No strike today as mass meeting sends U of T agreement to ratification

| February 25, 2012
CUPE 3902 members vote on the proposed agreement after a five-hour mass meeting. Photo: Mick Sweetman

A tense marathon meeting saw upwards of 2,000 union members debate a tentative agreement with the university late into the night on Friday. CUPE 3902 represents 7,000 sessionals, teaching assistants and other contract instructional staff at the University of Toronto.

Wayne Dealy, Chair of CUPE 3902 said, "Bargaining a collective agreement is never an easy task, but the best settlements are the ones that are achieved through the hard work of both parties to come to an agreement that both sides can live with."

At the end of the five-hour meeting, a clear two-third majority of members voted in favour of sending the agreement to a unit-wide ratification vote. The union uses a two-part voting process and the agreement must now be voted on by referendum. Polls opened at the close of the meeting and will reopen on the week of March 5.

James Nugent, the former Chief Spokesperson of the Bargaining Committee who resigned in protest of the proposed deal said, "I would say if anything, it was an evenly divided room in that there was heavy support to reject ratification of this agreement. I think some members believe that it's a bad agreement but they thought other members should be voting on it. So they voted to send it to referendum."

According to documents obtained by rabble.ca, the major points of disagreement about the proposal are:

-  The number of students in tutorials. Over 24 per cent of tutorials have over 50 students. There is no cap in the new agreement. Instead a joint working group would be set up to make recommendations to the Provost -- who is also the chief budget officer for the university.

-  The Doctoral Completion Grant, which covered 40 per cent of tuition costs for all year five and six students and was eliminated by the university in the spring of 2010, would not be reinstated. Instead there would be two-time payments of $250,000 in the second and third years of the contract. If this money was divided evenly between the 600 eligible students it would amount to $416.66 each time.

-  Funding package and research work. There would be the creation of a Provostial Committee with union and Graduate Student Union membership to study the appropriate ratio of employment income in the minimum funding package. There would be two payments of $150,000, which would total about $35 each time for the 4,200 teaching assistants. There would also be an increase in research assistants' hourly rate in line with the United Steelworkers Local 1998 collective agreement.

"I think it's a disgusting agreement, I'm going to be voting against it. I encourage all of our members to vote against this agreement," said Nugent. "We are simply trying to get to where we were three years ago and that's not too much to ask."

The full text of the tentative contract can be downloaded from the CUPE 3902 website.

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