aware of the reality of the academic job market. We are stronger working together. I understand the tensions created by a subgroup that are awarded contracts outside of competitions, but know that we can work together to ensure better working conditions for all members of the Unit if we all work towards it together.  I hope that this round of bargaining and our tenative contract stands as something to unite all CIs at Carleton. 

It has been an enriching experience to serve the membership as President this year. I know in this time of COVID 19 and anxieties that our members are perhaps more than ever worried about key issues like benefits and job security; I have faith in the incoming Executive and our staff that they will continue to fight for our members’ best interests.

I hope you and yours stay well and that I see you on campus when it is safe for us to be  back.

In solidarity,

~ Meg D. Lonergan, Ph.D. Candidate in Legal Studies (Specialization in Political  Economy)

Out-going President of CUPE  4600