Unit 1 Bargaining Updates
(Teaching Assistants, Student Assistants, and unionized Research Assistants)
Hello CUPE 4600 Unit 1 (TA/SA/RA) Members,
Below you will find an update on the current status of collective bargaining between CUPE 4600 Unit 1 and the management of Carleton University.
The Unit 1 Bargaining Team encourages all members interested in getting involved in bargaining to contact the Union at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There will be a Unit 1 Caucus on Wednesday, November 6th at 6:00pm focused entirely on bargaining. Your Bargaining Team will be present to provide a comprehensive update on the status of negotiations and to seek further direction from the Unit 1 membership.
Impact of Bill 124
Potential cuts to or suspension of TA Benefits
Union Proposal on TA to Student Ratios
Union Salary Proposals
Upcoming Bargaining Dates
Who is on the Bargaining Team?
What are our bargaining priorities?
Are we going on strike?
Who decides if we go on strike?
How can I get involved?
For more information
1. General Update
Your Bargaining Team has now met with the employer 5 times since June 19th, 2019. Discussions continue on a wide range of issues, and detailed descriptions of some specific items can be found below.
While it is still early in the bargaining process, significant issues have already arisen that could significantly impact your wages and benefits. We encourage all members to review the below information and get in touch with any questions.
Upcoming bargaining dates are listed in item 6 below. If you would like to attend a bargaining session as an observer, please contact email@example.com.
No strike vote or job action is scheduled at this point, but we encourage all members to stay informed, talk to other members about bargaining, and get involved in mobilization to support the bargaining process!
2. Impact of Bill 124
Management continues to proceed as though Bill 124 is already law. One of the major elements of the Bill is the imposition of a 1% cap on compensation and wage increases for public employees in Ontario, which includes all members of CUPE 4600.
This presents significant challenges for your Union. With inflation in Ontario averaging about 2.1% annually, any wage increase less than that is effectively a cut to your wages. The cost of living will go up, but your wages won’t keep pace.
Further, this 1% cap would also include any increases to the Unit 1 Employee Assistance Fund (‘TA Benefits’). As you may be aware, there is currently a significant issue with the sustainability of funding for TA benefits. As explained in more detail below, the Employer has proposed a temporary fix for the EAF funding problem, but that fix would amount to nearly half of the total amount that can go towards wages and benefits under Bill 124, meaning your salary increase could be much less than even 1% a year.
Your Union has requested details from management regarding how they are calculating this 1% cap for TAs, RAs, and SAs. We will share this information with you, along with an assessment of the specific impacts it may have on bargaining, as soon as it becomes available.
3. Potential cuts to or suspension of your Benefits
The TA/RA/SA Employee Assistance Fund (EAF), commonly referred to in short-hand as the ‘TA Benefits Plan’ continues to be a significant issue and point of discussion between your Union and management, and appears set to be one of the major issues in this round of bargaining.
While no formal proposals have been made, there is a very real risk that management will be seeking cuts to your benefits coverage.
As you may recall, all TA benefits were suspended by management early in the Winter 2019 term, with management claiming it had met all its financial obligations to the EAF. After a short interruption in benefits, CUPE 4600 and management reached an agreement on March 4th, 2019 that saw Carleton immediately deposit $78,000 to reactivate the EAF, and guaranteed a further $170,000 on September 1, 2019.
An interruption in Unit 1 benefits has never occurred prior to the Winter 2019 term. That an interruption in benefits occurred at all, and was then followed just a few months later by another potential interruption that was only avoided by allowing the employer to access promised funding amounts early is obviously very concerning.
More concerning still is that a third interruption may occur this term, as management has indicated that all money earmarked for the EAF, including the $170,000 deposited on September 1st, 2019, has already been significantly depleted. No further deposits are planned at this time. This could mean that all 2000 TAs, SAs, and unionized RAs at Carleton could once again lose access to their benefits for an indefinite period of time.
Management has offered to deposit $100,000 in the short term to address this potential interruption in benefits. Unfortunately, management has indicated that any increase in the funding amount for your TA benefits, even if only to maintain existing benefits, will be deducted from the maximum 1% increase in compensation allowed for under Bill 124 (see ‘1’ above). This $100,000 deposit would amount to approximately 0.4% of the total 1% increase management insists they are limited to, significantly limiting your Bargaining Teams ability to make progress on any other financial issues, including wages/
It is simply unacceptable that Carleton University would consider putting in jeopardy the benefits that 2000 essetnial employees rely on, particularly while both parties are engaged in bargaining discussions aimed at finding a long-term, sustainable solution to the problem. Any further interruption in benefits would call into question the value placed by Carleton University on the 2000 TAs, RAs, and SAs that help this university function.
Your Union is actively pursuing this issue and will provide further information shortly.
What is the EAF and how does it work?
The Employee Assistance Fund (EAF) is based on a contract between Carleton University and Greenshield Canada. The EAF provides Unit 1 members, both graduate and undergraduate, access to dental, vision, massage, physiotherapy, and chiropractic care coverage, a childcare reimbursement, a UHIP reimbursement, emergency loans, and the TA Advance. TAs, RAs, and SAs do not pay to access these benefits, as the EAF is entirely funded by management.
The Unit 1 Collective Agreement requires Carleton to deposit specific amounts of money each September 1st into the EAF. CUPE 4600 is not a party to the Agreement and is not involved in the management of the fund, handling benefits claims, or dispersing funds to claimants. The only exception is the UHIP reimbursement, which is jointly administered by the Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Affairs and CUPE 4600.
4. Union Proposal on TA to Student Ratios
Your Bargaining Team tabled changes to Article 15 that would establish a cap for the number of students that can be assigned to a Teaching Assistant. This proposal aims to address the workload concerns that Unit 1 members have identified as one of their key priorities for this round of bargaining.
In summary, the Union proposal would ensure TAs are:
Assigned no more than 50 students when the primary duties are marking/grading or when assigned responsibility for tutorial groups where the primary purpose of the group is discussion and/or a question-and-answer session and/or a presentation of audio-visual materials directly related to course lectures or reading material, or examinations/ assignments, and where the group leader is not assigned primary responsibility for design and/or presentation of materials presented in the group;
Assigned no more than thirty (30) students when assigned responsibility for tutorial groups where the primary purpose of the group is textual analysis, teaching a particular skill (e.g., writing), presenting material not presented in any other teaching format in the course, including discussion of course lectures and readings; or where the primary purpose of the group is laboratory work; or where the principal focus of the group is performance involving movement, dancing, choreography, singing or playing of instruments;
Assigned no more than fifteen (15) students when assigned responsibility for tutorial groups where the primary purpose of the group is language education;
Paid the equivalent of 15 hours extra for each block of 5 students that exceeds the guidelines set out above.
5. Union Salary Proposals
Your Bargaining Team has provided management with a salary proposal of 5.45% effective September 1, 2019, followed by 2% on September 1, 2020, and 2% on September 1, 2021.
The proposed 5.45% increase in the first year aims to move TAs working at Carleton closer to the TA wages at the University of Ottawa. It seems reasonable that people doing the same work in the same city should receive comparable rates of pay.
Further, the Union is proposing that all TAs, both grad and undergrad, receive the same hourly rate of pay. Currently, undergrad TAs receive more than 40% less per hour than grad TAs.
6. Upcoming Bargaining Dates
While there are several dates under discussion throughout the fall term, your union and the employer are currently scheduled to meet on the following dates:
Tuesday, October 16th, 10:30am-12:30am
Tuesday, October 29th, 9:30am-12:30am
If you would like to attend a bargaining session as an observer, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
7. Who is on the Bargaining Team?
The voting members of the Unit 1 Bargaining Team are Zoey Jones (Chair), Narges Zare, Shalimar Woods, Rukiya Mohamed, Meg Lonergan, Garrett Lecoq, with Pansee Atta serving as Alternate. They are assisted with staff support from Dan Sawyer, CUPE 4600’s Business Agent & Organizer, and Margo Pasley, the union’s National Representative.
8. What are our bargaining priorities?
You can find a full list of the issues your Bargaining Team is putting forward in negotiations at this link. These priorities were developed through surveys of the membership and discussions with Unit 1 members in a variety of forums, as well as through an examination of grievances and other outstanding collective agreement issues.
9. Are we going on strike?
It’s still early in the process, and too early to say whether job action will be necessary. This round of bargaining has been different than previous rounds in some significant ways, not least of which is the employer’s willingness to begin negotiations prior to the expiry of the Collective Agreement. At this point, both sides remain committed to resolving contract talks at the bargaining table.
That said, CUPE 4600 needs to prepare for the possibility that a strike or some other form of job action may be necessary if the employer refuses to budge on issues that TAs and RAs have identified as their priorities for this round of bargaining. In nearly every previous round of bargaining, the Administration has refused to budge on important issues until a strike is imminent, often just hours before a strike is set to commence.
10. Who decides if we go on strike?
The members of CUPE 4600 decide if a strike will occur or not. If your Bargaining Team feels it has reached an impasse at the negotiating table, it will ask the general membership to hold a strike vote.
Even if a majority of members vote yes during the strike vote, a strike is still not inevitable. CUPE 4600 has only been on strike once in its history. But successful strike votes are almost always necessary to convince the Administration to take our concerns seriously and resolve things at the table.
You can find more information about bargaining and strikes via our Quick Guide to the Bargaining Process, Strike Votes, and Going on Strike.
11. How can I get involved?
Negotiations will only be successful if union members become directly involved in supporting the bargaining process. And there are lots of ways to do so! Contact us at email@example.com for some ideas and suggestions.
Another important way you can support and stay up to date on the bargaining process is to join the Team at the table. By agreement with the employer, a number of CUPE 4600 members are able to sit in on bargaining sessions on any given bargaining date. If you are interested in joining a session, contact Dan Sawyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
12. For more information
If you have any questions or want to get involved, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can find our contact info here.
The Unit 1 Bargaining Team
Zoey Jones, Rukiya Mohamed, Shalimar Woods, Pansee Atta, Meg Lonergan, Garrett Lecoq