CUPE 3902 bargaining committee members protest tentative agreement by resigning

A protester wears a picket sign during a rally in support of CUPE 3902 on Feb. 16, 2012. Photo: Mick Sweetman

For the latest update on this story please see: No strike today as mass meeting sends U of T agreement to ratification

 

A tentative agreement was reached early in the morning between the University of Toronto and CUPE 3902, the union that represents 7,000 sessionals, teaching assistants, and other contract instructional staff.

However, it appears the union's bargaining committee was split on accepting the deal and two of its members, Chief Spokeperson James Nugent and Recording Secretary Ashleigh Ingle, have resigned from the committee in protest.

"We were given our last offer from the employer last night. It didn't have anything substantial on any of our major proposals." said Ingle. "The chief spokesperson and myself resigned, we were unwilling to go to our membership and speak in support of a contract that is clearly not what our members sent us to achieve."

A major issue in bargaining has been on tutorial size. According to a Jan. 31 bargaining update from CUPE 3902, the union asking for a cap at 60 students and more TA support for students in labs and tutorials. In response, the administration offered to create a working group to study the issue but would not agree to take any concrete action. Union members rejected that previous tentative agreement on Jan. 30 with a 96 per cent majority and set a strike deadline of Feb. 24.

Members of CUPE 3902 will vote on sending the new tentative agreement to ratification today at Hart House at 5 p.m.

A group called Undergrads for 3902 published an open letter today calling for a no vote on the tentative agreement. Part of the letter reads:

"When we contemplate a strike, each of us feels the pressure of immediate personal needs and obligations -- family, bills to pay, relationships, health care, work of all kinds. Avoiding a strike won't diminish these challenges. But winning a strike will. CUPE 3902's members and supporters are the union's strongest bargaining chip, and we're mobilized right now. The current groundswell of support for the union can be used to lay the foundation for future victories. After all, the union will be renegotiating in just a few short years. When you vote tonight, please remember that the stakes are high for all of us. Please vote NO."

Ingle said, "I think our membership is intelligent and know what the issues are. They're the ones that are actually experiencing it. We are unprecedentedly mobilized and I think there's a very good chance that this contract will be voted down. Bottom line, this is not what our members sent us to get. This is not what our members told us very clearly at our last membership meeting that they wanted us to achieve."

James Nugent was reached by phone but declined to comment before the meeting.

If the vote to send the agreement to ratification fails, the workers will be on strike at midnight with picket lines expected to go up on Monday morning.

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